Gator News

Message from the Executive Team

By Camella Morgan, Dr. Deb Casey, Fia Eliasson-Creek, George Frasier, Dr. Rolita Ezeonu, Shirley Bean, Wendy Stewart, June 4, 2020

Editor's Note: Below is a message from the Executive Team at Green River College to Faculty and Staff on Wednesday, June 3, 2020.

Green River College Community,

Earlier this week President Johnson sent a message to campus entitled “There are no words.” As an Executive Team, we wanted to follow on with this message from us.

“Ensure student success through comprehensive educational programs and support services responsive to the needs of our diverse communities.”

This is our mission. Our challenge, during the most challenging of times, is to fulfill our mission and live up to our values.

Last week’s killing of George Floyd put in clear focus, once again, the systemic, structural racism so deeply rooted in all aspects of our society. Protesters across the country and around the world are raising their voices to challenge social injustice, particularly around police practices and the criminal justice system.

Institutions of higher education must accept we are complicit in the structural racism that persists throughout our country. As the leadership team at Green River College, it is our responsibility to step up and lead the institution in raising awareness, in urging action, and in realizing real, institutional change.

We are accountable for the educational environment and culture we cultivate and sustain. We must critically analyze the college’s structures and practices. We must ask what values these systems reflect. Diversity? Equity? Inclusion? How deeply are these values truly reflected throughout our institution? Where we identify gaps, we will take action to align structures and practices with our values.

We will walk together. To stand up. To speak up. To lean into discomfort. To have the courage to change our college in ways that support social justice and put our values into practice. The measure of our collective effort will be the extent to which our values are reflected in the lived experience of all members of our Green River College community.

Our hearts go out to all who are experiencing pain and grief, anger and anxiety, especially our Black students, staff, faculty and other people of color. Together, we will continue to work as educators to educate ourselves about racism and the profound harm it continues to produce.

We invite you to join us in dialogue, in education, and in taking action. Here are five ways we can start engaging.

  1. 8:46 AM to 8:55 6/1/2020 until 6/5/2020 George Floyd. Join the faculty, as we are as a team, in engaging in the faculty union’s suggestion to pause every morning for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. It is a long time. Be mindful of the breathes you take during that time. Reflect on George Floyd. “I can’t breathe.” What do you feel? Consider finding a way to express your feelings and thoughts. Journal. Write a poem. Draw. Dance. Dialogue with someone. Do something daily to make a difference.
  2. GDEC/ODEI: GDEC and ODEI offer a wide variety of events and engagement opportunities. As an Executive Team, we are committed to supporting and participating in these events. There are safe spaces for our Black and Brown and marginalized communities. There are challenging spaces for our white and privileged communities who need to lean into discomfort. Wherever you are at in your journey, find a path and engage with these activities.
  3. Summer Book Club: We invite you to join the Executive Team in reading and reflecting on books focused on racism. In March of 2011, we were honored to have Maya Angelou as part of our Artist and Speakers Series. She had just received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was our One Book that year. During her visit, Dr. Angelou dedicated a poem to Green River entitled “A Brave and Startling Truth.” The poem was “Dedicated to the hope for peace, which lies, sometimes hidden, in every heart.” Attached is a copy of a Campus News article by Dani Crivello-Chang with the poem included. For those who attended the event, it was incredibly moving. So, ten years later, where are we now? What moves us now? Let’s read together, dialogue together, and open our hearts to the hope for peace.
  4. Strategic Planning. How fortunate we are to have an opportunity to engage in a comprehensive, full college reflection about who we are and who we want to be. The process is being designed to embed equity and inclusion as core strategies in our next 5-year plan. As an Executive Team, we are committed to participating in the strategic planning process with an equity lens. We encourage everyone to engage.
  5. Office of VP DEI. The Executive team supports the on-going listening and dialogue President Johnson is facilitating to hear the voices of the College regarding an Office of VP DEI. Alongside the work currently being implemented in ODEI and GDEC, this office can offer the College an opportunity to focus on understanding systemic racism and the difficult and necessary work that must be done by all of us, together. At the Team level, we are committed in our leadership roles to walk with leaders at all levels to do the work of institutional, structural, and fundamental change.

We are united in our commitment to change aimed at building a more diverse, inclusive and equitable community here at Green River College, and to create, as Maya Angelou said in her poem:

A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

With compassion and commitment,

Green River Executive Team—Camella, Deb, Fia, George, Rolita, Shirley, Wendy

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