Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun pre­sented his vision for a more per­fect North­eastern Uni­ver­sity on Monday after­noon, urging stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff to embrace their diver­sity in order to reveal the community’s true strength, resilience, and vitality.

It is through the inte­gra­tion of our dif­fer­ences that we truly thrive as a com­mu­nity,” Aoun told a packed Fenway Center. “It is through this plu­rality that we live up to our highest calling—to be a com­mu­nity ded­i­cated to human advancement.”

He framed his 30-​​minute speech on diver­sity and inclu­sion by explaining that some have recently ques­tioned the university’s values and com­mit­ment to core prin­ci­ples such as aca­d­emic freedom and fairness.

Let me be clear,” Aoun said. “If anyone in this com­mu­nity feels that they are not full mem­bers of the North­eastern family, that is unac­cept­able. If anyone in this com­mu­nity has ever felt mar­gin­al­ized because of her faith, color, ori­en­ta­tion, or beliefs, that is unacceptable.”

Aoun under­scored the point by sharing a series of sto­ries high­lighting Northeastern’s cul­ture of inclu­sion, mutual respect, and under­standing across reli­gious tra­di­tions. After the university’s Menorah was van­dal­ized in November, Aoun explained, stu­dents of Northeastern’s Islamic stu­dent group wrote a heart­felt letter that they shared with North­eastern Hillel. The letter read, in part, “We stand in sol­i­darity with our Jewish brothers and sis­ters against all acts of hate, prej­u­dice, and anti-​​Semitism.”

Aoun shared some per­sonal anec­dotes as well, including sto­ries of growing up in Beirut, Lebanon. “Unfor­tu­nately, my native country was torn apart by a war of reli­gions. I lost friends and fam­i­lies. I lost class­mates in the name of reli­gion. This was unac­cept­able to me and it remains unac­cept­able today.”

In a speech on Monday after­noon in the Fenway Center, Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun urged North­eastern stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff to embrace their diversity.

Aoun also announced the for­ma­tion of the Pres­i­den­tial Council on Diver­sity and Inclu­sion. The council will be com­prised of stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff and co-​​chaired by law pro­fessor James Hackney and Uta Poiger, interim dean of the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Humanities.

As part of the council’s activ­i­ties, William Fowler, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of His­tory, and William Wakeling, dean of the uni­ver­sity libraries, will under­take a thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion of Northeastern’s past.

Like many of our peer insti­tu­tions, we have reason to believe that there may be chap­ters in our his­tory that we are not proud of,” Aoun said. “We will thor­oughly review our archive and we will share what we find.”

In addi­tion to Hackney, Poiger, Fowler, and Wakeling, other mem­bers of the council are: Agnes Chan, pro­fessor and asso­ciate dean in the Col­lege of Com­puter and infor­ma­tion Sci­ence; Dick Day­nard, Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor and chair of the Fac­ulty Senate Agenda Com­mittee; Michael Dukakis, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor; Phil He, asso­ciate pro­fessor and asso­ciate vice provost; Rehan Khan, vice pres­i­dent for Infor­ma­tion Ser­vices; Alex Kern, director of the Center for Spir­i­tu­ality, Dia­logue and Ser­vice; Lori Lefkovitz, pro­fessor and director of Jewish Studies; Zach Pardey, pres­i­dent of the Grad­uate Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion; Peter Petrin, pres­i­dent of the Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment Asso­ci­a­tion; Carmen Sceppa, asso­ciate pro­fessor of health sci­ences; and Suzanna Wal­ters, pro­fessor and director of Women’s Studies.

Aoun closed his speech by noting that one of the best parts of his job is attending campus events that cel­e­brate dif­ferent groups within the com­mu­nity, including the Vet­erans Day cer­e­mony, the Martin Luther King, Jr. con­vo­ca­tion, and the Holo­caust Aware­ness Breakfast.

These indi­vidual cel­e­bra­tions should not stand in iso­la­tion,” Aoun said. “While they are impor­tant and have deep meaning for the groups involved, they make up a much larger tapestry. This rich, diverse, and com­plex tapestry is the North­eastern community.”

He added that the uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity should pursue a new “social com­pact” that allows every member of the uni­ver­sity to par­tic­i­pate fully and freely in all aspects of the insti­tu­tion. “Let us go forth and build this com­pact, one that is plu­ral­istic, inclu­sive, and exciting,” he said.