On May 29, 2020, President Gempesaw released a statement expressing solidarity with victims of injustice. In the communication he made clear we must rise above hatred and violence and work towards greater understanding and compassion for one another. The senior leaders of St. John’s University are committed to antiracism, and this page will share the steps we are taking to actualize President Gempesaw’s words.
June 6, 2020
Our Catholic and Vincentian Mission is not separate and apart from this critical work. As Pope Francis said earlier this week, “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.” The heritage and Mission of St. John’s command that we condemn racism and work collaboratively to end the suffering it causes in our community, nation and world.
We commit to doing the work necessary for St. John’s to become an antiracist institution. We acknowledge it is not enough to be “not racist.” We must develop actions, policies and practices that oppose racism, and work to dismantle those which empower racism to persist at St. John’s.
We each commit to becoming racially literate and understanding the ways in which our biases (both conscious and unconscious), power and privilege function in our every interaction. We will share this commitment within our units, departments, schools and colleges, and be clear in communicating this work is critical to upholding the University mission.
We will partner with the Office of Equity and Inclusion in the review of the academic and administrative policies, practices and procedures in place in our respective units, departments, schools and colleges. In particular, we will examine our enrollment strategies, hiring, safety and mentoring practices. As a university with shared governance and unionized faculty, we know that many of the changes we believe are necessary to make St. John’s an antiracist institution will require the support of our faculty unions. We therefore call on the leadership of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and Faculty Association (FA) to represent their faculty in affirming their commitment to creating an antiracist community and commit to partnering with us in implementing needed changes, including those that will allow for more historically underrepresented faculty to be involved in faculty hiring and promotion processes, requiring faculty professional development focused on anti-oppressive pedagogies and practices, and assistance in holding accountable faculty members who engage in acts of bias.
We further commit to deeply examining the ways we exhibit white fragility, and understanding those practices are both deeply harmful and serve as barriers to an antiracist environment. We will be open to feedback when we fail in this regard, and pledge to do better. We recognize the expertise of the professionals in the Office of Equity and Inclusion and are committed to implementing the recommendations they set forth. Members of the Equity and Inclusion Council will be given the time they need to participate in and progress the work required to move our equity and inclusion initiatives forward. We commit to doing the work ourselves and not rely or lean on the Office of Equity and Inclusion alone to profess the University’s commitment to equity and inclusion, rather we will share in this responsibility with them. We recognize that this reliance places the burden of making necessary change on the shoulders of the black women leading the Office of Equity and Inclusion, the Academic Center for Equity and Inclusion, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Inclusivity Resource Center, who themselves are navigating and processing racist experiences they have been subjected to on our campus.
We will support mental health counseling and restorative healing circles designed to support black students and employees who are processing racial trauma. In addition to the racial violence of just the last few months – specifically, the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and George Floyd – the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted once again the realities of the health, economic and social inequities that persist in this country.
The status of our antiracism efforts will be a standing item on the agendas of all respective department and unit meetings, to continue an open dialogue that creates and support efforts of antiracism. We encourage faculty members to adopt this same practice.
Academic and Administrative Unit Antiracism Plans
The work of becoming an antiracist institution requires a shared commitment from every member of the St. John's community. As schools, colleges, and departments around the University develop antiracism plans, we will share them here.