Message from Judson President W. Mark Tew
To the Judson Community:
Your College recognizes that racism is embedded deeply in much of modern society. Expressions of racism are realized in unchallenged systems of oppression as well as by subtle threads that continue to weave through the fabric of our culture. For our society to move forward, both must be condemned.
In my twenty-year experience at Judson, I have seen progress. Others who have labored here would and have said the same. Yet more must be done to combat the significant problem of racism. The following is a list of initiatives that will be established this coming year at Judson. This list is not intended to be comprehensive. No doubt, there will be those who applaud the potential of these efforts to lead a productive conversation, while others will decry its insufficiency. As one who seeks to facilitate dialog with and thereby engage constituents from multiple generations, varied backgrounds, and diverse geographic dispersal, I have come to expect nothing less. Regardless, Judson offers the following directives as a beginning of what needs to remain an on-going effort to seek racial justice and healing.
At the start of each academic year, the faculty and staff of Judson gather together to reunite as an academic community. During this time, a guest speaker addresses those present with the intent to motivate and inspire. Months before the horrific and tragic death of George Floyd ignited our national conscience on the progress yet to be made; Judson had scheduled a nationally noted writer and speaker on race relations to lead our faculty and staff in a productive conversation about racism. Unfortunately, when we moved the beginning of fall semester to address COVID concerns, she was unable to adjust her schedule to attend. A new speaker who can address these matters is being sought and will be brought to campus.
The Judson Honor Code, a long-established system of self-governance at the College, is being enhanced in ways that will specifically denounce racism. Upon approval by the Board of Trustees, the enhanced Honor Code will be distributed to all Judson employees and students. Under the leadership of the vice president for student life, student violations of the Honor Code that are brought to the Honor Council will be addressed aggressively and thoroughly.
Similarly, the Board of Trustees will consider the addition to the Personnel Manual under the section related to employee code of conduct a policy relating specifically to the prohibition of racism.
In addition to the Honor Code system of self-governance, a standing committee, co-chaired by the vice president for academic affairs and the vice president for student life, will be established. This committee will hear any complaints from students and employees regarding incidences of racism. As part of the College’s executive leadership, the co-chairs will have authority to take immediate action or to defer action to the president’s cabinet.
For several years, the College’s academic program has been augmented by an intentional emphasis on Critical Thinking (CT). At least three courses in each academic major are designated as critical thinking courses and are designed to foster higher-order thinking and to reduce the all-too-often disconnect between theory and practice. Led by the vice president for academic affairs, the College’s faculty will use these CT classes and sponsored CT events to focus on the issue of racism, its origins, its manifestations, and its ultimate elimination.
One additional step that speaks directly to our institutional commitment to address occurrences of racism at the College will be a new standing report to the Board of Trustees. As president, I am committed to bringing to bear any resources necessary to lead a productive shift in our thoughts and actions. Accordingly, regularly engaging the College’s structure of governance will elevate the College’s commitment to confront and condemn racism by taking it to the highest level of institutional authority.
Finally, know of my unwavering commitment to lead Judson as a distinctively Christian institution. I will continue this conversation as I began in my June 5 correspondence by emphasizing the necessity of keeping Christ centered in everything we do. Society has used the means at its disposal, both legislative and persuasive, to address the problems of racism only to yield the limited results that we experience today. By engaging the power of the Gospel, racism can be eliminated. Thank you in advance for joining your College in these efforts.
W. Mark Tew