Dear members of the Metropolitan State University community:
I am saddened that, for a third time in just over three weeks, I am writing to you regarding a series of tragic events that are shaking our local and national communities. The attacks in Orlando, the shooting of our student a week and a half ago, and the violent deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in our community and police officers in Dallas, evoke feelings of grief, anger, despair, and bewilderment in all of us, with very personal frequencies and intensities.
These events touch our university community in very direct ways. Members of our university and local communities were shot. We prepare people to become peace officers or to take other roles in our country's troubled criminal justice system. As a university which sees itself as embedded in and in solidarity with our local communities, we feel the pain of these events and their aftermath.
The strength of our university community lies in our commitment to our values and our vision of an anti-racist and equitable society. As former President Malhotra and I wrote following the shootings in Orlando:
As a proudly diverse community that welcomes all learners, we struggle to identify ways in which we can make a difference and stop these acts of violence. As members of an inclusive university community, we can begin by reaching out to each other with kindness and understanding. We can affirm and uphold our shared university values of diversity and inclusion and an open, respectful climate. We can renew our commitment to foster an anti-racist society. We can protect and defend our basic human freedoms of speech, belief, and assembly.
Each day that goes by and each act of violence threatens the bonds of our community. A frank internal dialogue on the "Metro-discuss" listserv has begun. But email often makes it difficult for us to read each other's emotional tone and can begin to drive wedges of misunderstanding into our community. It is all too easy to slip into language that may be perceived and felt as a personal affront. As I read the posts I think of how my yoga instructor ends each class: "the teacher in me bows down to the teacher in you." Free inquiry and the respectful exchange of perspectives are indispensable in a thriving university; we must remember that teaching and learning are at the heart of what we do.
In recent days several individuals have called for internal forums. I support creating spaces and opportunities for members of the university community to discuss and respond to recent events. I hope these conversations will also focus on how we can move toward a collective vision of a better society.
I am working with other administrators to bring together those on our campus who want to begin these conversations. I anticipate ongoing exchanges, leading to the development and implementation of positive actions over the next year. We also stand ready to engage with our larger civic communities in grappling with the issues raised by these recurring events, at an appropriate time.
I am asking the Dean of Students to work with his staff to make sure our students are aware of counseling and other services available to them and to consider how best to provide our students a safe place to express their fears, frustrations, and ideas for the future.
I will be discussing with our Alumni Director how best to reach out to the many graduates of our programs who are part of the law enforcement and criminal justice systems to make sure they understand our respect for their work and our concern for them as part of our university community, and to offer them avenues for re-engagement with us.
I want to close by recognizing the faculty and staff in the School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice. During my four years as provost, they were engaged in ongoing discussions about delivering the best education to students interested in these fields. Seeing the need for substantive changes in police education, they have initiated a process for a thorough review and redesign of the curriculum to prepare police to work with communities, sharing responsibility for public order and promoting engagement across boundaries that can reduce the effects of implicit and explicit bias. I am confident that our Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice faculty, working together with colleagues in Psychology, Social Work, Human Services, Public Administration, Nonprofit Leadership and Advocacy and Political Leadership in the new College of Community Studies and Public Affairs, will move this agenda forward and serve the efforts of all members of our University community in preparing state and national leaders for the 21st century.
I welcome your thoughts on how the university can best live out its mission and urge you to care for and support all members of our community.
Virginia "Ginny" Arthur, JD
President, Metropolitan State University