Letter from VP Holloway on Racial Justice

Posted by Carleigh Blaylock
Read the letter from Vice President John Holloway, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Dear Members of the Emory & Henry Community-

Even as our nation was reeling from the senseless death of George Floyd, yet another Black man’s life has tragically ended at the hands of law enforcement, as Rashard Brooks was killed by the Atlanta Police in what is believed to be an unjustifiable use of deadly force. These two events are just the latest incidents to move our nation to organize protests and make demands for racial justice and equality.

Emory & Henry’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Office calls for this nightmare to end. And we seek to recognize and rectify the College’s role in systemic racism. To that end, we have recently engaged with alumni in several small dialogue groups where our graduates had the opportunity to tell their stories of experiences as students of color. These graduates were also invited to share suggestions on how their alma mater can use this moment in our country’s history to make Emory & Henry a stronger and more welcoming community for all people. We are grateful to these volunteers who represented classes as early as 1982 and as recent as 2020 who took time away from careers in law, education, entertainment, finance, and nuclear engineering to share their voices in this important conversation. We have additional meetings planned with neighbors in our community to add history and vision to what we strive to accomplish.

Emory & Henry unequivocally supports the organized efforts around the world that seek to disrupt the deeply entrenched systematic mistreatment and discrimination. As a College, we are committed to doing our part to put an end to the pervasive nature of racial inequity and oppression. Immediately, we are launching a series of strategies to improve the experiences for our entire community at E&H. At the request of President John Wells, the DEI Strategic Planning Council worked throughout the 2019-2020 academic year and outlined several preliminary recommendations to be implemented during the summer months and at the start of fall semester.

The College is literally examining every aspect of how we function and how we welcome students. We plan to be a College that honestly embraces our history in order to move more intentionally into a future that welcomes everyone and gives everyone a chance for success. Below are noted a few of the items being implemented and discussed:

As we seek to foster a supportive culture where all students appreciate and embrace basic human respect and an overall appreciation for diversity and inclusion, we know that much of that work begins in the classroom. The College will be implementing meaningful changes to the curriculum which our students will begin to experience immediately this fall. Several of our faculty leaders will be serving on a committee to organize these efforts. Over time, we will look to establish improved methods of integrating diversity topics and lessons into the classes, while examining all campus academic policies and procedures to ensure they are in complete support of an inclusive environment.

We are so excited to announce that on July 1, the Reverend Sharon Bowers will be joining Emory & Henry College and will help support student DEI efforts. She will provide leadership and oversight for the Inclusion and Dialogue Center and will work closely with historically underrepresented and traditionally marginalized student populations. Rev. Bowers most recently served at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville as the Executive Director of the Wesley Foundation. She has a long established history of being a champion of diversity.

The College will develop a strategy to outreach, attract and recruit broad diverse faculty and staff applicants. DEI will work under the direction of Human Resources to identify and procure different hiring strategies to build a more diverse workforce. There are several approaches we will explore which include: campus-wide fair hiring training, search committee checklist, actively seeking out diverse applicant pools via postings in conferences, listservs, and professional associations. As well, we need to look very closely at strategies to help employees thrive and be retained while employed here.

The Campus Police Department will complete comprehensive training and development around areas including valuing diversity and sensitivity training. As well, new measures will be initiated to ensure community relationships are established and maintained with historically underrepresented and traditionally marginalized student populations. We can do better in the development of our relationships between the campus police and diverse student populations.

The campus community (administrators, faculty, staff and students) will undergo a series of on-going trainings to help foster a community where everyone is truly welcomed and valued. Our campus governance leaders will also participate in DEI training.

Emory & Henry College must address the history of the institution benefiting from the work of enslaved people. As the oldest college in southwestern Virginia, Emory & Henry has links to slavery that are well documented. The College’s namesakes, Bishop John Emory and Governor Patrick Henry, were slaveholders. In addition, initial research indicates there is one building on the main campus named for a slaveholder.

Continuing research will enable the institution to determine specifically what role slavery played during the College’s early years. This time also will be a distinctive opportunity for the College to have a dialogue and build trusting and meaningful relationships with our communities of color.

Conversations must examine how Emory & Henry’s past has contributed to current and ongoing systemic oppression. For example, discussion should be renewed regarding College’s mascot, the wasp, and the impact of this mascot on inclusion and diversity on our campus.

The College’s leadership and I strongly support examining the names of buildings as well as the publicly displayed portraits, plaques, and statues that point to ties to slavery. These thoughtful discussions will involve students, alumni, and other stakeholders. As a result, our community will develop meaningful ways to acknowledge and pay tribute to the contributions of the enslaved men and women who helped build Emory & Henry College.

There are a total of fourteen preliminary recommendations that are being implemented throughout the academic year. A final report from the DEI Strategic Planning Committee will be released in January 2021.

Please continue to support our overall efforts to “Increase in Excellence!”

John Holloway,
Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

  • John Holloway

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