Charles Robinson

Uploaded by UniversityArkansas on 04.11.2010

Good evening. Tonight, we have gathered to recognize four outstanding individuals who
have made significant contributions to promoting diversity at the University of Arkansas.
Before we acknowledge them, it is important that we take a few moments to reflect upon
the history and meaning associated with this occasion. In February of 1948, Silas Hunt,
a Texarkana, Arkansas, native and decorated veteran of World War II, decided to act upon
his right to receive a law degree in this state by enrolling in the School of Law at
the University of Arkansas.
Although university officials allowed Silas Hunt to register, thereby making ours the
first, southern, public institution to voluntarily desegregate, in reality, few people on the
campus embraced him. Steeped in the long-held segregation traditions of the Jim Crow South,
the university community forced Silas Hunt to endure the bitterness and chill of a sad
and stultifying social isolation. In his time at the university, Silas Hunt was required
to take classes alone, study alone, dine alone, and to conduct most of his on-campus, daily
affairs alone.
Hunt could not call the Hogs at football or basketball games, use campus bathroom facilities,
reside in campus housing, nor utilize the library like other students. For Silas Hunt,
his lone semester at the University of Arkansas served more as a testament of his capacity
to endure than our willingness to welcome him. We are fortunate that Silas Hunt was
strong enough to bear such a heavy burden.
Like most pioneers, Hunt's ability to tolerate a wilderness experience subsequently opened
a new world to the thousands of others who would follow him and to the tens of thousands
who would benefit from the diversity changes that his presence ultimately initiated.
Now we are here, tonight, reflecting on this history, wishing that the facts of it could
be different. Though we cannot change this unfortunate past, we can claim it and use
it like never before to make our university everything that it ought to be. Because of
Silas Hunt and his legacy, the University of Arkansas possesses a passion and sensitivity
for diversity and inclusion that demands that we energetically push the agenda. We recognize
that our support of diversity signals our strong embrace of notions of equality and
equal opportunity for all. It allows us to better fulfill our land-grant mission of service
to our state and our nation. We know that by building a strong, inclusive, campus, we
offer all of our students the chance to receive an education that will better prepare them
for engaging a global diverse community.
When students can have discourse with people who are different from themselves, it empowers
them to be more productive in their chosen fields. And, we know that expanding our diversity
simply makes good business sense. As we grow our diversity, we increase our access to valuable
funding that can be used to meet the needs of the entire university community.
Therefore, on this night, for this purpose, let me issue a call to service for diversity
and inclusion. As we celebrate this occasion, let each of us think about what we can do
to make our university a more diverse one. Now is the time. Yes, we have come a mighty
long way since the days of Silas Hunt, but we cannot and should not rest until diversity
blows like a mighty wind and inclusion flows like a mighty stream. Now is the time.
Now is the time. Now is the time for us to transform the vision of what we want to be
into the reality of what we have become. Now is the time. Now is the time to convert our
dreams for change into the action plans that will generate the creation of a better tomorrow.
Now is the time for us to teach for diversity, to research for diversity, to recruit for
diversity, to solicit for diversity and to donate our dollars for diversity. And when this happens, when we make diversity
a part of everything that we do, we will be able to speed up that day when underrepresented
students from West Memphis and Marianna, Fordyce and Forrest City, from Dumas to DeQueen, Ashdown,
El Dorado, Pine Bluff, Little Rock, Helena and Hope, will be able to declare with clarion
voices from grades 1 through 12, that the University of Arkansas is our institution.
The University of Arkansas is our school of choice. We declare it! We claim it! We embrace
it! We believe it! Thank you.