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Racial Justice Initiatives

A message from Dr. Suzanne Rivera

Dear Members of the Macalester Community,

While the COVID-19 pandemic created difficulties none of us could have imagined when I was offered this job back in January, the events of the last few weeks have shaken us all to the core.

I think this would be a good time for me to address unequivocally Macalester College’s position:

Macalester condemns those police who engage in brutality and other forms of misconduct, including the killing of unarmed Black people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the harm inflicted on so many other Black and Brown people who have been victims of police violence.

Macalester condemns anti-Black racism, white supremacy, and other forms of bigotry. The right to equality and freedom from discrimination are basic human rights.

Macalester condemns state-sanctioned violence against peaceful protesters and journalists. Freedom of assembly, expression, and the press are Constitutional rights that cannot be violated. 

Macalester supports and affirms the rights of its students, staff, faculty, and alumni to engage in civil disobedience. The conscientious and peaceful refusal to obey certain laws, demands, orders or commands of a government with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or policies is a time-honored tradition in this country. 

And to our Black students, staff, faculty, and alumni, let me be absolutely clear: Macalester values you and stands with you. 

A fair response to these statements is: prove it.  In fact, students have said these exact words to me.

The senior leadership team has been working on new ways that Macalester can contribute to the creation of a more just and peaceful world. 

We have offered to reimburse transportation expenses incurred if students become stranded after curfew due to their participation in civil disobedience. 

We also have offered to work with students on setting up a way to reimburse any fines they may receive due to civil disobedience citations.

And we are taking steps to make legal advice available to international students who want to participate in protests but worry about their visa status if they do so.

A matching fund was quickly created by the Advancement team to join forces with Macalester students, staff, faculty, and alumni on Saturday, June 6.  In just 24 hours, the match was met and now a variety of community-based organizations throughout the Twin Cities are benefitting from your generous support.

Some people have asked for us to increase that matching fund but I want to create space for us to dream bigger.

I plan to bring together a broad-based group to work on plans for three kinds of initiatives:

  1. a program to recruit and support the thriving of Black, Indigenous, and other students of color from the Twin Cities and beyond;
  2. a program to recruit faculty and staff of color and assure that we create an environment in which they can thrive; and
  3. an approach to engage more deeply with partner institutions in and around Saint Paul to contribute to the city’s economic development and the wellbeing of its residents.

All of these things will take resources – both human and financial. It’s my job to find the money, through fundraising, grants, and good management of the existing budget.  It will also take hard work, by all of us – with each of us owning our part by doing our personal work, educating ourselves, shifting our practices, calling upon each other to create an environment that is not merely diverse, but also inclusive and equitable. An environment in which all members of the community can thrive.

All of that will be hard.  And, frankly, the COVID-19 virus is going to make it much harder.

Juggling the costs of a safe return to campus with the vision I have to create new initiatives will be a challenge.

Asking each person to take on more than what they already do will be a challenge.

But given our mission and the strength, the fortitude, and dedication of this extraordinary community, I know we’re up to it. In fact, I look forward to doing this work together. It’s why I came to Macalester, and my guess is it’s why you came here, too. 

These initiatives will take time.  So, I ask for both your support and your patience.  Please watch for updates on the President’s page and via Mac’s various social media channels.

And if you want to get involved, please find a way to contribute– whether that is through good works, donations, educating yourself and others, or by other means.  It will take all of us, each in our own ways, to make the change we want to see in the world.

June 15, 2020