June 11, 2020

Dear Concordia Students, Faculty, Staff, Graduates, and Friends,

No words, no statement, can encompass the anguish and outrage of those who seek justice for the brutal killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, with three others standing by. On Friday, May 29, Concordia sent out via social media and email a message naming and rejecting that brutality, a brutality that stands in a long history of lethal racist violence in the United States, within but also well beyond police systems. The litany of those whose lives have been taken grows longer and longer: George Floyd, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Dreasjon “Sean” Reed, Trayvon Martin, the Emanuel Nine — on and on.

At this moment of anger, fear, and determined hope for change, Concordia must live fully into its mission. We are a liberal arts college of the Lutheran Church, committed to influencing the affairs of our world by sending students into society thoughtful, informed, and dedicated to a Christ-like love of neighbor. In recent years, Concordia has made major commitments to increasing the diversity of its student body and to programming that fosters dialogue with those of differing cultures, faiths, and ideologies.

Now the time has come for us to do more and to pursue more vigorously those things we have begun. The time has come for Concordia to confront directly the racism that would poison the dignity, the health, and the hope of people of color — the racism that diminishes the life of all. Black lives matter. We must confront racism in the world around us, in our local communities, and on our campus. And so we begin by joining the Lutheran Church (ELCA) in condemning “the white supremacy that has led to the deaths of so many unarmed Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color in our country.”

The actions named below mark a new beginning in our work, not the end of it. Before I name those actions, I offer my thanks to those Concordia students and graduates who have written me, calling for us to step forward, and offering good ideas about what we can do together. We know we will discover more fully what must be done as we do the work itself, and so expect to see updates as we seek to create, as the college plan pledges, a world more joyful and more just.

First Actions

1. Engaging Our Students This Summer

Concordia’s Office of Diversity and Student Government Association (SGA) will host “Standing Together As One,” a virtual gathering and conversation for students and graduates in the Twin Cities from 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, and “Justice Makes Us Stronger” for all students in early July (date and time information to come). Please monitor Concordia’s multiple social media platforms for further details. These will be times to listen, to learn, and to support each other with empathy, vulnerability, resolve, compassion, and strength.

2. Confronting Bias Within Ourselves

Beginning with the president and the college cabinet, we will take part in implicit bias training. Self-knowledge and right action require that we recognize our own complicity in systems of racial injustice. This initiative will continue across our staff and faculty over the course of the 2020-21 year.

3. Changing the College Curriculum, Core, and Majors

Discovering the gift and beauty of human diversity, and learning the nature of power and privilege, must be integrated into students’ learning throughout their education at Concordia, regardless of their chosen major/career path. As faculty develop and reform curricula, they will engage students, seeking to hear from them ways we can incorporate the diversity of identity, experiences, and perspectives into our teaching and our coursework.

4. Developing Pathways for Community Action

Through the Office of Community Engagement, and in dialogue with the leaders of Moorhead, Fargo, and West Fargo, we will become a thoughtful and informed resource for equity, inclusion, and opportunity in our community. Concordia must model the work for justice that we expect our students to practice, during college and after graduation. We need to learn together how to turn research and dialogue into action for systemic change.

Further Actions for the New Academic Year

As we reconvene in the fall, expect an invitation for engagement in these endeavors:

1. Offering New Study for 2020-21

Concordia will offer a Race and Racism in Contemporary America course in the fall semester, open to all students and taught by Chief Diversity Officer Edward Antonio. We will also develop for spring a course on the topic of reparations, reconciliation, and racial healing.

2. Setting Goals and Sharing Progress for a Diverse Concordia

Concordia has invested in scholarships, partnerships, and staff positions to increase diversity in our student body. In 2020-21, we will set goals and establish dashboards to report progress on undergraduate student diversity, faculty and staff diversity, and on-time graduation for students of color.

3. Understanding the Legacy of Whiteness and the Persistence of Racial Stereotypes

The Office of Diversity will organize workshops designed to develop in us a more complete and honest understanding both of privilege and of the denial of safety, opportunity, and belonging that racial prejudice imposes.

4. Calling on the Arts

In music, and in the visual and performing arts, we will in 2020-21 examine the ways in which the arts at Concordia engage the diversity of American and world cultures — in the works they create and perform, in the students who participate, and in the audiences with whom they are engaged.

The suffering all around us, the necessity of justice, and the purpose of our college call us to act. The gifts of our students, faculty, and staff enable us to act. We will do this work with our full minds and hearts, in mission together.

William Craft