Dear Members of the Emmanuel College Community,
It is always a joy, in these early days of the semester, to watch our community renew its commitments to the liberal arts and sciences and to a breadth of on- and off-campus learning experiences that enrich the whole person.
Yet even as we engage in these fundamentals of our Catholic educational mission, we cannot fail to recognize the ongoing climate of division and polarization in our society. It has been especially disturbing in recent years to witness a resurgence in white nationalism, a scourge that demands our ongoing vigilance and resistance. We have seen an alarming reminder of this over the past two days, as a growing number of America’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have received coordinated bomb threats.
It is against this backdrop that we as a community reaffirm our abhorrence of, and opposition to, racism in all its forms. This conviction has always been implicit in the values that unite and inspire us, including a belief in the intrinsic worth and dignity of every human life. However, the reality of ongoing, structural systems of exclusion in our society call on us, at this critical moment, to make our commitment to anti-racism more explicit.
On the national stage, there have been hopeful signs of progress in the past year, including the conviction and sentencing of those who brutally took the lives of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Still, much more work remains to advance justice for people of color, particularly in view of the disproportionate suffering and hardship they have endured as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At Emmanuel, we have taken substantial actions to make our community a model of the engagement and attitudes that we hope will take firmer hold among people everywhere. These include initiatives to further support and empower students of color and to enhance the diversity of our faculty, administration and staff. In addition, we have worked to broaden our curriculum to include studies of a wider range of cultures, histories, voices and traditions. For these and many other positive steps forward, I am especially grateful to the members of the Black Student Union, the President’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Equity Committee, and the Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion under the leadership of Associate Vice President Jeffrey Smith and Associate Director Fillette Lovaincy.
For all our accomplishments in recent years, we recognize our responsibility to continually move beyond what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called the “isness” of the present and reach up for the “oughtness” that forever confronts us. It is in this spirit that we will be considering initiatives outlined in a draft Anti-Racism Action Plan developed by the Equity Committee. This plan will be shared in the coming weeks, and we will keep the community informed of practical steps the College will take to implement elements of the plan this spring and in future semesters.
As together we observe Black History Month, let us remember that real and lasting change must flow from a place of sincerity and authenticity. In this sense, the road to a more just, equitable and peaceful future, at Emmanuel and far beyond, begins in every human heart. May ours overflow with compassion and genuine love of neighbor.
Sister Janet Eisner, SNDdeN