A Message from the Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities:
This message is not meant so much for our students or alumnae of color, whose willingness to speak out and whose strength and resilience in doing so I recognize and appreciate. This message is directed more at our white A&H students and white alumnae who graduated with an A&H major.
I have been the dean of Arts & Humanities at Meredith for three years. I have also spent my professional life studying the history of race in this country. More accurately, I have studied the centuries-long interactions (that is a mild word) between black Americans and white Americans. It is an ugly history. It is not anything like what most of you learned in school. It is a long history, a deep history, whose pain and cruelty have continued right up to the present.
It is a history that Meredith is a part of. And the posts over the past week on DearMereCo testify that our campus continues to echo some of the worst aspects of that history.
As an administrator at Meredith, I do not and will not tolerate speech or actions that deliberately hurt other people. I will not tolerate behavior or words that are intended to belittle, ostracize, or diminish the worth and value of any member of our community. Especially if those words or actions are aimed directly at another person because of that person’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, or disability.
As a liberal arts college, our reason for existence is to educate students. I recognize that some people do these things not out of hate but unintentionally, out of ignorance, sometimes even completely unaware of what they have done. It is our job as a college to help people understand the impact of their actions on others and the reasons for that impact. It is our job to help them find a better way. That kind of education is a process, but one that we must take on in an intentional, deliberate, transparent way.
The lack of understanding by white Americans of the experience of people of color is, in fact, a central part of the system of racial oppression in this country. This lack of understanding – this ignorance – was intentionally created and for centuries has been carefully cultivated and methodically enforced. Segregation is one tool that keeps white people ignorant. Look at the statistics from today – on housing, on education. These systems were put in place and are continued today by public policy crafted by those who knew, and know, exactly what they are doing.
This year the faculty in Arts & Humanities will be engaging in efforts to become better informed and better trained on the topics of cultural humility, white privilege, and structural racism. As part of this year’s A&H Common Experience theme, Belonging, we will also be incorporating assignments and discussions related to diversity in our classes. We will be holding a series of events in which we will openly talk about what it means to belong and what it means not to belong to a community, including the community that is Meredith.
I am personally committed to making Arts & Humanities classes and departments safe as well as empowering places for students, alumnae, staff, and faculty of color. I look forward to your support and participation in helping achieve this goal.
– Sarah Roth