SRU President Cheryl Norton gave her state of the university address Thursday in the Smith Center ballroom which was preceded by a peaceful demonstration by students.
The peaceful demonstration started before Norton’s address. The students entered the ballroom with their hands linked and said one-by-one, saying, “I am the difference.” Three student speakers elaborated on this, saying they want peers and professors to feel comfortable discussing diversity, that students and faculty need to work together to let the campus be inclusive and that it’s important to discuss diversity issues in class.
Norton acknowledged the demonstration before starting her speech.
“I hope that what the students said to you is not lost in the moment, but becomes a memory for the future and an action plan for the human race,” she said.
Norton gave an overview of the university’s past, citing 2012 as a year when drops in enrollment, no new state appropriation and increased personnel and operating costs created a financial gap at the university. Norton said the budget was cut and the university invested in the campus and curriculum by creating new degrees, new classrooms and other improvements.
“We are in the second strongest financial position of any institution in the PASSHE system,” Norton said.
She went on to say that SRU’s reputation has grown, receiving national recognition such as the Green Ribbon Award, being listed as a 2016 college of distinction, as well as one of the top 100 best value institutions in the country.
Norton said there are still financial issues present and many are working to keep the state system going.
“Our goal is to be a best choice school, a first choice among our students and an affordable opportunity as they go forward in their degree program,” Norton said.
She also said that SRU is close to its biggest enrollment in history, with the unofficial count at 8921 students.
Norton challenged the university to cultivate a respectful community and wants to develop a “diversity, equity and inclusion team”, conduct a diversity audit and form a center for inclusive excellence. To add to this she encouraged those with ideas and proposals to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
“You can make a difference; you must be the difference,” Norton said. “You can continue to bring this institution together as an inclusive community.”
Before the close of the address, Norton welcomed 48 new members of the university.
Norton said the university led as a community toward excellence and that it should look toward the future to see what it can become.
“Together, I believe we can continue to keep the sun shining at Slippery Rock,” Norton said.