An open letter to UI’s new PR firm

First off, congratulations on the new gig.

Between the Steven Salaita controversy, anger over lack of snow days, budget cuts and fewer applications coming in, the University has been making its fair share of headlines.

Because of these things, there are professors who do not want to be here. Experts are canceling talks and lectures to support academic freedom. Despite a told emphasis on diversity, minority students still report being faced with microaggressions throughout campus.

As the University faces censure from the American Association of University Professors and must fight for funding, you have your work cut out for you. But, as a large public relations firm, you have probably seen worse problems than the University’s.

In an effort to make this a transparent and welcoming school, we hope you will hold the University accountable for its actions while still moving it forward. Although it’s your job to make the University look good, we hope that you are upfront and honest about the University and its decisions.

In whatever controversy comes next (it will inevitably come; it’s part of life at a large public university), we hope that you stick to the idea that the truth is the best defense.

Do not cover up controversies. Face them head on and move our school past them, because the University needs to be known as (and needs to be) an honest, welcoming environment.

We still host award-winning faculty and just hired a new president, Timothy Killeen, and we need diverse students to bolster the talent we already have. Representing our university as a welcoming environment, and holding this institution to that standard, will continue to attract the best minds in research and teaching and will reinvigorate students’ desire to attend this school.

Whether the issue is academic freedom or microaggressions, solving it will make the University attractive to more diverse minds and spur more open and productive conversations. These conversations could create not only technological but social change, that would impact not only our campus but the world around us.

Transparency and diversity should be our image, but it should also be our reality. We hope you can give it a try.