The Goshen College community gathered virtually on Monday for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, with President Rebecca Stoltzfus and members of the President’s Cabinet sharing their perspectives and commitments to the work of equity and justice at Goshen College, and calling students and employees to action.
Dr. LaKendra Hardware, director of diversity, equity and inclusion, introduced the day’s theme and speakers.
“2021 allows us to pick up where we left off last January, with the theme of ‘unapologetically just, rooted in the way of Jesus,'” she said. “It allows us to pick up the pieces of the vision, hopes and dreams for a more intentionally equitable and just campus. It invites us to sit in the intersection of justice work on our campus.”
The program took place in a mostly empty Church-Chapel, but to a large audience scattered across campus and around the world tuning in to the online livestream of the event. President Stoltzfus spoke about her own experience of whiteness, her understanding of systemic racism and highlighted parts of Dr. King’s work that are ongoing and tied to Goshen College’s goals for equity and justice.
“We white people need to learn to see our own privilege and racism more clearly, to motivate each other to continually develop healthy and effective anti-racism practices, and to support one another, and keep us moving forward when we fail,” Stoltzfus said.
Stoltzfus challenged the college to seek answers to King’s question, “where do we go from here?” and to connect the work for equity and justice to Christian faith and to interfaith dialogue.
“We have work to do together, and the work gives me hope,” Stoltzfus said. “Fueled by a spirit of prophetic love, let us, like Dr. King, fully and creatively engage the living history of this moment, let us be those creative disruptors of racism who call our beloved nation and our beloved Goshen College to an ever more noble and true expression of equity and justice in action.”
A video titled “Senior Administrators Speak: Equity & Justice in Action at Goshen College,” provided perspectives, reflections and commitments from the President’s Cabinet, as well as other faculty and students, regarding the work that is happening at Goshen College.
The video opened with thoughts from several students about how Goshen College can advance racial and social justice.
“History cannot keep repeating itself,” said Amethyst Romo, a senior interdisciplinary major from Chicago. “It is time to break the cycle so that we can ensure a better and brighter future for the next generation.”
Similar student statements were sprinkled throughout the half-hour video.
In addition to President Stoltzfus, members of the president’s cabinet also spoke about their experiences as GC students and the call to equity and justice as administrators. These included Jodi Beyeler, vice president for communications and people strategy; Dominique Burgunder-Johnson, vice president for marketing and enrollment; Gilberto Pérez, Jr., vice president for student life and dean of students; and Ann Vendrely, vice president for academic affairs & academic dean.
“Racism doesn’t happen by accident,” Stoltzfus said. “It is part of a long-standing system. Undoing racism will also not happen by accident. It requires new knowledge, new ways of seeing, new skills and new policies. This must be part of Goshen College.”
Stoltzfus highlighted that the college is working on a new strategic plan and that “diversity, equity and inclusion will be a cross-cutting theme across all five areas, with specific, measurable objectives and allocated resources,” Stoltzfus said. Additionally, a newly formed Committee on Inclusive Education will work at diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives across the institution.
Following the video, Dr. Hardware issued the challenge to all of Goshen College.
“Goshen College, the call to action has been issued, it is not optional, we have to do this work, and it is everyone’s work,” Dr. Hardware said as she closed the convocation. “And so we ask that you would imagine and dream, plan and hope, move and change, what is necessary to continue to be equity and justice in action at Goshen College.”