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Gannon University Coming Together: Reflection on Initial Progress Towards Racial Justice

Old Main with the United States, State of Pennsylvania, and Gannon flags.

Old Main with the United States, State of Pennsylvania, and Gannon flags.

As we head into a holiday weekend celebrating the United States and American independence, we do so with a heightened awareness and recognition of deep rooted racism that was instilled in the founding of this nation and is still alive today. With this awareness in our hearts and minds, our Mission and Ministry team wanted to take a moment to reflect on conversations around racial justice within our Gannon community. Over the past month, hard, honest, and vulnerable conversations have been occurring among our colleagues, students, alumni, and communities. It is clear that there is much work to be done, and heartening to see so many of our colleagues and Gannon Family coming together with a renewed commitment to reflection, listening, learning, and action. 

Our Mission and Ministry team led two virtual forums in June, which brought nearly 100 colleagues together for listening, reflection, and conversation around racial justice at Gannon. Conversations among our students and alumni have also been occurring in small groups and will be expanded in coming months. Father Michael Kesicki, Associate Vice President for Mission and Ministry, aptly said during a Town Hall for colleagues on June 24th, “This is a moment of institutional conversion, but also a moment of conversion of self.” As conversations, reflections, and conversions occur across our community, some immediate action steps have emerged:

  • A racial justice action plan incorporating ideas from across our Gannon Family has been created with categories that include: events/programming, small groups for reading/reflection/dialogue, training and awareness building, resources, and action/advocacy. This collection of activities and actions will continue to grow to reflect the work of our colleagues and students. 
  • Focus groups around the creation of a needs assessment and data collection, as well as colleague conversations around diversity and inclusion on campus have begun to form. Other task forces and groups have emerged in our colleges and divisions, and additional groups will form in the coming months as institutional goals are formalized.
  • Tools for individual self-awareness/reflection are being created for use across the university, which will also provide a foundation for small group dialogues around racism and justice.
  • Opportunities to listen to and support our students, colleagues, alumni, and communities will continue in the coming months through community forums and in small groups.
  • The upcoming Liberal Studies update is a great opportunity to evaluate our overarching frameworks of social justice, interfaith awareness, cultural competency, care for the earth, and more.

These steps offer opportunities for continuation as well as new beginnings in our work for justice on our campuses, in our communities, and in our world. Our action plan will continue to grow, adapt, and respond to the needs of our community, especially as we widen and deepen our conversations. We recognize this is long-term work that will involve individual, cultural, and institutional change. While this work isn’t new, it is heightened and renewed in our commitment to working towards racial justice and genuinely meeting the needs of minority groups within our community. 

As we enter into this holiday weekend, which is often filled with celebrations and patriotism, let us remember, be in solidarity with, and fight for our neighbors who are still waiting for true independence and liberation from pervasive and systemic racism in our country. 

Our Mission and Ministry team is serving as a collection point and facilitator of conversations and work for justice. If you have questions, thoughts, concerns, or if you want to be sure your name is on the list for our next forum – please email us at cscge@gannon.edu.

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