The University of Chicago is distinctive in many respects, but perhaps in none more so than our singular commitment to rigorous inquiry that demands multiple and often competing perspectives.
The nature of questions being asked and the perspectives being engaged are often a function of the diversity of experiences and outlooks of those participating. Diversity for the University is therefore particularly germane to our core perspective. We must ensure that our scholarly community is composed of a rich mix of individuals who, through their own distinctive viewpoints, contribute to the intellectually challenging culture of the University.
For over one hundred years, our commitment to diversity has shaped the course of research and education at the University and has contributed to groundbreaking work in a variety of disciplines. The University has always been open to women as well as men. The first doctorate earned by a black woman in the United States was awarded in 1921 at the University of Chicago. We were among the first major non-historically black universities to tenure a black faculty member. Contributions by Asian American scholars in the 1920s were essential to the University’s landmark research in sociology. At a time when other elite institutions discriminated against Jews, the University refused to set quotas. The University has long been a magnet for students from Mexico and South America. Since the founding of the Center for Gender Studies in 1996, the University has become a major center for research and graduate training in fields that examine issues of gender and sexuality. Throughout its history, the University has benefited when there has been a wide range of views represented on campus.
Our commitment to diversity affects our relationship to the community as well. As a large educational institution and employer, we have commitments and opportunities due to our location on the South Side of Chicago. Our students and members of the community forge ties through programs supported by the University Community Service Center. Community residents contribute their knowledge and skills to the University as members of the faculty and staff. The University of Chicago Medical Center is working in partnership with other health care providers to build a strong health care network for South Side residents. The Center for Urban School Improvement and its charter schools have worked with the community to develop schools that have improved the education of children in the neighborhood. Both the University and the community are made stronger by a mutual exchange of ideas and resources.
A commitment to diversity is central to our mission of discovery. The way the University has been organized and has evolved over the years, the intensity of our intellectual culture, the resulting education that is so engaging and powerful, and the nature of the contributions the University has made to scholarship and to society are all derived from our focus on inquiry. We have an obligation to see that the greatest variety of perspectives is brought to bear on the issues before us as scholars and citizens. We therefore celebrate our tradition of inclusion and recognize that our success as an institution depends on its ongoing renewal.
Robert J. Zimmer