Release Date: 
Friday, July 24, 2020

A Path Forward in a World of Injustice: next steps

A group of people, two share a fist bump
President Kavalhuna greets students at Discover Day on campus (pre-pandemic).

Dear Colleagues and Students,

For those of you who were able to attend the “A Path Forward in a World of Injustice” Town Hall on June 11, thank you for joining in. For anyone who wants to see the conversation, it is on our YouTube channel here (and also at the bottom of this webpage).

It has been six weeks since this event. I have been thinking about this topic every day. I have many thoughts about the conversation in June, and it would take too long to share all of them with you. I do want to share some of the things I heard, and some commitments I have made to all of you.

First, I want to thank our HFC panelists: Warren Harrison, Munira Kassim, Jade Lewis, Imad Nouri, Keambra Pierson, and Mark Yancy. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell also joined our panel. It took courage for them to participate, and to trust that it would be worth their time and energy. We talked about several major issues. The conversation was substantial and authentic – even a little cathartic at times – and provided an opening to more of the important work we need to do.

As I said during the Town Hall and have said before, racism and racist incidents on our campuses are completely unacceptable. I am heartbroken by hearing what has happened to some of our students and my teammates in their lives. I am committed to upholding the values and mission of this College. We strive to treat all community members with dignity and respect.

I also acknowledge that our Black colleagues and students are not the only ones who face racism in this world. And I will make the same commitment to all of you: that we will work together to help rid our society of racism. We are a College that can lead our greater community by working together, hearing each other, and respecting each other. By doing this, we can prove that positive change is possible.

Here is some of what I heard at the Town Hall and afterward from people who have given feedback about the event:

  • I heard you say this conversation and other conversations are important, but are not enough. You are looking for action. I understand your need for action. I am committed to taking steps to continue to move our College forward into a cohesive and welcoming community. We need to organize for the right kinds of action – action that will make a difference not just today, but for the College’s and our community’s future.

  • We need to invite more voices into the conversation. We should continue the conversation, soon, even as we begin planning for work on College culture, policies, and procedures. There were many questions that we were not able to discuss on June 11. We will continue to address those questions when the pandemic’s status permits this discussion to continue.

  • We already have groups working on these issues, and we do not need another “false start.” I respect and honor the fact that many people and groups on our campuses have already been doing this work, in some cases for years. I support the work of groups like the Black Male and QUEENS Focus Group, the Diversity Task Force, student organizations, and others. We can and will work together and build on those efforts. We need to draw upon their work and advancements and continue to move forward.

  • Many of our colleagues and students are struggling and suffering in their families and in their communities. I have heard parents state they feel substantial fear and concern about raising Black children in today’s world. While we offer various kinds of help and assistance for our students and teammates, we will consider ways to better assist our community members.

  • We cannot have an inclusive society or College unless everyone has equal opportunity to access our College’s wide array of education and programming offerings. Our College will not be able to fix the structural problems across our society, but we can work to ensure everyone on our campuses has access to the College’s services and resources, and is treated equitably and with respect.

  • We need to create additional opportunities where people can have the conversations they need to have, and where it is productive and safe to create more dialog.

I am committed to working personally on these issues, and to working together. I know you are seeking concrete steps. Any such steps should be focused on lasting, positive change. I will work with you to identify actions that will serve our community’s needs now and in the future. This work must be inclusive and must rely on many voices.

I will continue to listen to you and engage on these issues with you. Many of you have spoken to me already. If you reach out to me, I will respond. I will hear your concerns and ideas and take them seriously. The Cabinet and College leadership share these same commitments.

Even while we are developing new plans and procedures intended to change our culture and structures, we all deserve an environment filled with respect and free from discrimination. As one of our teammates pointed out on June 11, this has to start with me, and with you. We have to show our commitment to equity and inclusion, individually, every day. We have to act on our values now, every day, with every person, in every situation. Growth will only happen if we work at it.

I believe we can do better. In my comments at the end of the Town Hall, I stated my commitment to continue to address and reduce discriminatory acts on our campuses.

This work requires a College-wide commitment. I ask you to join with me and your other teammates to help bring an end to the social justice deficits that exist in our community, and in our world, and to create an environment in which, as our mission says, we “foster diversity, inclusion, understanding, and acceptance to prepare learners to succeed in a global society.”

Russ Kavalhuna

HFC President's Town Hall, "A Path Forward in a World of Injustice," June 11, 2020. Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes.