Community College leaders joint statement on Capitol attack
On January 6, 2021, as our elected representatives were gathered to confirm the 46th President of the United States, the whole world watched as an aggressive and angry mob, urged on by irresponsible leadership, invaded and assaulted the nation’s Capitol Building in an effort to thwart the democratic process on which our nation was founded.
While this in itself is appalling, it did not go unnoticed that the visible and immediate response from law enforcement was passive in contrast to the actions taken against previous protests, including Black Lives Matter and others that took place in that same location earlier in the year.
This incident shed a glaring light on our nation’s failure to address the most critical and divisive elements in our society. The alarming display of incivility, disrespect and racism cannot be ignored. It must be addressed. Therefore, we acknowledge that our most immediate path toward unification and healing demands of us all the courage to enter into mutually respectful dialogue and honest discourse about the disconcerting issues that we face as a nation.
As the executive leaders of the Connecticut Community Colleges, we commit ourselves to expanding our mission of providing access to education to include open, honest and challenging discourse on the most critical issues that challenge us all.
As educators, we know that it is possible for our communities to rise to the challenge of eradicating the ingrained attitudes that are born out of fear, greed and ignorance: injustice, racism, inequity, incivility and exclusion mentality, and we believe that our community colleges are a natural environment for such discourse.
Each and every day, across our campuses, we witness our racially, ethnically, generationally, socioeconomically, and gender-diverse student body as they engage in learning through dialogue and interaction with one another. They exchange ideas and perspectives, collaborate on projects, participate in discussions and solve problems together in an environment of mutual respect. They are a proven example of what is possible when people take the time to listen, and to reach beyond preconceived notions, assumptions and misconceptions.
The year is young, and we are hopeful that 2021 will unfold in a more positive light than what is currently before us. We acknowledge that we have a responsibility to live up to our full human potential by rising above the incivility and heated exchanges and by working toward “becoming the change that we want to see.”
We affirm our commitment to providing multiple opportunities over the coming months for constructive and civil exchange of perspectives and ideas on our campuses. This process is critical to the healing process and to the development of a future where equity and justice are more than just words.
We have an important role to play in bringing our communities together to address the challenges and issues that confront us. We urge all members of our community to join us in these dialogues and to remain committed to civil and kind communications as we navigate these troubled waters.
This commentary was signed by Three Rivers Community College President Mary Ellen Jukoski; Connecticut State Community College Interim President David Levinson; Shoreline West Region President Thomas G. Coley; Capital-East Region President Rob Steinmetz; North-West Region President James Lombella; Asnuntuck Community College Interim Chief Executive Officer Michelle Coach; Capital Community College Chief Executive Officer G. Duncan Harris; Gateway Community College Chief Executive Officer William (Terry) Brown; Housatonic Community College Chief Executive Officer Dwayne Smith; Manchester Community College Chief Executive Officer Nicole Esposito; Middlesex Community College Chief Executive Officer Steven Minkler; Naugatuck Valley Community College Interim Chief Executive Officer Lisa Dresdner; Norwalk Community College Interim Chief Executive Officer Cheryl De Vonish; Quinebaug Valley Community College Interim Chief Executive Officer Rose R. Ellis; Tunxis Community College Interim Chief Executive Officer Darryl Reome; Michael A. Rooke, President of Northwestern Connecticut Community College and Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Connecticut State Community College.