Today, Juneteenth, marks the oldest national commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. While celebrated since the late 1800s, there has been a resurgence of discussion and interest surrounding the date given the recent nationwide protests over the tragic and senseless deaths of Black men and women.
My hope is that you take some time today to reflect as well as learn. It’s important that we reaffirm that hatred, bigotry and racism run contrary to who we are as a Jesuit, Catholic institution and will not be tolerated on our campus.
As I mentioned earlier this month, I am optimistic that we as a community can help to ignite change and that begins with discernment and conversation.
Last week, students gathered for an initial discussion via a virtual open forum which provided an opportunity for them to share their fears and frustration as well as hope that this movement will be successful in eliminating systemic racism.
As a next step, I will be extending an invitation to each member of the Student Senate to join me for a virtual discussion later this month to explore ways that we can help to make progress toward racial equality. I encourage all students to share your thoughts and ideas with your club representative so your voice can be heard at this meeting.
Similarly I will be asking the Diversity Task Force, with support from the Office of Human Resources, to sponsor virtual opportunities for dialogue with faculty, staff and administrators on issues related to race and racism and needed change.
This is only the start for the Saint Peter’s community. As we continue to have discussions and make plans for the upcoming academic year, please be assured that we will work together to:
- Provide platforms for Black and minority students to share their experiences and have their voices heard
- Ensure a safe and inclusive environment where diverse voices, perspectives and experiences are not only heard and recognized, but also celebrated and championed
- Urge our community to act for justice, to work toward equality, and to have greater sensitivity and understanding toward diverse perspectives and experiences
- Support, offer and encourage participation in programs that provide opportunities for dialogue and workshops
- Denounce racism, bigotry and violence in all its forms
Recalling the words of Rev. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Saint Peter’s University stands with the other 27 Jesuit institutions in North America in affirming that “Love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce.” May we be united in that spirit of love to learn and act for justice and equality.
Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D.