This message from GCU President Joseph Marbach is one of three published responses to the death of George Floyd, the racial injustices faced by many African Americans and GCU’s commitment to diversity. Also see:
GCU’s Black Student Union Responds, by Kayla Wilson ’21
GCU’s Student Government Association Responds, by Brianna Griffin ’21
June 2, 2020
Dear GCU community members,
Our country, our colleagues, and our communities are hurting. It is a searing pain that demands soul-searching and reminds us that we have a responsibility to act.
We are troubled, disturbed, angered, and saddened. But more than anything, the events of the last week mean that we are called—called to fight institutional racism and to embrace nonviolence. Both are among the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy, the founding order of Georgian Court University, where we equip students to “shape a just and compassionate world.”
It is not a catchphrase or a polite nod to social justice. It is what we are called to do.
One immediate step is to start with our campus. I will work with the GCU Council on Diversity and Inclusion to establish a chief diversity officer role and determine how we can become a more just and compassionate university.
In Pursuit of Justice
Shaping a just world also means we address acts of institutional racism that deprive people of color their fundamental and inalienable rights. Creating a more compassionate world means there is much work to be done. And at Georgian Court, a Catholic University steeped in the Mercy charism, it means that we commit to our core values of service, respect, integrity, compassion and justice.
Justice, in this instance, is more than punishing those who commit race-based crimes. We must ensure that educational spaces address institutionalized racism. We are fortunate that as a university, we can effect change. Forums, community partnerships, coursework, and respectful sharing of diverse perspectives enable us to grow, learn, and take a stand against injustice.
We cannot sit idly by as life is literally choked out of an unarmed man by a rogue representative of the law. This has happened before, and we cannot allow it to happen again. To do nothing is an abdication of our American birthright and responsibility.
Instead, the Georgian Court community seeks to live in solidarity with all who suffer. We share in the anguish for all who suffer from systemic racism. We lift our voices and stand up for what is right.
Sadly, the nature of George Floyd’s death is not an isolated occurrence within our nation. Nor does it escape our attention that nationally, African-American and Latino citizens are dying at disproportionately higher rates from Covid-19. While underlying health conditions are sometimes cited, there are other underlying conditions, too: prejudice, poverty, and wide-ranging inequalities.
The Way Forward
Changing these conditions demands answers to difficult questions. It requires talking and listening; taking constructive action; and accepting accountability. It means that wanton looting and destruction of property, provocation of law enforcement officers, and disregard for the safety and well-being of fellow citizens cannot be tolerated. The message of so many purposeful, peaceful demonstrators is undermined by the criminal acts of a few—acts that spread like wildfire and transform otherwise peaceful protests into emotionally charged gatherings.
The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities recently said that institutions like GCU, “rooted in Jesus Christ’s own boundless love, strive to cultivate a deep sense of human dignity and to form engaged citizens who fight every form of injustice and effect positive change.”
I am confident that together, we can.
Joseph R. Marbach, Ph.D.
Georgian Court University