Open Mike - March

University of Lethbridge President Dr. Mike Mahon chats about what's happening in the University community

University campuses are places for discovery and discourse, where ideas are created and issues are debated. As I look around the University of Lethbridge I see a vibrant culture of engaged students and faculty and I am encouraged by the diversity of opinions that are shared.

This is one of the reasons why I was so enthused with the program initiated by the Gender and Diversity Caucus of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association. Last week's Show Respect, Get Respect at Your U event was extremely important for our campus in terms of pushing the notion of inclusivity and the importance of respect for diversity and difference.

The essence of a University campus is to promote a place open to different voices, different perspectives and different ways to look at the world. We are a campus in transition, one that is continuing to grow as we establish ourselves as a destination university.

Already we are home to students from more than 85 countries. We welcome students from small communities and large cities, we strongly support the growth of our First Nations, Métis and Inuit student populations and we actively recruit faculty and staff from all over Canada, North America and the world. Our campuses in Calgary and Edmonton reflect a population of adult learners that continues to expand.

It is foundationally important that we maintain an atmosphere in which diversity of race, gender and opinion are respected. To that end, the conversation initiated by ULFA and the CAETL Talking About Teaching seminar that explored the topic of respectful teaching and respectful learning is fundamental to furthering an attitude of mutual understanding.

The U of L already has an appetite to celebrate its diversity. I look to successful ventures such as International Week, Native Awareness Week, OUTspoken, and I see a campus with diverse interests and ideals. It is imperative that conversation is encouraged to grow.

This past fall I had the opportunity to meet with organizers of a conference held here in Lethbridge that was organized by the Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination. Our own Catherine Kingfisher (anthropology) played a part in this conference and I pledged that the University would be more fully engaged with next fall's event. Not only do we have a role to play in terms of messaging to our students, faculty and staff, with respect to diversity and inclusivity, but we also have an opportunity to engage the Lethbridge community as a whole in this conversation.

Our students, faculty and staff are all part of the community, and if we can act as a leader in creating a more accepting Lethbridge community, the better the quality of life for everyone.

My own work in disability research has been very much connected to the appreciation of diversity, of difference and of differing skills and ability. I often refer to this quote from Henry David Thoreau in my talks on disability and inclusivity.

"If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music in which he hears, however measured, or far away."

We have an opportunity to open the discussion, and I applaud ULFA for bringing this conversation forward and encourage everyone to engage in this debate.

For a look at the March issue of the Legend in a flipbook format, follow this link.