Continuing Our Journey Toward Becoming The Beloved Community
Rev. Kenneth R. Sicard, O.P. ’78, ’82G
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I began writing this report on the afternoon of April 11—Divine Mercy Sunday. I had just celebrated the 11:00 a.m. Mass in St. Dominic Chapel, and I was moved and inspired by many of the sentiments expressed in the Scripture readings, and how relevant they are to our campus community and our country in these challenging times.
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles began with the words, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind,” certainly a goal to which we aspire. The reading from St. John’s Gospel described two appearances of the Risen Jesus to His disciples. In both cases, the first words spoken by Him are “Peace be with you,” a peace that we long for. The passage from the First Letter of St. John included the admonition, “For the love of God is this, that we keep His commandments.” Recall that for Jesus, the heart of the Law and the Commandments is expressed through the mutual love of God and neighbor. And in describing his vision of a beloved community, a vision that inspired Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., St. John in the same letter wrote, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God (1 John 4:7)”; and “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us (1 John 4:11-12).”
I share these thoughts to remind us that our universally shared goal of becoming a community informed by charity—a Beloved Community—and the efforts to achieve this goal are our response to a sacred call from God.
I am grateful to the Cabinet, to the Board of Trustees, and to the many faculty, staff, and students of good will who have engaged in discussions that have led to important actions toward addressing systemic racism and intolerance. I am especially grateful to Father James Cuddy, Ms. Jackie Peterson, and the staffs in Mission and Ministry and Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for their collaborative efforts in addressing and responding to our challenges. I have asked them to continue to work closely together and to engage a variety of constituencies (including me) to arrive at ways of achieving our shared goals by drawing from a multitude of resources, including the Sacred Scriptures, best practices at other colleges and universities (particularly Catholic colleges), and from the richness of Catholic teachings that inspire and challenge us to be the best that we can be.
In the next few weeks, I will introduce a presidential initiative to begin frank discussions on important, sensitive, and at times, highly charged issues that are relevant to our life together as a Catholic Dominican college. I will engage a variety of faculty, staff, members of the Dominican community, and students in these discussions, with a goal of overcoming some of the divisions that continue to wound us and setting a framework for ongoing future discussions on sensitive and difficult topics through mutually respectful dialogue. One goal is to develop a comprehensive statement on what it means for us, as a Catholic and Dominican college, to be the kind of Beloved Community that we aspire to be.
Many of you have indicated to me that you are “tired of talking” and want to see action. I hope that this document will demonstrate that so much has been done to address issues of racism and intolerance. Much more, of course, remains to be done, and will be. But it also has been made clear to me that valued members of our community have not always felt heard, and they deserve to be.
As members of a Catholic and Dominican college, we should not rest until every member of our community feels the love and dignity to which we are all entitled as people created in the image and likeness of God.
RESPONDING TO OUR CHALLENGES
As I reported in my December 21 message to the campus community, I received a comprehensive list of demands for redress prepared by the Coalition against Racism and their allies and signed by more than 25 student organizations. I also received from Student Congress a document entitled “Building a Beloved Community: History, Policy, and Action” which outlines a number of recommendations aimed at helping us to become a Beloved Community, as well as recommendations from the PC chapter of the NAACP. There are several overlapping themes in these documents, and responses to many of the concerns, as well as a significant number of other initiatives, are detailed on these pages.
In addition, I have had fruitful discussions with Student Congress, the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs (BMSA), with a number of faculty, and with ad-hoc groups of students and staff to solicit their input and to discuss steps being taken, or to be taken, by the College.
I would like to share further some of these efforts that have either been completed or are in progress. Note that these categories and initiatives are not exhaustive; they are often not complete; they must be tested, and if necessary, revised; and they are not listed in order of priority. The five categories addressed in this report are derived from a structure we have created in collaboration with our IDEI colleagues. Foundational Catholic and Dominican values and the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ (AACU) research-based model of Inclusive Excellence support our actions toward becoming a Beloved Community. The five focus areas provide the framework and common language used to accomplish goals related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.