June 19, 2015
Dear members of the campus community:
Once again, our country arose this week to news of a tragic shooting, this time claiming
the lives of nine African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina. Both local law
enforcement officials and the FBI are investigating this event as a hate crime, and
it may rise to classification as a terrorist act. As President Obama said in his
own remarks, we have seen far too many incidents of gun-related violence and race-related
violence in our country – especially over the past few months. We know that despite
having made significant progress, our society has failed to fully bridge the racial
divides that too often continue to separate us – as individuals and as citizens of
what we so desperately need to be the United States of America.
Skidmore College has a duty to play a role in bridging that divide. This work begins
with our campus. We continue to make progress but too many continuing incidents provide
constant reminders that we have much to do. We know that there are many members of
our own community, including members of the student body, staff, and faculty, who
often feel that they are not fully included. At the end of last semester, Dean of
Students and Vice President for Student Affairs Rochelle Calhoun wrote to our students
about hateful comments that were made on social media following an attempt by students
to raise awareness of events then transpiring in Baltimore.
We have moved to become a more diverse community than we were some years ago: more
diverse racially, more diverse in terms of national origin, more diverse socio-economically.
And our progress will continue. But now, we need to move from diversity to inclusion
– to being a community where everyone feels invited to participate, one in which all
members’ voices are heard.
We are taking concrete steps to advance further toward this goal. These steps include
our forthcoming naming of a Chief Diversity Officer, and our recent sending of a team
of eighteen people – Skidmore students, staff, faculty, and administrators – to the
annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE).
Through programming and a focus on inclusion throughout the 2015-2016 academic year,
this team is committed to assisting our Diversity Quad leaders and the Committee on
Intercultural and Global Understanding (CIGU) in moving our community forward. Our
new pilot Staff Advisory Group will also be charged with taking up this important
Some of the most important changes we can make will be in the way we treat one another.
Let us renew our commitment to show everyone respect through our actions, not just
our words. This does not mean that we all need to agree on everything. Being the
inclusive community we seek to be means providing spaces to deal with disagreement.
If we are all thinking the same way about important issues, then some of us are just
not thinking. In an educational community especially, diversity must include a diversity
of ideas. Indeed, participating in robust and challenging discussions of differing
opinions will help our students develop the resilience they need to live in the still-imperfect
world they will enter upon graduation.
We mourn with those who have lost loved ones in Charleston. The dead and injured
are members of our national community, so we all share in this loss. The presence
of hatred and intolerance in the American community remains a national tragedy that
we all must overcome together. Let us begin by looking within ourselves and resolving,
in the words of Gandhi, to be the change we wish to see in the world.
Once again? Never again!
Thank you for your attention.
Philip A. Glotzbach