Pledge of Diversity. President Seligman took office with the belief that diversity and academic excellence go hand-in-hand. Since 2005 the University has made maintaining a diverse environment and promoting a pluralistic culture a priority among its student body, faculty, and staff—currently being supported by the Diversity Initiative for The Meliora Challenge. Progress and updates on this initiative can be found in the annual Diversity Report.
Got inclusiveness? To build a healthy student body and a strong campus life, the University offers diverse social, educational, and developmental experiences. There are upwards of 20 undergraduate and graduate student organizations that are dedicated to celebrating the many cultural and religious backgrounds of students; several majors and minors, including those offered through the Susan B. Anthony Center and Frederick Douglass Institute; annual lectures; and academic and career advancement opportunities provided by the Kearns Center and similar resources.
Meliora tag team. As the world becomes more complex, education must come from more perspectives. The joint mission of the Office for Faculty Development and Diversity and faculty diversity officers is to ensure this happens. Together, sans matching blue and gold singlets, they develop strategies to foster the recruitment and retention of faculty members from underrepresented backgrounds. This includes facilitating dialogue that helps foster a more inclusive—and ever better—University culture.
Party horn of plenty. There are many opportunities for faculty, staff, and students alike to break out their vuvuzelas, didgeridoos, and other typical noise-makers in celebration of diversity. Throughout the year there are dedicated months of observation, special days at the Memorial Art Gallery, and alumni social and networking events, which are all complemented by the quarterly alumni e-newsletter OUR Rochester and the monthly e-newsletter Spotlight on Diversity.
Diversity (Super) Conference (Bowl). For discussions on building a more diverse and inclusive community at Rochester, it doesn’t get any bigger than this. Created in 2010, the annual University-wide Diversity Conference focuses on improving communication, sharing best practices, and encouraging the development of innovative programs. With its keynote address and workshops throughout the day, the conference is an important effort to promote an environment that is welcoming to all races, religions, sexual orientations, and beliefs.
“What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?” On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass posed that question to an audience of nearly 600 people in Rochester’s Corinthian Hall. Invited by the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society to speak in celebration of American independence, Douglass gave an oration that called out American hypocrisy and put a spotlight on injustice and cruelty. Today, it is considered the greatest anti-slavery speech ever given. “This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”
The Institute. Established in 1986, the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African American Studies promotes the development of African and African-American studies in undergraduate and graduate education and research. The Institute provides a multidisciplinary and interdepartmental program that brings together historical, cultural, psychological, economic, and political perspectives for the study of people of African descent. And a fellowship program helps to further study and intellectual exchange within the community.
Digitizing Douglass. In 2002, the Douglass Institute and the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections initiated an effort to digitize all of the University’s Douglass materials. The job was given to undergraduate student interns to give them the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of this important leader in our history. The effort, now known as the “Frederick Douglass Project,” has provided a digital collection of Douglass correspondence, writings, and images.
Leadership House. If history has told us anything, it’s that we could use more people like Douglass. In February 2013, the University’s Fraternity Quad welcomed an addition created in the Rochester icon’s image: Douglass Leadership House. The leadership house helps members learn or improve their leadership skills and celebrates and raises awareness of black culture, politics, and history while presenting a physical expression of Douglass’s principles, as it serves students, alumni, and the Rochester community.
Where’s Frederick? Literally: Douglass can be visited at his gravesite in Mount Hope Cemetery. Honorifically: On the River Campus there’s the Douglass Institute, the Douglass Leadership House, and Frederick Douglass Commons, which is home to his bust (see banner above). There’s also a Douglass Medal and a statue of him in Highland Park. Metaphysically: Douglass is everywhere. Even today, we are still the beneficiaries of his legacy.
A Campaign for Women. When the University’s Board of Trustees voted to allow coeducation in 1898, it was with the stipulation that women must raise $100,000 ($2 million today). After raising $40,000, the board agreed to admit women if another $10,000 could be raised. A day before the deadline, and $8,000 short, Anthony quickly raised $6,000 and eventually pledged her own life insurance, guaranteeing women’s admittance into the University in the fall of 1900.
Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies. Drawing on Anthony’s goals and ideals, the institute was founded in 1986. Led by Director Nora Rubel, the institute supports the Gender and Women’s Studies Program; supports faculty research on the intersection of race, gender, and visual culture; and is, overall, dedicated to issues important to understanding the role of women and gender throughout history and in contemporary society.
Susan B. Anthony Center. Inspired by Anthony’s vision and passion, the center was founded in 1995 to recognize women’s current and past contributions for the purpose of encouraging young women to enter nontraditional careers and strive for leadership positions. Today, led by Director Catherine Cerulli, the center is focused on serving the needs of women on campus, connecting them to community resources, and overcoming the remaining barriers to their full equality.
The Mystery of the Woman’s Suffrage Party’s Safe. While its opening didn’t exactly rival the hype of opening Al Capone’s vault, a safe linked to Susan B. Anthony was opened in June 2013 after being locked for 15 years—the combination long lost. Some speculated it might contain a suffrage flag, love letters, or even a flask. The contents were not nearly that sensational, but priceless, nonetheless.
Suffragette City. While it’s certain Rochester is not what David Bowie had in mind when he wrote Suffragette City, Susan B. Anthony spent the most politically active period of her life (1886–1906) at 17 Madison St. In 1945, the house was purchased and turned into a memorial to Anthony and the women’s rights cause. After her death in 1906, she was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.