Dean Denise A. Seachrist: We Stand Together as a Campus Against Racism
Dear campus community,
We are witnessing a pivotal, defining moment in our nation’s history. Everyday people have taken to the streets of their cities and to their social media platforms to demand change with passion and unity.
Our unwavering hope is that this will result in a true shift to establish fairness in a system that is inherently unfair. For generations, institutionalized racism has bestowed either privilege or disenfranchisement based solely on one’s skin color. The disparity is real; it must no longer be ignored.
We’ve rallied before in this country, but this time it feels different, because it is different.
Coming amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the struggle is compounded. Social distancing and fear have caused all of us to experience loss and pain. We are grieving our old routines, and we must acknowledge that. However, we must not wallow in self-pity; we must unify and take positive action. We must focus on one another: our country, our state, our community, our campus. It is going to take all of us working together to stand up for those whose voices have long gone unheard.
Like you, I am deeply saddened by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I ponder why these senseless acts of violence keep happening in our country.
I was just a little girl when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated more than 50 years ago now. And it’s difficult to believe that nearly 30 years have passed since our nation witnessed the 1992 Los Angeles riots unfold, a response to the brutal beating of Rodney King.
Unconscionable acts of violence started long before MLK was killed and have continued to the present day. The list of victims is seemingly endless. Earlier this year, my heart sank when I heard of the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man who was murdered while out for a jog in February.
As a fellow runner, I declare with heartfelt sincerity, “Maud, I run with you.”
And as dean of the Stark Campus, with so many students driven to enter the healthcare field, I was heartbroken over the tragic loss of 26-year-old EMT Breonna Taylor in March.
The violence must stop.
While I did not have the opportunity to hear the great Dr. King call for the end of violence so many years ago, I am thankful that my mother did. In 1958, she, along with three of her friends, set out on a road trip to hear him speak at Purdue University. These progressive women journeyed 350 miles from their rural Columbiana County homes, leaving young children in the care of their fathers for three days. It was remarkable for the time.
My mother kept in her library a booklet she obtained on that trip, “The Measure of a Man.” As I grew older, I read its timeless words. King wrote that America had strayed from its promises of equality outlined in the Declaration of Independence into a “far country of segregation and discrimination.”
King said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
King wrote that while we are all “merely men,” we have the potential to discover ourselves, our neighbors and realize our collective interdependence as we strive for purpose, togetherness, and a path where every man, woman and child are treated equally and with dignity.
As dean of Kent State University at Stark, I can assure you that we are deeply committed to this premise. We are deeply committed to equity. To our students, faculty, and staff of color, we are here for you, and we hear you. The work of dismantling the structures of prejudice and the legacy of racism in this country is something we all must engage in. The administration will take steps to ensure our campus is advantageous for all, disparaging for none.
We are unwaveringly hopeful and we dare to dream, Dr. King, that an indelible shift is taking place in this nation.
Today, we kneel in honor of George Floyd and countless others. And, then, we stand. Together. Because black lives matter.
Denise A. Seachrist, Ph.D.
Dean and Chief Administrative Officer
Kent State University at Stark