The message below was shared with the College on June 1, 2020 with the full endorsement of President Mercer and members of the Cabinet. We stand together in support of creating a more just, equitable, and peaceful society.
- Peter P. Mercer, President
- Angela Cristini, Interim Vice President, Institutional Advancement
- Susan Gaulden, Interim Provost and Vice President, Academic Affairs
- Kirsten Loewrigkeit, Vice President, Administration & Finance
- Nicole Morgan Agard, Chief Equity and Diversity Officer
- Christopher Romano, Vice President, Enrollment Management and Student Affairs
- Michael Tripodi, Vice President and General Counsel
- Brittany Williams-Goldstein, Chief of Staff and Board Liaison
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dear Students, Faculty & Staff,
I am writing you with a heavy heart, in response to a number of events relating to discrimination, bias and racism that have taken place over the past few weeks, both at the College and throughout the United States.
Many of us were stunned when we observed firsthand and/or learned of the emails containing racial slurs and pictures that were circulated amongst our students on May 6th. Sadly, two days after this email incident, many of us, myself included, took part in a 2.23 mile walk (or run) in memory of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25 year old unarmed black male who was shot and killed while jogging in a Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood. Ahmaud would have turned 26 years old on May 8th and the 2.23 miles signified the day he died, February 23rd.
Flash forward to last week, when many of us watched with outrage the video of a woman in Central Park who called the police and falsely reported that a black man was “threatening her and her dog”, when the video recording of the incident revealed the man did no such thing and to the contrary, merely asked that she put her dog on a leash. And the culmination came the next day, when the video recording surfaced of the death of George Floyd after being pinned down on a Minneapolis street while a police officer is shown pressing his knee against George’s neck.
These incidents are just a few examples of the many acts of racism and discrimination that African-Americans have had to endure for decades and are still enduring today. These issues are at the forefront now because of the use of cell phone videos and social media, but for many of our students, faculty and staff, they serve as reminders of very personal experiences similar to the ones that recently took place. However, let me be clear- this is not a black, African-American or “person of color” issue alone- this is also a human rights and justice issue.
So where do we go from here? First, to our students, faculty and staff who are suffering mentally and emotionally from the events of the past few weeks, please know that I, along with the members of the administration are here for you and support you. We will continue to denounce all acts of racism, bias and discrimination at the College, both remotely and on campus, and my office will continue to investigate all reports of bias and discrimination. To our students, as a reminder, the staff in the Center for Health and Counseling Services are available to speak with you to discuss and/or provide emotional and mental health support.
In recent years, our College has established the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Compliance, we have mandated diversity and inclusion training for students and employees, and we have hosted town halls and other fora to ventilate concerns and to advance change. But more work needs to be done. In the next few weeks, the members of the Bias Response Implementation Team will finalize the College Bias Policy. Over the summer, my office will begin working on the creation of a Diversity Committee, inclusive of stakeholders at the College, to begin discussions regarding the planning and implementation of a College Strategic Diversity Plan that is in alignment with the College’s Strategic Plan and in particular, Goal 2 of the Strategic Plan (Cultivate and Support Equity, Diversity & Inclusion).
We recognize that members of our community may need a safe space to engage in discussion, process and healing about these events and that some of us are also looking for ways in which we can be of service. Our office will be working with other departments and student organizations to create a virtual forum and we will share the details in the next few days. If you would like to lend your energy and compassion to the development of this forum, please contact E.D.I.C.
Finally, but most importantly, we must come together as a community and speak out against injustice and inequality. Artist Danielle Coke poignantly stated “Until you fix it in your heart and address it at home, nothing [will] change…”. We must ALL do our part, at the College and in our homes and communities to speak up, discuss, and denounce all acts of racism.
Best regards and continue to be safe,
Nicole Morgan Agard
Chief Equity & Diversity Officer
Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Compliance