Dear members of the campus community,
Over the past weeks, events at the University of Missouri, Yale, and many other colleges and universities have brought national attention to the issue of racism on college campuses. In some cases that racism is overt; and while we at Gettysburg strive to be a more diverse and inclusive community, our efforts have not been without some of the same difficulties and setbacks. We have College policies and procedures that guide our response to bias incidents when they are reported, although I will be the first to acknowledge that our system is not perfect.
However, many of the issues our students of color face require more than a disciplinary response to the offensive behavior of a single individual or group. These issues are in some ways more challenging as they are imbedded in our society, in our structures, and in our culture, and require institutional change.
I congratulate our Black Student Union and Latin American Students’ Association for coming together to share their concerns about racism on our campus. I have met with the leaders of these organizations, Ja’Nai Harris (BSU president) and Jasmine Santana (LASA president), and Dean Julie Ramsey and Chief Diversity Officer Jeanne Arnold have met with these student groups as well. Their concerns and recommendations are wide-ranging and include things such as:
We are in the process of reviewing these and other concerns that have been raised to date and developing plans to address them.
What I personally find to be most moving and disturbing is the sense among many students of color that Gettysburg College is not their own. More than a few members of our community have been made to feel (be it intentionally or unintentionally) that they are not welcome and that their backgrounds and experiences are not valued in our intellectual and social environment.
We, as a community, must come together around these issues. As I reminded our community in an email message earlier this year, the values which are the foundation of our mission as a liberal arts institution include “the worth and dignity of all people” and “sensitivity to the human condition.” We must strive together to assure that we uphold those values and that all members of this community can proudly claim Gettysburg College as their own.
As the spring semester opens, I will be prepared to share some of the steps we will take in response to the concerns so constructively raised by our students. I also ask each of you to take some responsibility for improving our campus culture, for maintaining an environment that embodies the highest levels of respect and civility, and for making Gettysburg College more welcoming and inclusive for all members of our community.
Janet Morgan Riggs