A Message to the College Community from President Botstein
“On behalf of the entire Bard College community, I want to express our solidarity with all who grieve for the deaths, with all who live in constant fear of the brutality of racial discrimination, and with all who find themselves without hope in these dark and violent times. [...] Something has to change in a way that actually helps the lives of our fellow citizens and neighbors of color.” —Bard College President Leon Botstein
Dear Members of the Bard Community,
I am writing to all of you today with sentiments that I know are widely shared throughout the Bard College community.
Words cannot properly express the anger, sadness and despair each of us feels at the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, the killing, by two civilians, of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick Georgia, and the murder, once again by officers sworn to uphold the law, of Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, Kentucky. The victims were all black; the perpetrators were all white.
On behalf of the entire Bard College community, I want to express our solidarity with all who grieve for the deaths, with all who live in constant fear of the brutality of racial discrimination, and with all who find themselves without hope in these dark and violent times.
As we all continue to follow the unfolding national crisis, I also wish to express Bard’s support for the journalists who have covered and continue to report on these events and their aftermath, particularly those of color such as CNN’s Omar Jimenez, who have been punitively targeted by the police because they are professionals of color. Not only are black lives in danger, but our fundamental civil liberties, including freedom of the press are at risk today.
The Bard College community includes members and families connected to Bard’s main campus in Annandale, Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and Bard’s seven public High School Early Colleges in New York City, Newark, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Cleveland, and New Orleans. Bard’s family includes the students and their families in the Bard Prison Initiative, Bard’s Microcolleges in Brooklyn and Holyoke Mass., and our Clemente Courses throughout the nation. The majority of the students Bard serves across its network are non-white, and nearly half come from families in poverty.
The mission of this nation’s universities and colleges requires faith in the proposition that language and reason are the proper shared instruments of politics and society. Places of learning are dedicated to the belief that, in the long run, the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Bard takes pride in its commitment to these ideals.
However, if we are to redeem these noble and just convictions, we must confront the complacency and hypocrisy with which this country has dealt with the systematic injustice based on race that is visible every single day. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the tragic consequences of our tolerance of economic and social inequality plain, as we watch Americans of color suffer disproportionately from the epidemic and the national failure to combat this new disease and its spread.
We must do more than express outrage. Something has to change in a way that actually helps the lives of our fellow citizens and neighbors of color. We have witnessed too many of our nation’s failures to make progress in the matter of racial justice after eruptions of civil unrest. The failures to make sufficient progress, during Reconstruction, after the racial violence of the 1920s, the broken promises of Brown vs. Board of Education of the 1950s, and the dashed hopes after the urban riots of the late 1960s remain vivid in our collective memory. To add insult to injury, we seem to accept with striking passivity the divisive hostility, the open appeal to prejudice, the incompetence, mendacity and ignorance that now represents the Executive Branch of our Federal Government.
We have come to accept as normal the persistence of discrimination, the toxic link between race and economic justice, in which the quality of our public schools plays a central role, and the daily experience of fear on the part of people of color. Universities and colleges must no longer accept the unacceptable that we have the power to change: a substandard education for people of color, particularly in our cities. In an era when the rich have become richer, and when the technological consequences of economic inequality—the digital divide---have accelerated, how can we tolerate the status quo?
I want to assure each and every one of you that Bard College will continue to do its utmost to lead in the task of articulating a better vision of democracy and government and a better reality for all in our country in the sphere of education. Bard’s mission is not restricted to the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge. It seeks to forge a link between what is true and what is right and good, a connection between epistemology and ethics. Bard is proud to be an institution committed to combating injustice through education. Its investment in educational access for historically underserved populations is in support of the cause of a more just and civil society.
I recognize this is a deeply frightening, frustrating, and challenging time for students, faculty, and staff, particularly those of color. On behalf of the College, please know that Bard is with each of you in spirit, even if, for the time being, we cannot be physically together. In the face of these difficult circumstances, our commitment and resolve is to work together to play our part in building a better future. We will try to do our best as the nation confronts its failures and, guided by its better angels, resolves to change, and realizes the promise of freedom and justice for all.
Post Date: 05-31-2020