- Associated Press - Thursday, February 11, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A leader at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says the school is taking steps to address issues of racism on campus and in the community.

Chancellor Harvey Perlman wrote a letter to organizers of a “Black Lives Matter” rally held in November, the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1Qa5MFM ) reported.

“It was powerful and appropriate, provided an outlet for voices that needed to be heard, and reflected the kinds of conversations that should occur at a major university,” Perlman wrote in his letter, which is dated Monday.

He responded to the organizers’ list of seven specific requests by outlining the steps the university is taking to make campus a more inclusive space that values all of its community members. Some requests are already being met as academic departments look to incorporate multicultural programs and the university focuses on increasing diversity through new hires, he said.

Rally organizers say the most important part of the statement was the chancellor’s acknowledgment that racism is present at the university and in the Lincoln community.

“In the past, I don’t believe anyone would have said that,” said Carnetta Griffin, one of the organizers. “While I’m always pushing for more, that is a start - and it’s a great start. Maybe it will become more clear because our chancellor has now said it is happening.”

Perlman said that the university wouldn’t restrict students’ free speech on campus, even that rising to the level of “hate speech.” He said other universities have tried to impose penalties on language deemed hateful, and those penalties have been overturned in courts.

“While those of us in the administration, as well as the community, can and should speak out against such comments, it is not permissible to impose penalties on those who utter them,” Perlman said.

The university has also implemented a reporting system so that issues of harassment or racial bias can be anonymously reported.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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