Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
June 18, 2020
Dear Merrimack College Community,
We acknowledge that this is a difficult and painful time, marked again by a series of tragic acts of police violence against people of color. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor and others have created both outrage and pain for so many, and forced all of us to recognize these are not isolated incidents, nor are they the only examples in society of the unequal treatment of Black Americans. Society can no longer dismiss these incidents, they must stop and we are all responsible for ensuring that they do.
For those who are hurting, please accept our heartfelt compassion and support. For those who are outraged, we support your right to peacefully protest and speak out against injustice. For those who are silent, we ask that you get involved. For all members of our community, we stand together in solidarity for what is right and just and we believe significant systemic change is required to heal and rebuild trust. We must all do more.
I also want to reaffirm Merrimack’s deep commitment to educating young people from a range of diverse communities, and in doing so, preparing students to combat racism, injustice and economic inequality throughout our society.
Merrimack is proud of its growing diversity, and while we have made efforts to create an equitable and inclusive community, we know there is more we can and must do.
We must also challenge ourselves and ask the question of how can Merrimack have the greatest impact in the effort to dismantle systems of racism, oppression and inequality.
Therefore, I would like to announce a series of actions we will take over the next few months towards making Merrimack the most welcoming, diverse, equitable and inclusive community possible.
First, the College will appoint a Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This position will seek to leverage the College’s current efforts and initiatives to develop and introduce new and emerging practices to move the College forward in creating a more welcoming and inclusive learning and working community with a particular focus on the needs of underrepresented and/or marginalized student populations.
Second, we will require anti-racism education for all members of our community including trustees, executives, faculty, staff and students.
Third, we will be making a deeper commitment to college access both by expanding our early college program, increasing our Pioneer Scholars and creating additional scholarships for minority students entering in the Fall of 2021.
Finally, this Friday will mark the 155th celebration of “Juneteenth,” an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. It was on June 19, 1865, that Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and the enslaved were free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
In order to recognize this important moment in the country’s history, we ask that Merrimack students, faculty, staff and alumni observe this day to reflect on how you can be part of positive change.
The observation of “Juneteenth,” and the establishment of the position of Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the expansion of college access, and the implementation of anti-racism education for all community members are just four initial action items at the beginning of a series of specific steps the College will be taking on its continuous quest for equity and social justice.
I want to thank our entire community, but especially our students who over the past few weeks have engaged with me in difficult and important conversations. I have walked away from those conversations more informed and more hopeful in the future and have been impressed by their passion, their commitment for what is right and just, and their focus on how to ensure long term success in the future of our society. Merrimack will continue to fulfill its promises to promote inclusivity and diversity across its campus and the world. We will continue to engage our students, faculty and staff in ongoing conversations, in the development of activities and academic opportunities in order to increase our collective knowledge and skills so that we may continue to spread our message of hope and change.
Thank you for your continued efforts to bring this community together so that we may move forward into a more inclusive, peaceful and just world.
Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D.