Our Reaffirmed Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

February 1, 2021

Good afternoon,

Today marks the start of Black History Month, a time to celebrate and highlight the influence of African American culture and individuals throughout history.

Earlier today, we commemorated the start of the month with a virtual community flag raising, where I quoted the powerful words of our honorary alumnus, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. H ’65.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

The time to work towards a better and just society is now. And we at Saint Peter’s must answer the call.

As we have witnessed over the past year, we are at a pivotal time in our nation’s history. Events have reignited and prompted difficult and necessary conversations regarding race and equity. As I have said before, we cannot erase history from the books but it’s important to learn from our past to help shape our future.

Earlier today at the flag raising I shared news about a step that the University has recently taken to recommit to Dr. King’s vision and further his legacy through our actions.

While 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, it is so much more than that.

I am pleased to announce that last week our Board of Trustees voted unanimously to adopt the University’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion statement, which can be found in its entirety below. The development of the statement was a true University community collaboration, engaging input from a variety of areas and individuals.

Saint Peter’s University
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement

Cornerstone
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31.

Our Credo
Since its founding in 1872 in Jersey City, New Jersey, Saint Peter’s University has served successive generations of first-generation and immigrant students. Our diversity is one of our greatest institutional strengths and lends itself to an exceptional educational experience with opportunities to enrich the teaching and learning environment with diverse perspectives, ideas and experiences; to have open, inclusive and non-alienating discussions; and to build a community culture that embraces and celebrates diversity of thought, solidarity and respect for others. We are fully committed to building a welcoming culture of equity and inclusion in all areas of our Jesuit, Catholic mission.

Our Commitments
As understood through the Ignatian principles of seeing God in all things, caring for the whole person, forming people for and with others, and believing that all human beings are made in the image of God, we will:

  • Form a community of mutual respect to nourish and celebrate not only our human differences but our common shared humanity.
  • Encourage a culture of tolerance, open-mindedness and listening to those of diverse cultures and celebrate our diversity of cultures in public spaces on campus.
  • Incorporate understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice in teaching, research, critical learning opportunities, scholarship and co-curricular activities.
  • Recruit, admit, hire and/or retain students, faculty, staff, administrators and board leaders who reflect diverse experiences and backgrounds.
  • Promote best practices related to diversity, equity and inclusion for the University family through campus-wide conversations and activities, antiracism training and professional development.
  • Assess and review practices and policies for impact and effectiveness and implement changes when improvements are needed.
  • Oppose all forms of bias, prejudice and intolerance and expect all community members to share in the personal and collective responsibility for creating and sustaining an inclusive environment.
  • As a leader in Jesuit higher education, promulgate these values within the Saint Peter’s community and to the greater public.

“The dynamism of any diverse community depends not only on the diversity itself but on promoting a sense of belonging among those who formerly would have been considered and felt themselves outsiders.” Hon. Sonia Sotomayor

Adopted by the Board of Trustees
January 27, 2021

In the fall we named Devin A. Heyward, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology, urban studies and anthropology and the director of gender and sexuality studies, the new director of the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We also began to address concerns brought forth by the Students for Peace and Justice club following their on-campus Black Lives Matter rally.

These steps were great starts, but our hope is that the above statement will provide continuing guidance for more to come. There are a myriad of steps to be taken but what’s most important is that we do not lose sight of this priority; it’s critical that the University puts diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at the forefront of every single thing we do.

It’s more than being anti-racist. It’s practicing what you preach.

For my part, I pledge to work with Dr. Heyward and members of the campus community to implement the actions articulated in the statement in order to ensure that the commitments are met.

I will also plan to include diversity, equity and inclusion developments in my campus updates and reports at future Board meetings to highlight this work so as to ensure this remains a priority for the Board and University as a whole. It’s important to keep ourselves accountable.

Now, let’s get to work. Please be sure to check The Peacock Press and Peacock Connect for details on upcoming Black History Month events, including a poetry/spoken word slam where the winner will represent Saint Peter’s in “America’s Best College Poet” as well as a workshop with Ashlee Haze to explore the “makings of identity and how people of historically marginalized identities can find their voices in a cisgender/white/hetero-centered world.” In addition, the Black Action Committee and Student Entertainment Board invite all students to submit artwork, poems and other writings that will be on display in the Mac Mahon Student Center as well as virtually.

Together, let us ignite change; let us work toward equality and have greater sensitivity and understanding toward diverse perspectives and experiences while celebrating them along the way.

Thank you,

Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D.