“See clearly, decide wisely, ACT JUSTLY.”
The most recent events of racism and injustice have been very hard to witness, but they are harder for our black students who have witnessed or experienced similar events first hand. With the memorial service of George Floyd yesterday, I once again thought of the seeming indifference of the officer who took his life with his knee on his neck, and I thought about how as a society we have too often acted with indifference to the injustice and inequality all around us. These events must be the catalyst to end our indifference and apathy.
Converse, it is time to step up our efforts to address racial injustice in the Converse community. Although a number of positive steps have been taken over the last few years, there is more to do and now is the time to do it.
Here are some of the initiatives that Converse has put into place and our next steps to make Converse a campus that truly Acts Justly.
- Listen: I invite any students, faculty, and staff who wish to talk about these issues and who have ideas of what we can do better, to participate in a meeting with me at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 8. If you wish to participate, please email email@example.com for Zoom call information.
- Training: Each staff and faculty member is required to complete training modules on managing bias and diversity and inclusion before the end of the summer.
- Campus Community Book Reading or Film Viewing: Converse will be assigning a summer reading and/or a documentary/film for the faculty, staff, and students. The selection will be focused on the issue of racism in America. Converse will provide whatever selection free of charge, as necessary.
- Community Conversations: Converse will soon announce summer Zoom sessions on topics such as racial injustice, systemic racism, racially disparate policies, and the impact upon each one of us. Details on programs, and information on how to participate, will be sent to all staff and faculty members by Provost Barker.
- Campus Safety & Security: Converse’s Campus Safety office will work with Converse’s Student Government Association and the Association of African American Students to create a police and community advisory committee.
- Diversity Strategic Plan: Converse’s Diversity Strategic Plan, developed by its Unity in Diversity Committee, will be published next week and efforts will begin immediately to address the goals and strategies they have outlined.
- Racial Discrimination Policy: Converse’s Racial Discrimination Policy will be finalized and become part of its revised Title IX policy as a response to the new regulations issued by the Department of Education. This policy will be in place by the effective date of August 14, 2020 and will take issues of racial discrimination out of Civitas.
- Classroom Environment Committee: The Classroom Environment Committee that was put into place to evaluate the model change to a co-educational undergraduate institution will also evaluate how to improve the classroom environment for our diverse student population. This may include recommendations on professional development in regard to the pedagogical practices or curricula design.
- Evaluation of Converse’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP): Converse developed its QEP in 2016-17 for its reaffirmation of accreditation. That plan is Converse Across Boundaries: Learning Through Diverse Experiences. Converse has been evaluating and assessing whether the QEP is accomplishing its objectives and will publish these results.
This is not a comprehensive list, but merely a start that we were able to quickly compile, based upon the strong work of the Diversity Advisory Committee and their Strategic Plan. We will add to this list as we listen and work together with our community to develop real and sustainable change.
“Our core values call for each of us to respect the equality of all persons.”
This week I have heard stories by Converse students of other students using or calling them racial slurs. To hear this language is being used by our students is incredibly painful and fills me with anger and shame as a leader in this community. Our core values call for each of us to respect the equality of all persons. If you are part of our community, you must live that commitment in what you say and what you do. If you cannot or do not want to embrace and practice our values and treat all people with respect, dignity, and as equals, then you should not come to Converse. If you cannot respect and appreciate another person’s background, heritage, culture, and experience, or if you cannot at the very least be open to learning how to do that, then this is not the community for you.
Finally, to the whole Converse community, let me be very clear: when we talk about the Converse family, we mean it. We do not treat our family this way. We stand up for our family when they are hurt, belittled, or oppressed. If you see someone treating one of our family members, or any person, this way, you need to step up and speak out. Your silence and indifference is complicity. Act Justly.
Krista L. Newkirk, President