Our Collective Mission
June 1, 2020
Dear RIC Community,
This weekend has been deeply and emotionally painful for our country. I personally have felt a mix of emotions – most of all anger, frustration and sadness. I have heard from a number of students, faculty, staff and administrators for whom this is particularly difficult, and for many of us it is deeply personal. While each of us processes these incidents in our own way, I am mindful that the words I write today may resonate with some, but for some they may not.
The past week has been an abrupt and painful reminder that racial injustice, violence, prejudice and discrimination continues unabated in 2020. While I was heartened to learn that criminal charges have been filed against the Minneapolis police officer responsible for the death of George Floyd, our nation has seen this too many times before: the unacceptable and unjustified assault and death of a black man. Equally disturbing is the deafening silence from the masses of Americans who believe they are not directly affected. All of us are affected and we need to do better than this.
As a person of color, I am enraged to see the long and tragic chain of killings that most recently includes George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. The bubbling up of fear and anxiety turn in my stomach just writing this campus message. I am infuriated. As I watch tens of thousands of college-aged protesters collide with law enforcement, I see their pain and rage being confronted with rubber bullets, tear gas and riot gear while our communities burn. Indeed, what we are experiencing is the unfolding of generations of racial tension. While most of us remain at home or are taking necessary precautions to stay safe, we come to recognize that COVID-19 is not our only community crisis. Racism and structural inequities are diseases that continue to plague our society, inadequately treated and uncured through too many generations.
As a college president, these troubling times are a powerful reminder of our vital role as educators and learners. Through my own feelings of exhaustion, disgust and anger, I am motivated to ensure the next generation of leaders have the critical thinking skills coupled with the empathy, compassion and care to make this state and world a better place. Education is and remains the best weapon of prevention we have in our arsenal. Our faculty and staff recognize there is still more work to be done to foster a climate where all students feel valued, supported, encouraged and educated. This is our collective mission.
Each of us must refuse to accept injustice. Regardless of political views, we must speak up against it in all forms – wrong is wrong. We must work to address the underlying conditions that have stifled the diverse voices of our communities and resulted in the turmoil we see today.
These weighty and often personal issues can and do create tremendous pain for many of us in the RIC community. If you are a student in need of help or someone to talk to, please access the resources available to you by contacting the Rhode Island College Counseling Center or by calling the HOPE line 24/7 at 401-456-HOPE (4673). For RIC faculty and staff in need of resources and assistance, please utilize the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) 24/7 by calling 1-866-248-4094.
Undoubtedly, this experience will shape us, but I am convinced it will not define us. I am grateful for your continued support of our students and the broader college community during these incredibly difficult and challenging times.
Yours in education,
Frank D. Sánchez