Dear Members of the Gettysburg College Community,
Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minnesota police officer, I have joined many other Americans in experiencing distress, anger, and a deep sense of frustration at the ongoing racial schisms that continue to bedevil our society. As president of this College, with its unique vantage point on questions of race and equality in American society, I have been reflecting on our role as a campus community in healing racial divides and advancing Lincoln’s aspiration of a country where everyone has full membership.
At times like these I acutely feel the separation that we have experienced because of the pandemic. Were we together, we would do what we do best: support one another, ask hard questions, and look together for paths to progress. We would explore how our community can further model behaviors and attitudes that are the preconditions to a truly just and inclusive society. We would continue to use the tools most readily at our disposal—the capacity to study, to learn, and to engage across difference—to prepare our students to advance racial justice not just during their time on campus but in the years beyond.
We are, regrettably, not together, and have not been since March, but it underscores the essential nature of the work we have been undertaking—work that requires additional attention now and when we return. As part of this work, we had a robust week of programming scheduled for the spring on issues of race and racism, including our third Institute for Healing Racism seminar and an important presentation on race by Harvard Law School Professor Randall Kennedy. Jeanne Arnold, the College’s Chief Diversity Officer, is taking steps to ensure that this programming occurs in the fall and is updated given contemporary events. I will continue to engage the President’s Advisory Group for Inclusion and Belonging, a group of diverse students I have convened to deepen the College’s understanding of the experiences of underrepresented communities and to recommend concrete steps on our work of belonging and inclusion. In the fall, we will welcome the Class of 2024, which based on decisions made to date is shaping up to be among the most diverse in the College’s history. And, on Tuesday, the Office of Multicultural Engagement will be hosting a Current Issues Dialogue focusing on many of the issues being debated nationally today.
There are no words I can offer to soothe the pain caused to members of our community, or indeed to help mend the rupture to the very fabric of our society, when events like George Floyd’s death occur. Or when COVID-19 provides yet more evidence of racial health disparities afflicting our country. The time has long passed for words. But these events do serve as a call to further action on our campus, with a renewed emphasis on how we treat one another and the commitments we make. As I have made clear since my first day on this campus, there are no commitments more important to this College than doing all that we can to ensure that this is a place where every student has the fullest opportunity to thrive and to graduate ready to make a difference in a society that so badly needs our collective efforts.
Very truly yours,