Nathan Hatch is the president of Wake Forest University. The son of a Presbyterian minister and a man deeply grounded in his faith, he is considered one of the leading scholars in the study of the history of religion in America.
Hatch sent this message to the Wake Forest community on Monday. In it, he explains why he opposes HB 2.
Dear Wake Forest students, faculty and staff,
The conclusion of spring semester offers an opportunity for reflection. Recently, I’ve been thinking about the nature of our campus – a dynamic learning community that embraces individuals. Together, through face-to-face conversation, we increasingly appreciate differences and engage each other with respect and understanding. Each day, we continue to create a better culture and an institution that is greater than the sum of our parts.
Saturday marked one month since HB2 became state law. This controversial measure limits civil rights protections for members of the LGBTQ community in North Carolina.
The operations of private institutions, like Wake Forest, are not directly affected by this legislation. Our non-discrimination statement provides protection for gender identity and sexual orientation. However, there is no doubting HB2’s negative impact on members of our university community and the greater Winston-Salem and North Carolina community; on our institution, as we seek to recruit, retain and welcome students, faculty, staff and visitors; and on our society, as it works to appreciate differences in an increasingly polarized culture.
A university is a place where academic freedom and freedom of expression are fundamental. It’s place where community members can voice their beliefs – whether progressive or conservative, radical or traditional. It’s a place where we prize diversity, equity and a culture that encourages success and fulfillment for all. It’s a place where we strive to enhance students’ capability to disagree, in a spirit of courtesy and friendship, with those whose opinions they do not understand or appreciate. And it’s a place where we stand up for one another in the face of discrimination.
It has been well documented that HB2 was passed hastily. Even as lawmakers reconvene today, the pressing question for me – as a citizen and as a university president – is how we seek solutions that affirm the diversity among us. In North Carolina, a state that has long mediated conservative and progressive traditions, it is unfortunate that our leaders have not found common ground in ways that recognize the equality of all of our citizens.
The divisive nature of HB2 is in sharp contrast with the inclusive values of Wake Forest. For this, among other reasons, I wish to make clear my opposition to it. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read the story on our website about the efforts of our administrators, faculty, staff and students in support of the LGBTQ community on our campus and indeed everywhere. I am grateful for the leadership of Angela Mazaris, who, along with many allies and advocates, works to advance equality and fairness every day. I have great appreciation for her support of our LGBTQ community and her efforts to help educate our entire campus about issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.
Together, we have worked to make Wake Forest more diverse and welcoming, and a place where students learn the art of conversation, practice thoughtful deliberation and engage in meaningful dialogue with one another. As the semester comes to a close, let us continue to do so in the spirit of Pro Humanitate.
Nathan O. Hatch