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We Will Be OK

We Will Be OK

    “It is time for Andrews University to apologize for the systemic racism it has perpetuated on its campus since 1874. For decades our friends and our family have asked for a response. But our university has remained silent.”
    This is a quote from a video entitled #ItIsTimeAU posted to Facebook on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 by Garrison Hayes (Master of Divinity, second year), expressing various concerns of members of the black community at Andrews University. In the video, several Andrews University students, Hayes, and Chaplain Michael Polite claimed that Andrews University had not apologized for the wrongful discrimination of black students, both past and present. They also gave the administration one week to make a formal apology for this discrimination and to discern an approach to correct this discrimination in university policy, including diversity training and the increased diversity of university faculty and staff.
    In response, Andrews University President Andrea Luxton sent an email to members of the university community on Monday, Feb. 20, to let students know that university administration had seen the video and that there would be faculty and student meetings to discuss the issues expressed within.
    In her email, Luxton said, “In the end, I am confident and pray that we will emerge from this current situation, a stronger, richer and better University. This is an opportunity for soul-searching and reflection—both corporately and individually.”
    Students were also invited to attend a special chapel service at Pioneer Memorial Church (PMC) on Thursday, Feb. 23 for an administrative response.
    When Thursday’s chapel arrived, PMC was overflowing with students, faculty, alumni, and members of the university community; usually closed to students during chapel services, the balcony and PMC Youth Chapel had to be opened to provide those in attendance with additional seating.
    Luxton started her talk with the words, “We will be OK.” She provided three reasons why: first, Luxton said she knew what she was going to say; second, Luxton said that after speaking with many voices about the video, all expressed their love for Andrews University as an institution; and last, Luxton noted that Andrews University as a Seventh-day Adventist can rely on the Gospel for guidance.
    During her speech, Luxton stressed that everyone’s story is important, and no one has a right to tell someone that their story is not true. According to Luxton, these personal stories all comprise a greater Andrews University story. Luxton then went on to express that the only way we can get richness and diversity is by broadening our horizons and trying to see the world from other perspectives. We have to do better in finding a way to get people to feel that they can talk to the administration when they feel oppressed and sometimes to heal means to say you’re sorry. Finally, Luxton said we all need to get around the same table to unite as one.
    After her speech, Luxton introduced a video expressing a formal administrative response to the #ItIsTimeAU. The response video, mirroring elements of the #ItIsTimeAU video posted on Hayes’ Facebook account, stated that members of  Andrews University administration, as well as faculty and staff, heard students’ voices and then formally apologized for the systemic racism at Andrews University in the past and in present. The video also outlined various commitments to be pursued by Andrews University administration in response to the #ItIsTimeAU video, as listed below:

  1. 1. Andrews University will immediately begin a search for a full-time, senior-level administrator of diversity, a new cabinet-level position that reports directly to the president and will drive meaningful, visible and ongoing change. The plan is for this position to be filled by the beginning of the 2017–2018 school year.

  2. 2. This senior-level administrator of diversity will develop and implement a revised and expanded cultural diversity training program. This training will be required and specialized for each group on campus: faculty, staff and students.

  3. 3. Andrews University will continue to diversify our faculty, staff and administration in order to assure a high-quality education that prepares our students to serve meaningfully in a global environment. Our curriculum should also clearly reflect and educate students about our diversity. Regular online and campus reports will confirm progress towards these goals.

  4. 4. Andrews University will have a strengthened grievance process that allows students to simply and directly report injustice and mistreatment of all kinds and to seek resolution.

  5. 5. Andrews University will commit to honor, support and celebrate all the ways we seek and achieve community—including how we gather and worship together throughout our University family. Faculty, staff and the campus community will be encouraged to understand, respect and honor all the ways we worship.

Afterwards, members of Andrews University administration, as well as campus student leaders, pledged to hold Andrews University accountable to ensuring these commitments as brought to fruition.
    Many students took to social media their feelings about Feb. 23’s chapel. Here are some of their responses:
    “#ItIsTimeAU was, in my opinion, the most heated topic that happened during my four years of college. Whether if the video had a right or wrong way in proposing the issue, Andrews University's response to it was really proper. Assuming that the chapel would provoke another argument in the school, I was somewhat shocked when the school gave a sincere apology. It awakened me that sometimes an apology is the most powerful response one's can make; an apology is not 'to lose' but is something that is more powerful than 'to win'. I am so proud of my school. #almosttearedup #ListenDialogueChange,” Aram Chong (senior, medical laboratory science) posted on Facebook.
    “My heart. The president of the Andrews University has been ordained by God and is well equipped for her position. This response was very well done. Now, let's keep these conversations going. #ItIsTimeAU,” Kaydra Bailey (senior, biochemistry, pre-medicine) posted on Facebook.
    Andrews University administration planned several meetings to discuss racial issues presented in the #ItIsTimeAU video. On Feb. 23  at 7 p.m. in the Seminary Chapel a meeting was held titled, “It is time: Listen. Dialogue. Change,” to encourage further discussion between students and administration. On Sunday, Feb. 26 in Meier Hall Chapel, another meeting was held titled “How to Talk About Race Without Losing Your Cool.”
    Visit www.andrews.edu/agenda/44898 for more information on Luxton’s statement, the official video response to the #ItIsTimeAU video, and a list of upcoming events discussing race at Andrews University.

 

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