Dear members of the Gettysburg College community,
I write today deeply saddened by recent events on campus that are fundamentally incompatible with our most basic values as a College community. They involve incidents where students and an alumnus have reported that racial slurs have been targeted at them by current Gettysburg students. Let me be clear: any incident is one too many. Acts of racism have no place at Gettysburg College.
The mission and responsibility of this College is to provide the very best education to every one of our students. We achieve this goal only by fostering an environment marked by mutual respect for one another and by an appreciation of the worth and dignity of every person in our community.
To those members of our community who have been affected by these and other acts of racism and bias, I recognize that expressions of sorrow and support, no matter how heartfelt, are not sufficient. As I have made clear since assuming office in July, we have a collective obligation to create a truly inclusive environment where every person can do their best work and be their best selves. These incidents underscore that, despite progress in creating a more diverse community in recent years, there is much left for us to do.
Last month, at my request, College Life asked students to be in touch if they were interested in serving on a group I am convening to help me more fully understand the experience of students from underrepresented and marginalized groups. Characteristic of our campus, many students raised their hands, ready to help, and we will soon have our first meeting. I expect the conversations that will take place, and the opportunity for me and the other members to learn from one another, to be an essential step in our ongoing and fundamental work of belonging and inclusion.
Other steps are also underway. First-year orientation matters: it is one of our most important opportunities to underscore both the community’s values and our expectations about how we treat one another. College Life is actively rethinking whether there are ways to structure orientation to ensure that these messages are more effectively conveyed. College Life is also in the process of finalizing a sanctioning rubric that will bring greater clarity and consistency to the College’s response to bias incidents.
Additionally, the Bias Awareness Resource Committee (BARC), led by Jeanne Arnold, Chief Diversity Officer, has already begun planning proactive educational programming for the year, specifically for the Spring 2020 during Stop Bias at the Burg Week. I have asked Dr. Arnold and BARC to propose other responses in light of these incidents. Among the questions I have asked them to consider: what more can we do with our students to reinforce the College’s values of inclusion and respect, and to enhance intercultural understanding? If you have advice for the BARC as it begins its work, please be in touch with Dr. Arnold at email@example.com.
Finally, I want to assure the community that appropriate measures are underway to investigate the incidents and to provide support and safety for those affected.
This is our College, and we alone are responsible for the culture we create. Please join me in reinforcing our commitment to mutual respect, support, and inclusivity. If you see an act of intolerance, speak out. Use the channels the College has established to report any bias incidents you experience or are aware of.
But, even more so, let us lead by example. Let us speak up for one another. As society continues to grapple with division and injustice, let us model how members of a true community should treat one another.