Stuart D. Cook
September 29, 2000
Throughout my career,
I have enjoyed the challenges and opportunities of being an academic
physician involved in teaching, patient care and research. Having
chosen this path, I am very cognizant of my role as a mentor. Part
of what has helped me carry out this responsibility are the lessons
I learned during my years as a Boy Scout. I learned the standards
of integrity by which we all should conduct our lives. I hope that
as a teacher I have conveyed the importance of these principles
to the students with whom I have had the good fortune to work. I
hope that my actions every day convey to others that trustworthiness
and loyalty should be hallmarks in our interactions with others.
Many of you here also
have a personal connection to scouting as well. I'm sure you remember
some positive impact of scouting in shaping your independence, work
habits and ability to relate to others. Perhaps
one legacy is a willingness to try something new because, after
all, bravery is one of the Boy Scout laws. Perhaps another legacy
is a willingness to speak out at a town meeting or volunteer for
a community project because as scouts, we recited an oath that proclaims
the importance of being good citizens.
So while I value my
experiences as a Boy Scout, and appreciate your efforts on behalf
of Newark's children, I personally disagree with the decision by
the Boy Scouts to exclude homosexuals from being scout leaders.
As an individual with
a homosexual family member and as President of the University of
Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, I believe we must be open
to and celebrate the diversity of all people. I also have firm beliefs
about the necessity to have an open, tolerant environment in our
University, an environment that is blind to one's color, race or
We must not close our
doors to differing points of view, but rather work to bridge these
differences. I urge the leaders of scouting here today and across
the state to recognize these concerns and work to change. This luncheon
provides a forum to do that. It helps recognize leading citizens
of Newark who are committed to helping the city's youth.
We are here today to
bring the scouting experience to the young people of Newark because
it offers a positive counterbalance to the drugs, alcohol and violence
so many of our young people experience every day not only in Newark,
but also in urban cities across the nation.
No one in this room
is more aware of that reality than Dr. Eric Munoz, who as a trauma
surgeon for many years at University Hospital has seen the effects
of violence and substance abuse on young people first-hand. It is
not surprising that he has provided leadership to revitalize the
scout movement in Newark.
Nor is it surprising
that the University and University Hospital, vital components of
this city's fabric for more than 30 years, would want to help build
positive linkages in the Newark community for our youth.
The Boy Scouts have
made many contributions to American society over the years. During
that time, our society has changed. Today the United States is the
most culturally diverse nation on earth and New Jersey is the most
culturally diverse state in the nation. As New Jersey's University
of the Health Sciences, UMDNJ must reflect the richness and texture
of the citizens of our state. We
cannot just talk about race, ethnicity or gender. We must be sensitive
to all form of discrimination.
Right or wrong, serious
differences of opinion exist in our society about the Boy Scouts'
decision not to allow homosexuals to be scout leaders. You
have only to watch or read the news this past week about a local
school board in New York City deciding to limit scouting activities
in the districts school building to realize this decision probably
is debated in some community in our nation every day.
This issue is also topical
because over this past week, University faculty, students and staff
have discussed their concern about this issue with me. As a result
of our conversations, I am announcing today that I have directed
Catherine Bolder, the University's associate vice president for
affirmative action, to review the current University policies regarding
I have also asked her
to meet with gay and lesbian representatives on our campuses to
better understand the needs of our University family, and to propose
improvements where appropriate to encourage our student body, our
faculty and our staff to be more sensitive to cultural and sexual
orientation differences. To
me this is an example of how a University can help to advance our
Each of us has the opportunity
every day to strengthen society's ability to do right thing. I hope
our students know that if your goal is to be the best that you can
be, you cannot do so if you have bias in your heart or hate in your
mind. I urge all of us to keep these principles in mind so that
our society can realize its full potential and be a beacon of ethical
values for the entire world.