“If I do not know what something is, how could I know what qualities it possesses?”
Core to the ethos of St. John’s College is the courage to admit the limits of one’s knowledge and to examine—no matter how uncomfortable—the gulf between one’s opinion and true understanding. It is in this way that the ideals of the Program aim to “enable all human beings to…free themselves from the constraint of prejudice and the narrowness of beaten paths.”
We are called by the events of this year and questions raised by many in our community to examine and address our implementation of these ideals as a college. At St. John’s, it is not possible to proceed with a hurried and superficial process to simply signal societal relevance. First, we must learn; we must remember our past and reckon with our shortfalls. From that foundation, we can embrace what is deep and durable at St. John’s as well as the vital progress of human thought and action upon which our education is centered.
To recommend specific actions for intentionally preventing racial bias and discrimination at St. John’s, the Board of Visitors and Governors has formed two task forces:
The St. John’s College History Task Force will research the college’s past in order to understand its relationship to indigenous and enslaved people, and to make recommendations to the board on how it should be acknowledged. This is not the history of one campus or the other, but the history of the college.
The Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion is charged with studying and making recommendations regarding racial and ethnic inclusion at the college. The goal will be to ensure that every member of our community can participate fully and feel welcome in all relevant aspects of the college community, both inside and outside the classroom. While the primary focus will be on the experience of students in all aspects of their education at the college, the task force will also examine other parts of the college community, including the role that faculty and staff play in participating in and forming an inclusive community. The task force will aim for transparency, consider all input from our community, and adhere to best practices for a just and considerate process that results in specific recommendations and outcomes for the college.
Both task forces will include members of the board and alumni, plus representatives from the faculty, students, and staff on both campuses. The groups expect to complete their studies and make recommendations to the board and the college administration by June 2021, including a timeline for changes to ensure action and accountability.
To submit a comment to either task force to inform their work, email taskforces(at)sjc.edu.