Message from the President / Confederate Flag
To: Paul Smith’s College students, faculty, staff, and trustees
Delivered: August 20, 2020
Dear students, faculty, and staff,
Just a few days into this Fall 2020 semester, our collective actions against COVID-19 are off to a great start. People are clearly respecting the college’s health and safety protocols, for which I am grateful. Face-to-face classes are proceeding and our academic mission carries on.
However, all is not well at Paul Smith’s College.
This week one of our students displayed a confederate flag prominently in a dorm room window. Hopefully, this student meant no harm and didn’t realize that this flag has come to be seen as an overt symbol of hate, treason, and slave ownership. Its display is an aggressive promotion of a white supremacist belief system. Those who disagree, citing an innocent pride in heritage, are choosing to deny this reality. If you believe otherwise it’s time to face facts.
Sadly, I understand that this was not an isolated incident. On this campus, people of color and others have been faced with disparaging and hateful behavior. Yet, we are generally a caring community that is constantly demonstrating values of selflessness, generosity, and goodwill. Our failure to accept and appreciate everyone is a form of cultural sickness. We need to become better than this.
In the months since George Floyd’s murder, there has been a rapid global awakening to racism. Some aspects of racism can be complicated and require work to understand. In the weeks and months ahead, we will work together on these topics toward common ground. Other aspects of racism such as hate, bigotry, and indecency are much more straightforward. There is no place for these behaviors at Paul Smith’s.
To all individuals who have experienced racism or discrimination of any kind here at Paul Smith’s, I extend my sincerest personal apology and my commitment to effecting change. You belong here and you do not deserve to be treated as anything less than a full-fledged Smitty.
We are centering our efforts to understand, identify, and root out racism through the college’s Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council co-chaired by Annie Rochon and Jodi Rossi. Many have expressed interest in this project, along with some concerns. Participation is the best way to help this organization define the right goals and see them through. You will be hearing more very soon from Annie and Jodi in this regard.
Please join me by supporting the Council, advancing our societal vision, and bringing our best selves to campus every day.
Jon C Strauss