Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
As we approach the end of the first week of the semester, in this historic and urgent year for the country, I want to thank all of you for the commitment you are showing to the habits and practices that are so important to the well-being of campus and our community here. As Dr. Pierson said in his note to campus yesterday, the challenge now is to keep going and not let up.
I also wanted to touch base with you, as promised, on another extraordinarily important topic, which has profound urgency too, wrenchingly evident again even this week with the senseless shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. This June, in response to the fervent and crucial national focus and reckoning over matters of racial justice, I announced the appointment of an Equity Action Task Force for Longwood. The charge for this group, co-chaired by Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Larissa Smith and Moton Museum Executive Director Cameron Patterson ’10, was separate from other campus entities focused on issues of race including the University Diversity Council and the Bicentennial Initiative. The job of the Equity Action Task Force, whose members also included students and alumni, was to work quickly over the summer and report back with immediate recommendations for actionable steps this semester.
With extraordinarily hard work, they have done so and produced a thoughtful set of recommendations, which I encourage you to read. These recommendations include formalizing the Presidential Student Advisory Committee on matters of diversity and inclusion, as well as endorsing the thoughtful plans already underway by Longwood’s new Chief of Police Doug Mooney to review Longwood police procedures, enhance training and improve community relations. The recommendations also focus on three specific areas I asked them to explore.
The first concerns the appointment of a campus Title VI coordinator to serve as a point person for complaints of racial discrimination. Few universities have yet taken the initiative to have such a position, but I am pleased to announce today that I am appointing Jonathan Page to serve as Longwood’s first Title VI coordinator in addition to his existing duties as our Director of Multicultural Affairs. You can read more about this important step in this , posted today on our news web site.
The recommendations also address my charge to develop plans to implement a requirement that every Longwood student engage in some capacity with the Moton story and the Moton Museum. Already, thousands of Longwood students have learned about Prince Edward’s important civil rights history during their time here, not infrequently describing it as one of their most important experiences as a student. With these recommendations for incorporating this history into coaching groups and Civitae as a starting point, in the years ahead this will become a common and defining experience for all Longwood students.
Lastly, the recommendations acknowledge and honor the urgency students have expressed in the wake of national events to converse, listen, process, heal and develop plans for action. They set in motion a series of Town Hall conversations, organized by the SGA and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, that will begin early in the semester and serve as opportunities for reflection, civil conversation, and the sharing of ideas on how Longwood can work to become more inclusive and equitable. Details will be shared soon with our community.
I am immensely grateful to the members of the Task Force and proud of the document they have produced. Their work speaks to Longwood at its best --- responding to a challenge with practical and actionable steps, rooted in mutual respect and humility about our imperfections and with faith that by listening and working we can improve.
Above all, I want you to know that the powerful calls voiced in our own community and across the nation these last few months --- and again with great pain just this week --- to confront the persistence of racial injustice resonate deeply here. The work of the Task Force is leading us to take actionable steps to address these challenges in a way befitting the great, diverse university that we are --- imperfect, but striving always to improve.
The issues and challenges are not going away, here or nationwide, and we must do the hard work of holding ourselves and Longwood to a higher standard. From the makeup of our student body to the names of our buildings to our reckoning forthrightly with our own history and shortcomings, Longwood is a better place than it was not long ago. But I know we have still have a great distance to travel together, and I am committed to undertaking that work with all of you.
All my best,