Inauspicious start for Inclusive Illinois

The last weekend of August was not a good time for the University regarding e-mails. As The Daily Illini reported, sensitive information about more than 5,000 Engineering students was attached on a message sent to hundreds of recipients. While that was the far more serious matter that weekend, another mass e-mail was sent by Chancellor Herman announcing the “One Campus Initiative.” It is likely that many on campus did not pay attention to it because they were occupied with the Engineering fiasco, but also because, like the e-mail that announced it, the program doesn’t amount to a whole lot.

The official Web site, inclusiveillinois.uiuc.edu, offers only the token utility of aggregating the various campus events that are already sponsored by the various cultural-oriented houses and organizations.

The section entitled “It Starts with Each of Us” does not feature quotes, messages or advice from student leaders, administrators or anyone else who would presumably have a vested interest in the subject. Only six nondescript Web links, seemingly pulled from Google, adorn it.

In fact, the only thing on the site that actually engages students is a “commitment statement” to which they can electronically sign their names.

The lack of original content or ideas on the Web site seems to be reflective of the entire initiative. While Chancellor Herman announced a vaguely titled “Chancellor’s Series on Critical Contemporary Issues” and a “key” lecture and forum in his e-mail, he did not elaborate on how he plans to get anyone not particularly interested in them in the first place to attend, much less get them “to produce an ongoing dialogue.”

It’s time to get serious.

If the problems racial tension and cultural misunderstanding present to this campus are truly as pressing as the veritable lip service they have been given would indicate, then the administration is doing no one any favors by producing more show than substance.

Until there is more work devoted to measures that actually let students honestly talk to each other, instead of being talked at on campus attitudes – a workshop similar to FYCARE is a possibility – then the skepticism and apathy that pervade this University will unfortunately endure.

The best that can be expected from the initiative at this stage is that it won’t further alienate those who would truly benefit from its laudable goals.

And instead of continually polishing and promoting their message, the administration and the chancellor should focus on putting some real meaning behind it. Otherwise it will be One Campus, Many Voices without much to say.