August 28, 2020
Walking across campus this week, I could not have been prouder of our students. You were ready to learn and made a commitment to the well-being of our community. Too often, college students have been portrayed as not taking COVID-19 seriously. I wish the cameras could have been rolling at FLC. The world would have seen what I saw and experienced – people who care doing everything possible to mitigate the spread of the virus. While some aspects of the virus are out of our control, we can all take comfort in that fact that our students, staff and faculty are doing all they can to keep our community safe. As you head into the weekend, please remember to take the same care and concern for yourselves and each other that you’ve brought to your educational world to your social and personal worlds. Thank you. I feel honored to work with such an amazing group of people.
Meanwhile, in our nation, we witnessed yet another shooting of a Black man at the hands of a police officer. The news of Jacob Blake’s shooting was a brutal reminder that our students of color, particularly those who are Black, Indigenous, and Latinx, face a threat for just being who they are. The shooting of Mr. Blake is a reminder that FLC’s BIPOC and Latinx community members will never feel truly safe until our society confronts and addresses systemic racism.
At their August retreat, our Board of Trustees made a pledge to critically examine how to fight racism on campus. We are also fortunate to have campus leaders, like Coach Darrius G. Smith, who has been in active discussions with local law enforcement agencies regarding his experiences with policing and its impact on Black community. We are proud of FLC’s Black Student Union who remind us of the way that racism plays out across our campus and in our community. And, we commend the leadership from our Indigenous students, like Ally Gee, who shared wisdom about K'é (kinship/family) which has guided our response to keeping our community safe. Moreover, we are proud of our students, alumni, faculty, and staff who peacefully assemble on Friday evenings in Buckley Park to say, “Black Lives Matter.” Together, we will continue to build an inclusive community.
In one aspect of our efforts to enhance inclusivity, dignity and respect, we are engaged with FLC’s Chief of Police Brett Deming to ensure that we are collectively listening to the concerns of our students, faculty, and staff of color. Campus safety and security have always been a priority for FLC and we consistently explore ways to enact best practices consistent with our values (see Chief Deming’s value statement). We are committed to ensure the safety and security of our BIPOC and Latinx students. On that note, we will be formulating a campus-wide committee (students, faculty and staff) to examine how our FLC Campus Police fulfills their commitment to serve and protect all members of our diverse FLC community. More information will be forthcoming about how you can be involved.
In the meantime, I thank each of you for your contributions to our campus, our communities and our nation. No matter our differences, our backgrounds, we can come together to care for each other to create a better version of FLC. We're proving we can do it as we face this virus. I know we can tackle the most difficult topics together. I welcome your questions or concerns so please reach out to me directly.
President of Fort Lewis College