Courageously stand up against injustice
(This message was sent to Augustana students and their parents, faculty and staff and alumni, on June 1, 2020.)
June 1, 2020
Dear Augustana College Community,
The reprehensible events involving George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many more have deeply troubled me and members of the Augustana community.
Jane and I have committed our careers to make opportunities for all, but this past week we have felt hopeless as we witnessed the level of despair so many are experiencing. But we agreed that we must not be hopeless. As a college president and as a lawyer I have the responsibility of doubling down with my colleagues at Augustana to promote racial justice. I will do so.
I want to thank members of the Augustana community, particularly African-American students, staff and alumni, who have shared their own sense of betrayal by some in law enforcement, justice systems and other institutions of our society. I am grateful for those brave voices.
I ask that we, as the Augustana Community, consider the following values in the weeks ahead:
1. Augustana firmly believes human life is a valuable gift from God, and that means Black Lives Matter. This core understanding is central to Augustana’s Five Faith Commitments, which state: “Augustana commits to making our campus and the wider world a more livable place for all persons by loving and serving the neighbor and by acting against injustice and intolerance.” May we courageously, and peacefully, stand up against injustice.
2. Augustana, as a liberal arts college, is committed to provide its students with the skill of critical thinking. Critical thinking takes place only after we understand the viewpoints of others, particularly those who have different backgrounds. Understanding the viewpoints of others entails deep listening. May we listen to the experiences of others, to better identify the deep, and sometimes subtle, biases in our society and those within ourselves.
3. Augustana, as a leader in the community, should be a leader in promoting racial justice. To support our leadership role, Jane and I have established a Presidential Equity and Justice Fund to provide grants to students for campus or community projects to raise awareness about the need for social change in the areas of racial justice, equity and inclusion.
Martin Luther King Jr’s words of nearly 60 years ago are as relevant today:
"In these days of worldwide confusion, there is a dire need for men and women who will courageously do battle for truth... We must make a choice. Will we continue to march to the drumbeat of conformity and respectability, or will we, listening to the beat of a more distant drum, move to its echoing sounds... More than ever before, we are today challenged by the words of yesterday, 'Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.'"
For our students, I know times like this are not easy for you. I care deeply, and I want to remind all of you that you can contact TAO Connect, a service that provides an array of mental health resources and education. Also, be aware of the mental health hotlines available.
My thoughts and prayers are with each of you and your families. I pray for your safety, and I pray for those suffering the overwhelming fatigue and deep pain of injustice.
Steve Bahls, President