The University of Maryland is working toward becoming a more diverse and innovative institution under a “vision of transformative excellence and impact,” University President Wallace Loh said in his Dec. 6 State of the Campus Address.
Delivered before the University Senate in the Stamp Student Union’s Colony Ballroom, Loh’s speech was largely a response to the polarizing national election and called for a greater acceptance of diversity.
“It’s highly likely that changes will be made in the future that will affect us all,” University Senate Chair Jordan Goodman said. “While some of these changes may be positive, others may have devastating consequences on members of our community.”
The university will not share students’ information with immigration officials or allow these officers to enter campus with the intent of enforcing immigration laws without a warrant, Loh said.
“In this time of uncertainty and vulnerability, when post-truths trump the facts and fairness,” Loh said, “I want to say loud and clear that the University of Maryland is absolutely committed to a safe and supportive educational environment to Dreamers and DACA students.”
Some students took offense to Loh speaking in Spanish when talking about undocumented students, a gesture that doesn’t “represent the entire immigrant community” at the university, junior sociology major Ashley Vasquez said.
“Are you asking me to apologize because I’m speaking in Spanish, which is the first language I learned?” he said.
Minutes into Loh’s speech, members from the Student Labor Action Project stood and walked in front of the stage, carrying signs reading, “STOP LOH WAGES FOR STUDENT WORKERS.” The protestors sought to prompt Loh to commit to matching the campus minimum wage to that of Prince George’s County.
Another student questioned if Loh acknowledged that Black Lives Matter, to which he responded that the movement is “basically today’s version of civil rights.”
Loh, who has served as the university’s president for the past six years, highlighted “a record high” of diversity among students. Forty-three percent of the class of 2020 are students of color and 23 percent come from historically underrepresented groups.
Provost Mary Ann Rankin has set aside $4 million to hire targeted professors and $1 million to bring in postdoctoral professors, Loh said, both from underrepresented groups.
“No university is better than the quality of its faculty,” Loh said.
When he entered office in 2010, Loh said the College Park campus and University of Maryland, Baltimore had one joint professor. Now, with over 60 joint faculty members who have produced $80 million in research, the two institutions plan to have one central identification number for research purposes. Research revenue will exceed $1 billion in conjunction between the universities, Loh said.
The university, too, plans to turn College Park to a community in which faculty members live and alumni want to stay near post-graduation.
“It is a vision to make College Park the Silicon Valley of Maryland,” Loh said.
Investments have been made on campus – in the Cole Field House and Edward St. Join Learning and Teaching Center, for example – as well as off campus in The Hotel and The Hall, an intended second major student union. The university is also committed to creating a “vibrant downtown community,” Loh said.
“We cannot thrive in education and research,” Loh said, “if we cannot transform College Park around us.”