Racism, Justice and Community—A Letter from the Honors College ( June 4, 2020)

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Dear Honors College Community,

We have been heartbroken, horrified, and angered, by the most recent examples of police violence against African Americans, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. In the midst of an unparalleled health and economic crisis, these events have only underlined the gross disparities within our nation in terms of opportunities and treatment. What for some has been a powerful wake-up call to recognize and address inequity has always been a daily, exhausting experience for many, over years and generations. 
 
The Honors College is not immune to this reality. It's a reality that surrounds us and impacts us all in our lives within and beyond the HC, though to significantly different extents. We cannot simply speak of "our" HC experience, as that experience, as our regular experiences, is distinguished by our differences. The Honors College is built on the idea that we are here to learn from each other and that we gain strength from those differences. But as we strive for a unified and inclusive community, we must realize that it is an aspiration, but not yet a shared reality.
 
This is what we have heard from many of our students, especially our students of color. And while our first duty is to listen, we must do more.
 
At this time, we recommit ourselves and the Honors College and we urge you all to recommit to a community based on listening and understanding, inclusion, and empathy, where all people, no matter their differences, can feel equally valued and safe. Together we can work towards setting a model for the kind of community we imagine is possible. But it will take much work, work that must not solely fall on those who most directly are harmed by the racism starkly displayed in recent weeks.

Over the past several years, we have begun—but only begun—this work through some of our programs and initiatives. We recognize how our Honors College students support, encourage, and contribute to important work done at the HC, often led by our Black and Latinx communities. 

  • The HC DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Coalition
  • Focused recruitment and expanded invitations to students from underrepresented and socio-economically disadvantaged groups
  • Staff-supported affinity groups within the Honors College linked to the campus-wide cultural centers and other resources
  • Additional support to leverage the strengths of first-generation college students
  • Targeted programming for creating a safe space for difficult conversations about our differences (HC Speaks and ad hoc town halls) as well as for celebrating our cultures (Cuts from the Culture) 

At this time, more than ever, we ask all of you to join with us in this most important work, and we ask for you to draw on your greatest strengths—your individual experiences, your intelligence, your empathy, and your creativity—in helping us to strengthen and expand the programs we have already and to help us create new ones for advancing our Honors College community and moving Rutgers and the world forward. 
 
Below is a list of resources that may be helpful as we look for ways to care for ourselves and each other. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us. If you are in need of counseling or support, please visit our Wellness & Counseling page.
 
Stay safe.

Your Deans,

Matt Matsuda          Paul Gilmore
Academic Dean        Administrative Dean