October 20, 2006 — William B. Harvey, vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity at the University of Virginia, told the Fall Convocation audience on Friday that he hopes U.Va. can become a model for positive cross-racial and cross-cultural interaction.
Harvey presented his address at the annual event in University Hall during which 364 third-year students were awarded “intermediate honors” for being in the top 20 percent of their class after completing 60 credits of course work during their first two years at the University. Special recognition was also given to 20 members of the faculty who won 2006 teaching awards.
In addition, the Thomas Jefferson Award, the University’s highest honor, was presented to Edward L. Ayers, dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and the Hugh P. Kelly Professor of History.
Harvey joined U.Va. in November 2005 as the first occupant of the new diversity post. He had previously served as vice president and director of the Center for Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity at the American Council on Education.
In his remarks, Harvey noted that while many things have changed since what he termed “the bad old days” when he would not have been allowed to attend the University let alone address a major event, there is still a long way to go.
“Unfortunately, even now, some members of this community at this great institution still demonstrate prejudicial and unfair treatment toward other members of our community just because their skin is a different color,” he said.
But he challenged those in attendance, especially the students, to help set a standard by building a diverse community that “exonerates our previous individual and institutional shortcomings.”
“Though those of us in my generation can guide this effort, the essence of this initiative falls to those of you who came here to learn and will leave her to lead,” he said, adding that changing the patterns of flawed behavior requires not only brainpower but also willpower.
“I hope that all of us can and will rededicate ourselves to creating an environment, both on these Grounds and in the world beyond, where individual differences and distinctions cease to be excuses for treating others unfairly,” Harvey said.