Dean of Students Dr. Lawrence Potter
Executive Director of Institutional Diversity
Thank you for helping to plan and participating in Black History Month
St. Thomas recently concluded an ambitious and impressive series of events to celebrate Black History Month, and we want to thank students, faculty, staff and alumni for helping to plan the events and for participating in them.
As the number and percentage of students of color grow at St. Thomas, it is important that we recognize the racial and ethnic diversity of the campus by sponsoring events that celebrate their rich heritage. Black History Month is one such occasion, and we will continue to look for ways to increase awareness of all culturally diverse communities represented at St. Thomas and beyond.
At the same time, we must remain alert to acts of discrimination against people of all backgrounds. We cannot and will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of one’s race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or religion.
Beginning with January Term and continuing throughout Black History Month and this spring semester, here is a sampling of 2007 events:
These activities and many others follow fall semester activities such as “Diversity Dialogues,” in which 950 resident students participated in 60 programs on issues such as race, personal identity, socioeconomic status and marginalization. Our Luann Dummer Center for Women held discussions on gender issues and supported outreach activities sponsored by Allies, a group that supports those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. And our Center for Faculty Development and Office of Institutional Diversity co-sponsored a workshop on “Strategies for Teaching in the Intercultural Classroom.”
As inspiring as these activities are, troubling incidents still occur, including graffiti vandalism in campus restrooms and the defacing of a Black History Month poster in McNeely Hall with a racial slur. We are appalled by these incidents, and implore the perpetrators to treat others with respect and dignity as human beings.
We best like what Father Dease said in an Aquin commentary last fall and in his “Up Front” column in the winter issue of St. Thomas magazine. He wrote how Archbishop John Ireland, our founder, abhorred racial prejudice and vowed “to kill it out.” He launched an aggressive civil rights campaign, insisting that “we are all brothers in Christ, and brothers do not look at color or race.”
Ireland spoke those words in 1892! One hundred and fifteen years later, we still find ourselves vowing “to kill out” racial prejudice. We are making progress, slowly but surely, on this campus, in this community and in our greater society, and we are encouraged by the thoughtful and courageous efforts of our students, faculty and staff.
In light of our historical mission and of all the exciting learning and programs, we realize that more needs to be done to strengthen the university’s modus operandi to effectively respond to and alert the campus community when malicious acts take place. In the coming weeks, the Office of Institutional Diversity and the Dean of Students Office will work in partnership with others on campus to develop a protocol for reporting hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents.
Please join us in creating a more just and inclusive community.