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Seeking Hope in a Time of Despair

Dear Trinity Community,

I write to you today as I seek hope in a time of despair. My heart is heavy as I continue to mourn the death of George Floyd in Minnesota last week. I think about the death of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. The litany of loss has produced intense reactions for us all as we confront, yet again, the continuing pattern of senseless deaths of African Americans from police brutality. These acts of violence betray the values of equality and freedom that inspire the best in our country.

I have taken time to speak with colleagues and friends around the country, and I have been in communication with faculty, staff, students, and alumni. As I listen to their voices, the anger, exhaustion and heartbreak are clear. There are profound issues of racism to address in our country. I write to acknowledge that Trinity is not immune from acts of racism. Alumni and students have pointed out how we have not fully succeeded at addressing the issues of racism on our campus. Our efforts have fallen short in their eyes. It is important to listen carefully to these voices because there are nuances that we must come to understand. We must do better, and I know we can.

Community is the foundation of connections that sustain Trinity University. Though we have much work to do, multiple individuals have recommended that we begin with committed listening in order to discern the actions that will make Trinity a safe, welcoming, and closely-knit community.

Words are insufficient for the pain of this moment. But words and open hearts are the starting point for choices about the actions to be taken in order to make meaningful change.

  • I will announce next week a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, with a charge to establish initiatives with milestones and timelines. This week I will extend invitations to different groups committed to campus diversity to nominate individuals for this work. I will ask this group to identify actions over the Summer and Fall that will lead to fundamental change. This group will begin with listening to the recommendations that are coming forward from student and alumni voices, among others. This activity will create valuable material for the Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion, whose search is currently underway. Budgets are extremely challenging in this era of COVID-19, but because diversity is a part of our strategic plan, I am committed to allocating funds for campus initiatives.
  • I will convene a Zoom town hall within the next two weeks with Black/African American alumni to listen to their experiences and their suggestions. This week they have been creative and constructive in bringing forward suggestions that will provide a great starting point for initiatives that the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force can consider. We will be reaching out to student groups to schedule additional Zoom meetings while we continue to operate remotely.

Listening, with radical empathy, can lead to change. Time and again, we each ask “what can I do to participate in change?” We seek a book, a movie, a conversation, a point of inspiration. These actions are positive; they move us forward. But we need to do more as a result of our listening. What we must do is change our mindset. We must look within ourselves to commit to permanent change, to put an end to racism in our country and on our campus.

Danny Anderson