Dear Union Community,
Welcome to the 2021-22 Academic Year at Union! I am delighted to welcome a stellar new incoming class of students who are just beginning their journey at Union. I am also poignantly and happily pleased to welcome to campus returning students who studied remotely last year, many of whom are physically coming to Union for the first time. Welcome. Welcome! Welcome Home!
Over the next three weeks, you will receive updates and policies concerning various aspects of our life together, particularly more information about what it means to be a vaccinated campus and how, together, we ethically respond, with care and love, to the constantly changing COVID19 context in which we find ourselves. Please go to: https://utsnyc.edu/covid-19-guidance/ for ongoing updates.
I am excited today, however, to write to you about a new endeavor upon which Union is embarking this year. Beginning this September, Union will commence a three-year partnership with an excellent team led by Dr. Michelle Majors, Principle of Majors Leadership Group. Dr. Majors will be guiding the whole community – students, faculty, staff, trustees, and alumni – through an ever-deepening process of becoming a more just, equitable and inclusive community, a commitment that stands at the very heart of our seminary’s mission and core values. This work will begin with a specific focus on becoming an anti-racist community and institution.
Over the last several months, a group of students, faculty, and administrators gathered to find a leadership partner who could guide us as we work together to create culture change and policies and practices that reflect our collective justice commitments. I am thankful for this group’s careful work and couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the outcome – which is not a conclusion but a beginning.
For this much needed endeavor to have lasting impact, our collective energies must be fully devoted to the process. Every voice at Union matters, and it is essential that we listen deeply to all the voices. This means everyone’s participation is absolutely crucial if we are to create the depth of systemic, sustainable, and transformative change we need. As the total Union community, we need an “all-in” and “we can do this together” approach. Bold openness of heart and mind is also an essential part of creating the anti-racist change we seek. Racism has long lived not just in the bold obvious forms it takes in public, but also in the subtle words, symbols, unspoken assumptions, behaviors, accepted policies, repeated cultural narratives, and blaring but seemingly quiet messages that are regularly communicated, especially in assumingly progressive communities like Union. Digging into the bedrock of these more subtle but nonetheless extremely damaging and traumatizing dimensions of racism and white supremacy is difficult but absolutely necessary and powerfully liberating work. Moreover, listening to each other and creating not just a reactive but a strongly pro-active anti-racist path forward is needed for long term institutional and personal transformation. At Union, we stand on the shoulders of previous generations who have given themselves to this work. Now it is our turn to take it up and move the seminary forward.
This fall, Dr. Majors will lead us as we listen to the myriad voices of our community, and she will help us design a contextualized process for Union to engage in, starting this year. I am thrilled about and completely committed to this anti-racist work and to Dr. Majors’ leadership. It is way past time for these changes to come, and as we work together, come they will!
So let us collectively and boldly open our minds and hearts and get started!
Onward in justice and love,