Dear Members of the Neumann University Community,
It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today. I am sure the sorrow and anger that I feel today also reflects your own sadness and frustration at this moment. In the past few painful months, we have seen the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impact the most vulnerable among us, especially communities of color. Amid the personal and economic suffering brought on by the pandemic, we have now witnessed the savage and senseless killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, as well as many other instances of violence against people of color. These tragic events are laid on top of the longstanding systemic poverty in these communities and the social injustice which has existed in these communities for far too long. These acts are a shameful disregard for the value of human life.
We must confront the pain and despair that our minority brothers and sisters face every day. Their pain belongs to all of us. Therefore, we all need to own the solutions if we are to heal and begin to find a place of peace. Over the last several days I have been reflecting on my responsibility as a fellow human being, as a white man, and in my role as President of Neumann. I will commit to finding ways that we can speak out against racism and injustice, offer opportunities for dialogue, and work to ensure that our University community is a place of opportunity and hope for all. This summer, as we prepare for next academic year, I will be calling on our University Council on Diversity and other experts to make sure we are addressing these issues on our campus and in the larger community.
As a Catholic Franciscan university our central mission is to educate students to transform the world. We do this through the lens of a set of core values. Our country needs Franciscan-educated men and women committed to changing injustices and the wrongs that exist in our society. The Franciscan mission of Neumann University is needed now more than ever. We have the responsibility and opportunity to deliver this mission through our RISES values with purpose and zeal.
- We must guide our students through this period with a sense of reverence for the other.
- We must be examples of integrity as we engage in an honest examination of our own hearts and minds.
- Being a servant leader requires us to never stop trying to be in humble service to those who need us most.
- We must seek the truth by embracing excellence in all that we do.
- We must be conscious of all that God wants us to be by stewarding our gifts and talents in response to His love for us.
St. Francis of Assisi turned to the Gospel throughout his life. He let the words of Jesus guide him through his conversion, guide him as he ministered to the vulnerable, and guide him as he spoke truth to power. His life is an important example of how we should live and respond at this moment. I have asked myself the question over the last few days - If Francis were alive today how would he respond? I believe he would examine his own heart and would begin to serve and reach out to those people and communities that are languishing and being crushed under the weight of significant social and economic inequities.
Let me close with the words of St. Francis.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light and where there is sadness, joy.”
With peace and hope,
Dr. Chris Domes