Reflecting on Racism in Higher Education
I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent events at the University of Missouri, Yale University, and other institutions across the country that have prompted passionate discussions and demonstrations related to structural and systemic racism in American higher education.
I am also thinking about the Black students at the University of Missouri who are suffering terrible abuse simply for standing up for their rights. I applaud their courage and determination.
As a member of the Oberlin community, I have learned from the activism on our campus over the past few years, which is focused on the experiences, safety, and needs of Oberlin’s Black students, faculty, and staff.
The activism at Oberlin, like the protests currently taking place on other campuses, is inspired by larger societal events, such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the tragic shooting in Cleveland of Tamir Rice, which occurred one year ago on November 22. The protests are also an expression of outrage and opposition to the persistent racism in our society.
I stand with our Black students, faculty, staff, and local residents in their efforts to achieve racial justice. I believe the struggle for racial justice is ongoing and will continue until justice is served.
I believe having frank conversations about racism—and other forms of discrimination—is vitally important to ensuring that Oberlin is the diverse, inclusive community we want it to be, where Black students, faculty, and staff feel safe, supported, and able to thrive.
The recent national events remind us that the work is far from done. I think all of us at Oberlin must renew our pledge to listen—and to really hear—what our students and colleagues are saying, and to then act.
In addition to existing opportunities for dialogue, including my office hours and regularly scheduled meetings with student leaders, I would welcome suggestions about ways for us to both hear better and act even more effectively on what we hear. This certainly includes our discussions around strategic planning and Oberlin’s future.
These conversations will help inform a retreat I have planned for our senior staff later this year. During that retreat we will address issues of race, equity, and inclusion at Oberlin.