Dear Pitzer Community,

I know all in our campus community have been following the events that have occurred in Tulsa, Charlotte and El Cajon over the past week. Terrance Crutcher, Keith Scott and Alfred Olango join a far too long list of African American’s who have recently been killed by the police.

The loss of black lives in incidents of this type weighs heavy on all of us at Pitzer College but we must acknowledge the particular pain it causes our African American students, faculty and staff here at Pitzer and across the nation. I want to reach out in solidarity with all on campus who feel the pain, the anger, and the frustration that these events engender.

From my perspective, it is crucial that we understand that these are not isolated events but symptoms of a larger set of problems that inform the context of these shootings. The architecture of systemic racism informs how police and blacks interact; from the way media and cultural representations portray black people, particularly, black men as dangerous and criminal to the racialized social policies that built ghettoes and isolate many African Americans into communities characterized by concentrated poverty and limited economic opportunity to the policies that promoted mass incarceration for the past 20 years. Such an understanding, demands remedy, it demands accountability, it demands justice; but it also demands that we recognize the corrosive nature of systemic racism that makes us all, no matter our social position, vulnerable to its dehumanization and the stereotyping of others.

I would hope that our faculty, our students and staff could take time out of their classes and their workday to reflect on these issues. Understanding is the first step towards progress. In addition, I am proposing that we consider a series of “Roundtable Discussions,” keynoted by outside speakers, for us to approach issues of race, inequality and social justice during the Spring 2016 semester. I will be approaching the faculty, Student Senate, Affinity Groups and other organizations to develop a steering committee to oversee this initiative. These roundtables should be a forum, spirit and practice true to Ptizer’s values; that is, open, non-hierarchical and transparent.

Finally, let us not lose hope, for there will be, no doubt, more killings, more setbacks, but our salvation lies in our struggle to make a better world through education, personal transformation and intercultural understanding, and the pursuit of social justice.

During these difficult times, self-care is critical. Students in need of emergency or urgent counseling assistance are encouraged to contact Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services after-hours through Campus Safety by calling 909-607-2000 or during regular business hours by calling 909-621-8202 or stopping by Tranquada Student Services, 1st Floor. Student Affairs also offers walk-in hours daily from 1:30 – 3:30 PM, Monday-Friday. Chaplains are available by calling the Chaplains Office during regular business hours at (909) 621-8685 or visiting the McAlister Center at 919 N. Columbia Avenue. Faculty and staff members are encouraged to contact Human Resources for more information on the Employee Assistance Program.

Melvin L. Oliver