Dear Members of the Campus Community,
A year ago this very week, we were preparing to turn the university we love into a ghost town, sending students home, ramping up remote learning, and vacating as much of campus as possible as COVID-19 moved from a potential threat to painful reality. We couldn’t have known with certainty that this pandemic would still be with us a year later and that the fight to eradicate it and keep one another safe from harm would continue to affect our lives every day, in every way.
But we are not surprised. The more virulent and insidious an issue is, the more vigilance it requires and the more complicated it is to solve. Nowhere is this more true than in our ongoing quest for social justice.
This past week, this campus community engaged in dialog with our vice president for institutional equity and diversity (VPIED) finalists, each of whom spoke to this in their own way. The work of equity, equality, anti-racism and diversity, inclusion, and justice—it has been the work of generations. Progress is slow, and the cost has been great. Yet, we are inspired and haunted by the ghosts of those who have come before us.
This past week bore that out in many ways. While we imagined with our VPIED finalists a way forward for Puget Sound in becoming the institution we aspire to be, we marked both the 56th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma and the one-year anniversary of the murder of Mr. Manuel Ellis here in Tacoma. Today, jury selection is scheduled for the trial of the former police officer charged with the brutal death of Mr. George Floyd.
Nearly a year ago, we mourned the tragic death of Ms. Breonna Taylor. Then, last Friday, Ms. Amanda Gorman, our country’s first Youth Poet Laureate who captured the attention of our nation during the presidential inauguration, wrote that she was detained entering the building where she lives based on “looking suspicious.” “This is the reality of black girls,” she shared on Instagram. “One day, you’re called an icon, the next day, a threat.”
Last week, too, members of the President’s Cabinet and I, along with other senior members of the leadership team, received a series of letters from those representing and supporting our identity-based student organizations calling for actions that build on the work of students, faculty, and staff who have moved the college forward in the past. We are eager to engage in this conversation and support all such conversations, workshops, training, lectures, and other opportunities for learning and engagement happening on our campus.
Real and lasting change occurs when people come together in the community to bring it about. Our campus commitment to institutional equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism exists within the context of our larger society that is grappling with the same systemic inequity built into the very fabric of our country as a whole. As a university, we are called to undertake these conversations and move this work forward every day. Our values as a university instill in us the ability to challenge conventional thinking; engage in thoughtful and respectful discourse, and learn with and from one another. Our strategic plan requires us to educate leaders for a changing world. And our residential setting—one that we look forward to fully inhabiting as soon as possible—invites us into a relationship with one another both within and outside the classroom.
Thank you for your good and hard work every day to keep this campus community safe, healthy, and whole. The intersections of the pandemic, economic uncertainty, the Black Lives Matter movement, a polarizing political climate, and social injustice writ large animate our daily lives and can exhaust our physical, mental, and emotional resources. Yet, I continue to believe that our greatest strength can be found in community with one another. I know that my resilience and resolve are buoyed by yours every day.
As the end of another academic year rushes toward us, I invite us all to take a moment to appreciate what we have done together over this past year and to celebrate our successes even as we name and seek to meet the challenges still before us. I remain honored and humbled to serve this great institution and each of you during these tumultuous times. Thank you for your truly extraordinary efforts over the past year and for all that we will do together in the year to come.
Isiaah Crawford, Ph.D. | President