Still Work To Do: An Open Letter Friday, June 19, 2020, at 10:30 a.m.
An open letter to our campus community:
The senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others have compelled all of us to face some difficult, painful truths about who we are as a society, as a nation, and frankly, as human beings. The violence at the hands of police, the passionate protests, and the raw, emotional stories shared by the Black community have left us grappling with a monumental question: where do we go from here?
As the leadership team at Jacksonville University, we acknowledge that we have much to learn and a great deal of work to do. Over the past few weeks, we have been listening and we will continue to listen. We sincerely thank you for participating in the listening sessions and in candid conversations among students and colleagues. You have shared openly with us your own painful experiences, both on our campus and in the broader community, and we would like to respond by stating:
- Black lives matter. To all our Black students, faculty, and staff: We see you and hear you. We will work tirelessly to build a campus and classroom environment where you feel safe and supported.
- We acknowledge that white privilege is real and must be addressed.
- Brutal violence against people of color at the hands of police must stop.
Creating a safer, more equitable world begins here on our own campus. Open dialogue is a start, but we must remain intentional about educating ourselves. As an institution of higher education, we believe in the power of learning and its ability to reshape our thinking and our behavior.
For that reason, we urge members of our campus community to join us in a 21-day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge. As your senior leaders, we commit to read, listen or watch something every day that furthers our understanding of issues that impact the Black community -- issues involving power, privilege, supremacy, oppression, and equity. Here are some resources to help us get started.
This initiative emerged as a recommendation from Athletics senior leadership after a series of eye-opening conversations with coaches and staff, and it was unanimously approved by our Senior Cabinet. The 21-day challenge was originally developed by Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr. and Debby Irving and has been adopted by many organizations. According to research, it takes 21 days to build a habit. Our hope is that this daily practice would take root in all our lives and continue well beyond the next three weeks.
We chose June 19th to begin this challenge in honor of Juneteenth -- a symbolic day that regrettably has passed largely unnoticed on our campus. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.
This felt like a fitting day to recommit ourselves to the important work of building a more equitable, inclusive, and informed campus community.
We recognize many of you will be skeptical about these words and efforts. It’s difficult to hope for real change after generations of disappointment and empty promises. We are committed to earning your trust and we realize that won’t happen overnight.
In the days and weeks ahead, we plan to share more information about our newly formed Diversity and Inclusion Councils, and how our students, faculty, and staff can get involved in their work. The recent listening sessions with our students have helped identify some of the key issues the councils can begin to address, including increased accountability and transparency for bias-related investigations, improved support and resources for minority students on campus, and more resources for faculty and staff to on how to create an inclusive environment.
The burden of creating change will not fall solely on their shoulders, however. Every member of our campus, starting with leadership, bears a personal responsibility in creating an inclusive campus culture that celebrates diversity and actively fights back against racism, discrimination, and hate.
These are the first of many important steps that make up the road ahead. We are in this for the long haul and will approach the journey from a place of humility and compassion.
Tim Cost ’81, President
Dr. Chris Sapienza, Provost
Dr. Kristie Gover, Dean of Students
Alex Ricker-Gilbert, Athletic Director