On behalf of the Indiana Wesleyan University community I must begin by acknowledging and lamenting the pain and suffering of the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd who have lost their loved ones through violent and unjust actions. They are but the latest in a crowd of witnesses to the sorrow born from the fruits of injustice in our nation.
I also want to lift up and grieve over the pain, anger, and frustration felt by the African American and other minority students, faculty, and staff of our own IWU community. They bear burdens of discrimination and injustice that most of us in the majority population can scarcely imagine, let alone have to bear. It should not be so. But it is so. We must name this truth and grieve over the unhealed wound of racism that continues to plague our nation, and extend its influence into our own beloved community.
In the past I have spoken personally, and as President, about these matters. Today I must speak about where Indiana Wesleyan University stands as a Christ-centered academic community committed to changing the world. We cannot be silent. We will not turn away.
First, we must acknowledge that the horrific acts of violence we are witnessing, and the more hidden but still present discriminatory realities persons of color face on a regular basis, are not accidents. They are the products of the persistent racism that remains deeply rooted in the soul and systems of our great nation. As Christian people, we cannot turn away from this reality. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We have sinned and our nation has sinned. Proverbs 10:19 says, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words.” The only way we can break the hold of sin on our personal lives, and on the life of our nation, is to turn from evil, put our faith in the redeeming power of Jesus, and embrace the righteousness to which he calls us.
Second, IWU is shaped by the rich spiritual heritage of the Wesleyan movement which overtly rejects all forms of sinful favoritism, whether of race, class, or gender. Sadly, IWU has not always lived up to that heritage. We have gone through long stretches when we have allowed policies and practices that contradicted that heritage. Even now, all too often, students and employees of color tell us that they feel invisible and unincluded. Still, through our 100 years of existence, there have been those who witnessed to the best of our values and called us to the creation of a beloved community that reflects the spirit of Jesus Christ. Our denominational leaders and our Board of Trustees expect us to be a community that rejects all forms of racism and favoritism. For the record, let me state unequivocally, IWU is a community dedicated to racial inclusion and equity. We have no tolerance at all for the sins of racism and favoritism. We know that violence will not produce the justice, peace, and prosperity we long to see. We must come together to reject racism, eschew violence, and work diligently for the better community to which God calls us.
Third, In the last ten years we have made great progress. I thank my predecessor, President Henry Smith, for setting this agenda in motion, and all of those who have worked sacrificially over the past decade to move us forward. While we are not where we were ten years ago, we are not where we must be next year. To that end, over the coming months I will be asking our administration, faculty, and staff to work on five projects.
- Purse – Money will not defeat racism. But we must be sure we are providing the resources necessary to support our pursuit of inclusive excellence. I will be asking our administrative leaders for an accounting of all resources we are committing to this work. Then we will decide the level of funding needed to advance the work today.
- Presence – We are becoming a more diverse community. While our highest administrative councils now have diverse representation, we must accelerate this diversification of leadership perspectives. Therefore, I will require each senior administrative leader to ensure that their cabinets include substantive representation of racial and ethnic diversity. As an example, I will be adding Dr. Michael Moffitt (Special Assistant to the President for Corporate and Community Relations) to the President’s Executive Council.
- Policies/Practices – The policies and practices by which we operate must accord with our stated goals for inclusive excellence. In the coming weeks I will ask for a thorough review to identify any policies and practices that either hinder or do not promote our goals for inclusive excellence, and to provide me with proposals for positive change. In particular, I will ask our IWU Human Resources Department to propose further changes in our hiring practices to ensure that we are hiring from diverse candidate pools.
- Public Influence – Colleges and universities such as IWU are some of the oldest and most influential organizations in the communities they serve. As such, we have a responsibility to collaborate with our local officials, law enforcement, and service agencies to constructively address the issues of race that impede the social, spiritual, and economic progress of our communities. To this end, I have invited the presidents of other Christian universities in northcentral Indiana to join in a community summit to better understand our needs and to advance the progress of justice and equity in our state. This is an unfolding discussion that will remain a high priority for me in coming months.
- Promotion – For the past seven years I have stood on the stage at our IWU graduation ceremonies and shaken the hands of thousands upon thousands of IWU graduates who are African American and other minority men and women. Among our more than 90,000 IWU alumni are thousands of brilliant, influential, engaged persons of color who are a living testimony to the potential of our nation. In coming months, I will be seeking creative proposals for how we might use our rich network of alumni to promote African American and other minority professionals, businesses, and persons.
Can we imagine an America in which we will one day look back on the death of George Floyd as a turning point, a distant memory of a time when our great nation turned decisively from the ravages of racism? I believe this is our hope and our calling. Indiana Wesleyan University commits itself to work toward that hope. We are called to be an embassy of heaven.
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” (John 3:16-17, MSG)