June 9, 2020, Wilmette, Illinois – Elizabeth Schuster, President of Regina Dominican High School, issued the following action statement in response to the tragic death of George Floyd.
There Are No Words ... But There Are Actions We Can Take
I have struggled to find the right words to share about this heinous time in our nation's history. I have seen message after message of support for justice come from everyone – from my favorite furniture store to my alma maters. Many of the messages are eloquent, many of them say all the right words probably written by a professional PR person who carefully crafted each word for the most impact and least blowback from their varied constituents. But I wonder as I read this beautiful prose, what will change after the hashtag stops trending and the memories of a man being murdered before our eyes fade? How many of these messages will actually turn into action?
Regina Dominican High School strongly condemns the brutal murder of George Floyd and the centuries of systemic racism, abuse and murder that preceded it. However, in this time of "thoughts and prayers" and strong public statements made comfortably from behind the safety of a screen, we also need action.
There are many things that I am proud of with regards to our school. I am proud of our students who don't shy away from tough conversations, I am proud of our students who are brave enough to be a minority voice in a majority crowd. I am proud of our faculty and staff who encourage young women to be leaders, to have their voices heard. I am proud of our history as the progeny of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, a congregation that not only preaches about eliminating racism but is on the front lines of the fight for equity it is in their core enactments and one of the reasons I am so proud to work at Regina Dominican. Further, the decision of the board and the General Council of the ADS Congregation to make their first lay president a woman of color speaks volumes.
We work hard to live up to the legacy of social justice handed to us from the Adrians. Currently we try to do our part by providing coursework that covers the topics of challenging unjust and oppressive systems in various academic departments from English to social studies to theology. We also have several new courses coming online this fall through a new and exciting elite global academic partnership. Here is a sampling of some of those new courses:
We have provided visual reminders throughout our halls that Regina is no place for hate and provided opportunities for students to experience and take action against the injustice in the world. Pro-life does not apply to just abortion.
We maintain a school culture that is caring and loving towards all students. We want them to learn and grow from their mistakes. We take a restorative justice orientation towards student behaviors, so that when a student's actions are at odds with our expectations, we work with them to see the harm and to repair the relationships with people they have affected. It is in this way that we become better people and a stronger and more supportive community.
I would submit that it is not enough to teach students about difficult topics; it is our responsibility to ensure they actually learn. There has been a multi-year coordinated professional development program for faculty to help teachers use the best practices in ensuring learning for each student.
We have several new initiatives coming up which include a partnership with the YWCA Equity Institute, professional development for faculty on eliminating racism and bias from the classroom, and sessions for students when they return in the fall.
In the past few years, we have completely revamped our hiring process to ensure equal opportunity, to eliminate bias in the interview process and to make sure anyone who is hired at Regina believes in our values as declared in our mission statement, to foster academic excellence, truth, peace and justice while challenging each student to develop leadership for life and respect for all races, cultures and faiths.
A few years ago, a strong student leader started a Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Club. This club has evolved to include students of all colors and faiths. They recently solidified their mission statement and it is as follows:
The D.E.I. Club brings awareness to and promotes the acceptance of all cultures and beliefs to all, especially in the Regina community. Through activities and celebration of diversity we foster equity and unity.
I joined the DEI club earlier this year not as a formal adult moderator but as a member because this is an important piece of our way forward as a school and I feel it is important to show support as the leader of our school.
Much of the change we need to see in the world can be made by getting the right people in office who represent our values as a nation, a state, a city and a neighborhood. We continue to stress the importance of voting down ballot. We became a polling site this year through collaboration with the League of Women Voters. We commit to continuing to educate our girls on the importance of their vote, not just in big flashy national elections, but most importantly in the down ballot elections in their local districts.
We can all always do better. Some of the things we have planned to help facilitate doing better are listening circles hosted by the YWCA Equity Institute. These sessions will be for students, faculty and staff. Our goal is to ensure that faculty and staff are well versed and trained in having and supporting conversations on race and bias. School leadership will participate in the YWCA's Equity Summit later in June.
None of what I describe above is by accident. None of it came into existence because of George Floyd because these were all things planned before his tragic death. These things came into existence because we knew there were many George Floyds out there and there have been for centuries. We are here to do real work in the space of eliminating racism. We as Dominicans who follow in the footsteps of St. Catherine of Siena hold ourselves to more than just social media and hashtags. We hold ourselves to action, not just saying what we believe online but by doing. We show with our actions how we intend to contribute to the solution.
We still have a ways to go and a lot of hard work ahead of us in our school community and in our society, but I am proud that we have the chance to ensure our faculty, staff and students will be well prepared to be a part of the solution. If you are looking for support as you start on this journey with us, join us online for Mass on June 11 at 7 p.m. CDT.
Lastly, if you are looking for ways to be a part of the solution click here for five simple ways to get started.
June 4, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – The Presidents of both universities sponsored by Adrian Dominican Sisters recently issued statements and letters to their university communities in response to the recent death of George Floyd, as well as on the ongoing racism in the United States.
Mike Allen, PhD, President of Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida, issued the following statement:
Dear Barry University Community,
Similar, I’m certain, to many of you, I am deeply saddened and angered by the senseless death of George Floyd in Minnesota last week. The latest in a string of tragic examples of injustice in our society, it is a struggle to adequately express how events like these strike at the fabric of humanity, the nation, and our Barry University mission.
While words are woefully inadequate and I find it difficult to find the right ones, I am moved to write to our community because remaining silent is not an option.
We must do better.
I know this painful incident strikes a deeply personal chord for so many of our students, faculty and staff. It certainly does for me. As a father in a transracial family, we see and experience race through a unique lens, and l ache for a world that is safer and more just for my children and all children.
I find myself during these times leaning on our Barry University Core Commitments more than ever. Our university community is beautifully diverse, inclusive, welcoming and grounded in the principles of respect for one another and the human dignity of all. These values are hard-earned and require constant attention and nurturing. We must stand up daily to maintain them. We are not perfect, but I believe we are blessed with examples that the broader world desperately needs right now. And with the strength of these examples as a foundation, we must lead.
At Barry we stand with victims of the most flagrant abuses of power and privilege as well as those marginalized by centuries of systematic discrimination. Our power lies in education. We must continue to foster critical dialogue and shift the paradigm by shining a light on past and present injustice.
Today, I call on our students, faculty, staff and alumni to reaffirm their personal commitment to accepting social responsibility, to fostering peace and nonviolence, striving for equality, and leading toward meaningful change through collaborative service.
Thank you to each of you for your many gifts and willingness to share them for the greater good.
Sister Peg Albert, OP, PhD, President of Siena Heights University in Adrian, issued the following letter:
Dear Siena Heights University Community,
I write this to you with tears in my eyes and rage in my heart. The actions that caused the death of our brother George Floyd and many others are totally unacceptable and an affront to our mission of respecting the dignity of all. Our brown and black brothers and sisters have suffered much too long by our country’s institutional racism and white privilege. We must own our part in all of this, but even more so, transform ourselves with the assistance of others and our God.
As a faith-based university in the Catholic-Dominican traditions, our search for truth is of the utmost importance. And, sometimes, the truth is difficult for us to accept and face. We must take a long, loving look at ourselves and recognize our sinfulness. We must own where we have fallen short by recognizing how we have been a part of oppressing others either consciously or unconsciously.
As an Adrian Dominican-sponsored institution, the Vision Statement of the Adrian Dominicans speaks to our hearts:
We Dominican Preachers of Adrian,
impelled by the Gospel
and outraged by the injustices
of our day
As members of the SHU community we must do the same. Our values and moral fiber impel us to do so.
We at SHU support peaceful protesting but not violence. The violence of the police officer and those who stood around allowing Mr. Floyd to be murdered must not be answered with violence. It must be answered with justice. As we seek justice, may we do so in a manner that creates a truly human civil society where all are respected and valued equally. May we all be transformed to effect positive change within us and among us.
May our voices rise in prayer and may God grant us the courage and insight to do all we must do.