To Members of the Le Moyne Community:
Last week, in response to the murder of George Floyd, Le Moyne hosted a series of forums where we invited current students and alumni to gather with staff, faculty and administrators to share their feelings, insights and experiences. While it may have been the trauma of national events that brought us to these meetings, it was the pain and marginalization experienced by people of color on our campus that necessarily became the focus of our conversations.
For close to eight hours, over four separate sessions, our students, past and present, told their stories. I was struck by how much more I need to learn and understand, how much more deeply I need to engage their lives and concerns, so that I might not only listen, but hear as well. And while I felt the urgency to listen on a personal level, I accept it also as an institutional imperative. As the president of Le Moyne College, I promise that we will work harder, and with more determination, to hear students whose voices have been stifled or silenced, and we will act - diligently and continually - to make justice manifest on the Heights.
We cannot preach the gospel of “cura personalis,” the care of the whole person, and ignore the wounds of history or the inequities of the current moment. We must not imagine that our obligation to our students, or, for that matter our mission, can be satisfied only by providing them with a stellar education. We can no longer imagine that we have answered the need for representation expressed by so many of our students of color by simply placing their images in a brochure, or by occasionally celebrating their culture or histories, or even by attending forums where they share their feelings. Nor can we imagine that our goodwill alone, our longing for a more just world, can stand in the place of action.
We often use the phrase “student body” when we refer to the student population. As a Jesuit institution, this must be more than simply a figure of speech. As we learn from St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, “If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness.” As a Christian community, inspired by the teachings of St. Ignatius, we declare that “Black Lives Matter,” that so long as people of color on this campus suffer injustice, the entire community is compromised; so long as the world beyond Le Moyne is in anguish, we are called to minister to it. We will work harder to teach the next generation of students - whether they become health care professionals or educators or entrepreneurs or public servants - to nurture community, in the words of St. Ignatius, “not just in words, but in deeds.”
To that end, I would like to share with you all the work that has begun, as well as a timetable for continuing that work, and a date when you can expect another report on our progress. Many of you will be invited to participate and guide us on this work, and I look forward to more conversations in the future.
· We are forming a committee, composed of students, alumni, staff, faculty and administrators to develop concrete and measurable actions in response to the many concerns raised in the forums.
· To ensure that all first-year students beginning the fall of 2020 are introduced to key concepts regarding race and racial justice, the College is piloting a unit in all sections of COR 100 (our first-year seminar) that will help students build knowledge, develop transferable skills, and foster habits of mind aligned with Le Moyne's mission to promote racial justice. A task force of faculty and administrators will continue working on this initiative during the fall semester with the goal of broadening the impact of this and other curricular changes.
· Inspired by the conversations of last week, the English department has committed to overhauling its “Major Authors” courses, which typically are taken by sophomores. This spring most of the sections offered will focus on major authors who are also people of color. And in the semesters to come, the department is committed to maintaining a greater diversity of offerings, particularly in this phase of the Core Curriculum.
· We are organizing new diversity training for Campus Security, and we are committed to creating trust and respect between the student body and the security personnel.
Finally, we will continue the sometimes thorny, complicated work of translating the need for justice into concrete change. Part of what I heard last week was the complaint that as passionate as these forums can be, too often the urgency dissipates. We will not allow that to happen again. We will update you on our progress on Aug. 17 and again in mid-December. We also invite you to contact us with concerns or questions.
I thank you all for your honesty; I will work to honor it.
Linda M. LeMura, Ph.D.