SLCC students, faculty and staff,
Like many of you, I am feeling deep pain and a sense of hopelessness in the days since the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of those who are charged to protect and serve. Unfortunately, this horrific and unacceptable murder is the latest example of racism, inequity and indifference, and my heart aches for him and the many others who have been lost to senseless acts of hatred and violence. But my feelings pale in comparison to our students, faculty and staff of color, and specifically our Black community members, who may have experienced these acts personally and for whom feelings of fear, hurt, betrayal, frustration and distrust are daily companions.
As a community, we pride ourselves in being the most racially and ethnically diverse higher education institution in Utah. We know that diversity enhances the learning environment. We claim inclusivity and integrity in our values and strive to be a place where all feel welcomed and heard, and, where we do the right things for the right reasons. Never before have these two values been more important. We must step up to counter acts of hatred, and create a safe environment where every student can reach their full potential, wrapped in a culture of compassion, justice and mutual respect.
But it is clear that we have more work to do. Just a few months ago, at SLCC 360, Tia Brown McNair challenged us to do more than just talk about equity. She implored us to walk with equity. Her book, From Equity Talk to Equity Walk reminds us that:
although terms such as institutionalized racism or equity-mindedness are understood in theory, it is far more challenging to identify them in our own actions or the actions of others, in our routines or the routines of our colleagues, departments and institutions. It does not come naturally; it requires a knowledge base; it takes a lot of intentional practice.
We are committed to creating that knowledge base. We must strengthen compassion and equity in our own community and prepare our students to become positive agents of change in our nation and the world. As we look ahead to a new academic year, let’s work together to create new programs and platforms to honestly address society’s problems both individually and collectively. Let’s channel our frustrations and pain into deep, empathic dialogue that roots out hate and enables us to stand up for each other in the spirit of equality, caring and compassion.
The real work is ahead of us. As a college community, we must strive to examine our practices, listen to those who have experienced injustice, and create better understanding between members of our community. For today, let’s reach out to each other with kindness and grace, treat each other with dignity, and recommit to doing our part in the quest for a more just and equitable society.
Deneece G. Huftalin, PhD
Salt Lake Community College