Message from President John Reynders: The Hard Work Ahead

Jun 10, 2020 • College President
Morningside College campus

Dear Morningside Community -

The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have left our country in deep grief. The actions that led to these unjust losses have roots in systemic and relentless racism that has persisted for far too long, and the cries for meaningful change are growing louder throughout our nation and world.

Many of us are experiencing raw emotion as we grapple with this moment and the long history of pain and prejudice experienced against the Black community. These are intense feelings that are manifesting in many forms, including demonstrations, civil unrest, and a resounding call to action.

It was important to me to take some time to listen and consider what action can be taken here at Morningside. I support the peaceful demonstrations taking place around the country. I support and stand by our students, employees, alumni, and families of color. I support the many Morningsiders who are calling for and inspiring change. I support the public servants and leaders working to address injustice and inequality. Most of all, I support and remain committed to making Morningside a welcoming and safe campus for all members of our community.

Each individual on this campus is essential to our work. Each voice is valuable in contributing unique perspective and insight. It’s vital that we keep talking and working.

Last year, I appointed a Diversity Taskforce to more closely examine our campus through the lenses of inclusivity and equity. This group was tasked with giving us benchmark data and direction, which included administering a campus climate survey. Two months ago, I might have been proud to tout the results, but these recent events have reminded me that numbers alone don't always provide a complete picture. It's given me pause to consider my own biases and blind spots, and it's served as an excellent reminder of how important it is for me to keep listening and learning from people with experiences and stories different from my own.

I want all of you to know that I remain committed to hearing you and doing the work that needs to be done. I am immediately moving forward with the following actions:

  1. I recommend that the Morningside College Board of Directors establish a sub-group of the Student Life & Learning Committee to focus on topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  2. I recommend the Faculty Senate move forward with the recommendation made by the Diversity Taskforce to establish a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.
  3. I will spend more time working directly with the Student Diversity Committee and Student Government to continue conversations and actions that will make our campus more welcoming and inclusive, and a staff member will be appointed to serve as a liaison to this group to ensure perpetuity of the work accomplished. This individual will serve as an outlet for your thoughts and concerns around campus culture and diversity, and will help put ideas into action. More details regarding the work this person will do will be shaped as you return to campus this fall.

These steps are just that – steps. It is initial work to build on this moment and the recommendations made by the Diversity Taskforce to strengthen our community. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s ingrained in our mission: to cultivate a passion for lifelong learning and a dedication to ethical leadership and civic responsibility. 

As we continue this work, a quote from James Baldwin comes to mind, “Not everything that can be faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed that is not faced.” We are all responsible for advancing positive change as members of a civil society. What we take away from this moment and what gets accomplished rests with all of us.

Please be sure to check in on and take care of each other as we work together to listen, learn, and be the change we want to see. 

John Reynders
President
Morningside College