Statement on Racism on College Campuses
December 15, 2015
Dear Whitworth community,
The ugliness and sinfulness of racial bigotry, hatred and intolerance are pressing in upon us, and nowhere is this tension playing out more dramatically than on our country's college campuses.
Whitworth's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If Whitworth is to claim any degree of success in living faithfully into its Christ-centered mission, that success must be based on our creation of a learning community that acknowledges, places priority upon, and genuinely includes people of all cultures, races and ethnicities. Those who question why we are confronting these tough questions need look no further than the person of Christ and this university's unwavering commitment to serve our creator through higher education.
Whitworth's mission statement reads, in part, that through mind-and-heart education, the university will equip its graduates to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity. During this Advent season, it's important for us to remember that Jesus came into our world to deliver peace, but that peace can't be and isn't a true shalom unless it addresses sin. And racism is sin.
Jesus was a radical activist who upset the social norms and conventions of his day to point to a new reality – the Kingdom of God, as he called it – a society based upon peace, unity, justice, equity, and love. It was and is a kingdom that tears down the dividing walls of hostility between God and his creation and among the diverse people of God.
Precisely because of our Christ-centered commitments, we here at Whitworth are more, not less, motivated to seek to build a community that honors all people. Jesus spent his ministry with outsiders. He sought to name and include those at society's margins, those whose voices were muted or silenced by the power structures of his day. Jesus reserved his harshest criticism and judgment for those on the inside: power brokers who wielded their might to shut others out. He gave voice to the voiceless, and sought to deliver the oppressed. Jesus condemned those who thought they knew it all – those who, through their own twisted misunderstanding of God's order, attempted to drown out the voices of the ones who were deemed second-class citizens. His kingdom is one where the last shall be first, and where the master will bow to the servant.
At Whitworth, although we honor and serve a perfect God, we are an imperfect and sinful community. As such, we must confess that Whitworth will never live fully into its commitments to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity. But we will not allow our shortcomings as an institution to stand in the way of our calling to become more like Christ in every way, including living out our sacred commitments to honor and include all people.
As a nation and society, we have failed to fulfill the commitments our country made soon after its founding. I believe that what we are now hearing in the voices of righteous indignation from our brothers and sisters of color is an understandable outcry: "How long must we wait for the fruits of the promises made so long ago?"
As a university, Whitworth has also failed. If our goal is full inclusion and a community that consistently lives out the gospel message of unity that distinguishes among neither male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, rich nor poor, black nor white, then we have surely missed that mark. And from God, and from one another, we ask for forgiveness and for the courage and perseverance to press forward together, in Christ.
Lest some think that Whitworth is immune to the challenges we read about or see on television, let me remind us all that many of the issues being addressed by students on other college campuses are ones we face right here at Whitworth. They include systemic racism; incidents of macro- and micro-aggression; the lack of faculty and staff of color; the absence of a truly integrated curriculum that gives voice to learned and diverse scholars across the disciplines; and the paucity of support structures that assist all students in their quest to graduate and succeed in the world.
As your president, I ask for your continued grace and forgiveness for any failure on my part to lead this place to these important outcomes more quickly. I also ask for your prayers as we continue to develop resources at Whitworth to expedite our fulfillment of the goals we all share.
As I've said, we've come nowhere close to arriving at our destination, but I think it is important and fair to acknowledge at least some of the ways in which Whitworth is giving significant attention to these issues. They include the following:
- the establishment of a senior administrative chief diversity officer (rare among CCCU campuses);
- the comprehensive assessments conducted two years ago by Halualani and Associates that have guided and informed our process to date;
- the building of new collaborative structures like the Institutional Diversity Committee and the Diversity Cabinet, and their ongoing work to develop a comprehensive diversity action plan;
- the funding of a new position in the Intercultural Student Center focused on diversity, equity and inclusion;
- significant growth in operating budgets for diversity initiatives, including the new #WhitworthUnited campaign; and
- recruitment and retention efforts aimed at increasing the success rates of students from traditionally underrepresented racial and ethnic populations, including first-generation college students.
These are just a few of the efforts Whitworth is making. But more is required, and the needs are urgent.
One of the most important things we can do as the Whitworth family is to listen and learn from one another. That is the primary responsibility of a university community. May God continue to forgive us when we fall short of the glory and unity of his kingdom, and may he equip us, by his grace, to strive to fulfill the calling he has given us, to be a unified people of grace and truth. God bless you, and may God bless our efforts.
Beck A. Taylor