Kutztown University celebrated its 3rd Annual Unity Day on Aug. 29. Under the theme of the Golden Bear Rule, speakers talked about belonging, empathy, advocacy and respect.
“Your presence here today shows your commitment to unity,” KU President Dr. Kenneth Hawkinson said to the crowd of students, faculty, and administration, as well as Kutztown community members, gathered on Schaeffer Lawn.
As KU begins a new year, Hawkinson said the KU community must renew its commitment to its values and reject all forms of racism, bigotry and discrimination.
“We have here leaders of a number of University organizations and friends of the University. I hope that our unity will serve as an example of how good people can come together to support a common cause, to serve as an inspiration to others that strength indeed comes from being unified in our message,” he said.
Jerry Schearer, Associate Dean for Inclusion and Outreach, announced the Golden Bear Rule, “Treating others as they want to be treated. Building a culture of respect each day.”
Bracelets were handed out to the crowd that said “Golden Bear Rule. Building a Culture of Respect.”
“That is what we hope to do every day here on the campus of Kutztown University, build a culture of respect for our students, staff, faculty, visitors, parents, anyone who comes to campus, to show that we are all Golden Bears,” said Schearer.
Building a culture of respect goes beyond KU’s campus.
“I feel welcome here in Kutztown the town and Kutztown the university,” said Rev. Christopher deForest, who recently moved with his family to Kutztown and became pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Kutztown, and serves as pastor for the Lutheran Center at KU. “As an outsider, I have been made to feel at home. As the father of a queer and wonderful young man, I feel at home here. As a person of faith who believes in a God who loves all the rich, rainbow spectrum of humanity, I feel at home here.”
He invited everyone in attendance to sit next to Trinity’s new wooden sculpture of a man wrapped in a blanket and a hood, sitting hunched over on a bench out front of the church on Main Street. “To feel what they feel. Feel what you feel sitting there. Be who you are.”
In regard to KU Unity Day, deForest said, “I am truly, sincerely bursting with pride and awe and hope and inspiration when I hear the promise I just heard, the commitment we make, the challenge we set to treat others as they want to be treated to create a culture of respect. I have found that already here. May it grow stronger than ever for KU, for Kutztown, for our nation and in our world.”
Frances Cortez-Funk, president of the Kutztown Chapter for the State College University Professional Association, said that in today's times, we have an opportunity to write our future as a community.
“The students at KU and all their families, friends, and support systems have taken the journey with students to get here. In my years at KU, I have witnessed students’ remarkable transformational change. Our students are truly brilliant and come with awareness. They all have grit and resiliency to make it here on campus, to graduate, and to become the professionals. They are the key to our future,” said Cortez-Funk.
“We are a community to provide the support you need to be successful, and to be the mirror to remind you of your brilliance,” she continued. “In my work at KU, I am simply paying it forward. I am not unique but proudly common because we all believe in students and in their transformational change. That is who we are.”
KU junior Clyde Killebrew IV, Vice President of the KU Student Government Board, said that over his past two years at KU, he has been able to understand the importance of diversity, inclusion and unity.
“While it’s great to acknowledge the blessings and fortunate opportunities we receive daily, it’s only right to keep the agenda going and work to give diversity and multi-cultural groups the respect that they deserve and earned,” said Killebrew. “I understand that the goals that are set or not going to be easy; however, I have no doubt in my mind that with the strong work ethic that we have on this campus, and an extreme passion to be a safe space for all students involved, we will be able to make positive differences in this leadership role. All the concerns that we have expressed and discussed over the past year have been taken into account, and I can see around campus the constant teamwork and dedication from the present and the future leadership, so you KNOW I am extremely excited for the future. So thank you for your time, thank you for the support, and always remember to be bold and stay Gold!”