President Cohen's submission

I applaud The Tartan's decision to run this Special Edition devoted to the report of the Commission convened to recommend corrective actions resulting from last April's events, and I applaud The Tartan's and our community's responses to the report. I commend the Commission's members for their hard work and wise counsel and The Tartan for its very positive and constructive response to the Commission's recommendations.

This Special Edition is timely, though that may seem counterintuitive. The "Natrat" appeared more than nine months ago, and the Commission's report was submitted at the beginning of last semester. Nevertheless, much of what the Commission recommended can only be addressed in the long term. Now is a particularly good time -- the start of a new year and a new semester, a week before Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- to start contributing to the resolution of these long-term issues on which I elaborate below.

Like most of us, I was appalled by the content of the "Natrat." As President, I kept asking myself how this could have happened. How could my students, for whom I am ultimately responsible, have been so insensitive and so out of touch with the Carnegie Mellon community to think that the "Natrat" was funny -- or, I suppose, funny enough -- to justify the pain it caused the campus community?

The Commission's report, in its third set of recommendations, draws our attention to the hard but crucial issues of the culture and climate on our campus and, in particular, to the role of our undergraduate curricula. How can we better educate our students to understand and appreciate differences among us? This is, after all, the real payoff of our diversity efforts. It is an empty achievement, at best, to create a diverse community whose groups coexist but rarely interact and in which individual students develop little or no understanding of anyone or any culture different from them or theirs.

Faculty groups and the University Education Council are taking on these issues but in the broader context of our general education program, which is overdue for a review. Our GenEd program should be a clear statement by the University on what we think all students should know and be exposed to by the time they graduate. This is where the consideration of the curricular issues raised by the Commission belongs.

Your thoughts about any aspect of the above are welcome. You can e-mail me (cohon@andrew.cmu.edu) or Vice Provost Indira Nair (in0a@), who chairs the UEC. Also look for forums and other discussions that will be held around the University.

The "Natrat" was a low point for Carnegie Mellon's diversity efforts. I am determined to continue to learn from the incident and to make the University better. Please join me.