Dear Campus Community,
I write today deeply troubled by recent events on our campus and within the Borough that are fundamentally incompatible with our most basic values. They involve multiple incidents where members of our LGBTQ+ community have been the target of homophobic slurs and actions. Students of color have also been subject to racial taunts while in the Borough and to other racist comments on YikYak. We do not know the identities of the people engaging in these dehumanizing, alienating, and unacceptable acts.
What we do know, however, is that incidents are occurring in the context of an alarming increase in racist and homophobic behaviors both in our country and across the world. They directly undermine the safety, security, and true sense of belonging to which the members of our LGBTQ+ and BIPOC community are entitled—and which make up the necessary precondition for everything else that we seek to do as an academic institution.
It is necessary to acknowledge these incidents, but that alone is far from sufficient. Within our campus, any meaningful response starts with effective educational programs and an unwavering appreciation of the worth and dignity of every person. These objectives have been at the core of the DEI commitments we have made over the past several years. At the same time, the incidents serve as a vivid reminder that an inclusive community is heavily shaped by what happens locally—in how we treat and value one another in our day-to-day interactions and in our collective commitment to foster an environment where every member of this community can find themselves, be themselves, and thrive.
The structures we have must support that work. Critical to fostering an environment of belonging is ensuring that our bias education and response mechanisms are strengthened and effective. In my February 16 letter to the community, I shared the concrete steps that Dr. Kafele Khalfani will be advancing on behalf of the College. Dr. Khalfani is working to ensure that, within the next several months, the College implements:
- More contemporary and effective employee anti-bias and anti-racism training and education platforms and programs.
- Trauma-informed bias incident awareness response policies and practices, informed by contemporary best practices.
- Structures and systems to better support faculty and staff from underrepresented groups.
While we are less able to influence behaviors outside the College, there are steps we can and will take. Most importantly, we need to ensure that Borough leadership is aware of the experiences of our students and employees, as well as to its consequences to those individuals and to the fabric of the entire Gettysburg community. We need to strengthen the partnership between the College and the Borough and to work collectively to make our town welcoming and supportive for everyone. To that end, I have asked to meet with Borough Mayor Frealing to discuss these and other issues.
I know how troubling and disappointing it is to hear that these incidents have occurred on our campus and in our town. Students who are interested in speaking with a professional are encouraged to connect with Counseling Services at 717-337-6960. If you experience of witness an act of bias, please report it.