Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
You may have recently received a note about a town hall this evening. I want to bring your attention to the invitation I and some of my colleagues received from the group organizing the event, as well as my response, which you’ll find below.
I look forward to working with you on our collective and ongoing efforts to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community.
To the members of the Black Affinity Coalition,
I am grateful to be part of a community united in its commitment to make the institution we share a more inclusive, equitable, and welcoming place. While I’m proud of the work we’ve achieved together, that work is far from complete; in fact, it may never truly be “finished.” But I want to reiterate that I am eager to engage with students as we continue to build a more diverse and just community together.
In my experience, however, the type of large gathering you’ve described, particularly one organized by an anonymous group that requires attendance of certain individuals to discuss the specific demands you’ve put forth, isn't conducive to meaningful and productive dialogue. I am thus declining the invitation, because I believe that to bring about enduring change, we must engage in a more genuine, focused, nuanced, and sustained interaction and exploration of the issues at stake. My colleagues in the administration and I welcome engagement with any members of our community who are willing and able to participate in this difficult and necessary work.
I know that many of you are experiencing genuine pain — pain emanating from the relentless racial, ethnic, and xenophobic hatred and violence across the country; from the fear and anxiety brought about by the pandemic and the resulting economic insecurity; from the physical and mental exhaustion that comes from an extended period of remote learning and social isolation. And I appreciate your passion for making Swarthmore a more inclusive place. But while we share some of the same aspirations, our vision for the path toward achieving them differs. Some of your demands and aspects of your latest response take liberty with the facts. Students and faculty alike have raised serious concerns about feeling pressured into supporting the strike. And there is an undercurrent emerging that those who do not fully subscribe to your demands or your approach somehow fail to support the Black Lives Matter movement, which would be, of course, a false equivalency. I am sure that you do not intend for others to feel this way, but it is, nevertheless, the way that some in our community — who are deeply committed to racial justice — are feeling.
At this point, it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that I see further engagement with an anonymous group and a set of demands that do not reflect the serious and ongoing efforts of those in our community as the most effective way of addressing issues critical to the entire College community. As I said before, I greatly appreciate that you have highlighted the need for me and members of the administration to find new and more effective ways of communicating, connecting, and working with students, in the service of meaningful change. I am committed to doing so and am even now working to develop new structures and strategies for conflict resolution, change, collaboration, and communication.
In the interest of transparency, and given that you've communicated with broad segments of the campus community, I plan to share this response with the College more broadly. I pledge to you that I will continue working with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others to further strengthen this community and our commitment to equity, racial justice, and service to the common good.