Where we stand on dignity, fairness and equality

T

o the Quinnipiac community,

Over the past two weeks, people have joined together, raising their collective voices to decry and oppose racial injustice. Communities across the country have taken this difficult moment in our nation’s history to demand change with a sense of frustration and urgency not seen since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Unfortunately, we are also reminded that not everyone has embraced the systemic change that must happen in our community and in our country. 

Recently, Quinnipiac was made aware of two social media posts linked to two incoming students. Each case was investigated separately, and we worked hard to determine the facts and context. The university’s senior management team, with input from a variety of voices across campus, deliberated and ultimately decided on a course of action appropriate for each instance, though for privacy reasons, we cannot divulge specifics. However, we are communicating more openly in this instance to explain the core values guiding our thinking, should we face similar situations in the future.   

One post showed an individual in blackface. We must recognize that, as our nation works hard to take positive steps toward racial equality for black communities, we cannot tolerate behavior that questions people’s worth, dignity, legitimacy and equality. With history as our guide, we are mindful that regardless of intent, the blackface image is a symbol of a heinous past that evokes pain and the hurt of centuries of prejudice against black people.  

Our mission as educators sometimes includes discourse around provocative and even socially difficult constructs and events as we strive to develop capacity in our students to understand nuanced issues and become more enlightened citizens. For some of our students, it is a journey of transformation. However, there are some boundaries, such as a blackface image, that cannot be crossed because these actions are so antithetical to our fundamental values. 

The second post made reference to “the Chinese virus” when discussing the negative impact of COVID-19 on seniors’ high school graduations. Let us be clear: such language is offensive, highly inappropriate, and sweeping in its mischaracterization of the cause of the pandemic. It is also a direct echo of the unfortunate confluence of social media with news reports and the current political discourse. 

These two instances are forceful reminders that words and images have consequences, that regardless of intent, some forms of expression carry destructive meaning and cause harmful impact because of their historic or symbolic significance. Part of our educational purpose is to create awareness among our community to these sensitivities, and to hold ourselves fully accountable for true equity and inclusivity. The classroom and campus community can be powerful learning labs to practice and reinforce respectful discourse in a space where all groups feel welcomed, supported, and able to safely express their full selves, regardless of their differences and backgrounds.

To the students and alumni who have written to us over the past few days about these social media posts, we invite you to join with us to help turn words into action. We, the leadership team, hold ourselves accountable to achieving results that demonstrate commitment to equity and fairness. That commitment began with inclusive excellence as a pillar of our strategic plan almost two years ago, and in recent months our community came together on a statement of inclusive values

And we continue to take action. We have begun implementing many necessary changes, such as increased diversity among faculty and the university’s leadership team; we are building bridges to QU for historically underrepresented minority students in high schools and community colleges; we are developing a diversity training curriculum for students, staff, and faculty; and we are exploring how to best address, head-on, the legacy of racism in our country starting with a re-examination of the curriculum for greater presence of racial and social justice content across courses.

We are not naive to think that change happens overnight. Much more must be done on our part, and as a community. We embrace this pivotal moment in our nation’s history to avow that Black Lives Matter, and to stand with our students, alumni, faculty, staff and neighbors in black communities—and in all underrepresented communities—in decrying acts of racism, prejudice and bias. Let us join together in achieving truly meaningful change, where equity and inclusiveness shine as cornerstones of who we are at Quinnipiac. 

Signed,

Judy Olian, President
Jennifer Gerarda Brown, Interim Executive Vice President and Provost
Monique Drucker, VP and Dean of Students
Daryl Richard, VP for Marketing & Communications
Don Sawyer, VP of Equity & Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer
Todd Sloan, VP for Development & Alumni Affairs
Elicia Spearman, General Counsel and VP for Human Resources
Eric Sykes, VP for Enrollment Management
Mark Varholak, VP for Finance and Chief Financial Officer
Bethany Zemba, VP and Chief of Staff