Racism, Wooster and the Urgent Work Ahead

Dear Wooster Students and Colleagues,

George Floyd’s funeral was today. We mourn his loss as well as the loss of so many others whose lives have been taken in appalling, heartbreaking acts of anti-Black violence. In the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death, voices are being raised around the world about the grave impacts of systemic racism, and about the urgent actions we must take to create communities that are truly safe, equitable and just.

Black lives matter. We must move forward from our long, terrible history of racism to create communities where Black lives are valued, honored and safe. During last Wednesday’s Community Care gathering, over 400 students, staff, faculty and alumni reaffirmed the urgent need for this change, both here on our campus and more broadly. Before registering, attendees were asked to share what they will do to end racism. We compiled some of their answers in this video to visualize our community’s collective commitment to this critical mission.

The College of Wooster stands against racism in all of its forms, and we will redouble our efforts to create a campus that is truly equitable and inclusive. We are sharing that work publicly so that we can be held accountable for that commitment. To track our progress, please visit the Diversity and Inclusion resources webpage and the most recent annual update, to see where we have already taken action and what work lies ahead.

I have been in discussions with student leaders and alumni who are calling for reforms to the College’s relationship with local law enforcement and the College’s approach to safety and protective services and student support. While the College does not hold any contracts with the Wooster Police Department, there are definitely ways that we can change our practices to improve, and to ensure that the campus is a safe and welcoming place for every student to learn and thrive. To move this work forward, I have consulted with Dr. Ayesha Bell Hardaway, ’97, who is a scholar of race and the law, Wooster Police Chief Matthew Fisher ’95, and College of Wooster students and staff. Dr. Hardaway is also a professor and the Director of the Social Justice Law Center at Case Western Reserve University. Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Dr. Ivonne García and I will share specific plans for changes in policy and practice as we develop them in collaboration with our students, staff, faculty, alumni and other experts.

The College of Wooster community can move forward collectively by listening to, supporting and amplifying Black voices, learning, standing in solidarity with those who are harmed by racism, and making anti-racist actions a priority in everything we do, every day. Although the College is not currently in session, we want to make headway now, and are beginning in the following ways:

  • We are planning summer virtual gatherings for Black faculty, staff, and students.
  • Dr. García will host two open forum discussions of Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an AntiRacist on June 18 and June 25 at 7pm Eastern time, via Zoom. All College of Wooster community members are welcome and encouraged to participate. You can sign up for these discussions here.
  • The Department of History is hosting a virtual roundtable entitled 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds to Revolution: Making Sense of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor Protests, featuring four scholars of the Black experience in the United States, Professors Shannon King, Nicosia Shakes, Charles Peterson, and Kabria Baumgartner. This program will take place on Wednesday, June 10 , from 7:00 – 8:30 pm, via Zoom. To register, click here.
  • We will host additional Teach-In events, to enable all community members to come together for presentations and discussions. We are eager to share more details on these events as they are finalized.

I hope we will see one another again in Wooster soon. In the meantime, the crucial work to create just communities around the world continues to grow, and to make a difference. Thank you for being a part of it.

Sincerely,

Sarah Bolton