By President Yves Salomon-Fernández
The recent horrific events in Louisville and Pittsburgh shook our campus, our communities, and our nation. The educators at Greenfield Community College mourn the victims of Tree of Life, share the grief of family members who lost their loves ones, and call for the humanity in each of us to prevail. No one deserves to die in a place of worship, in a synagogue, in a church, a temple, or in a mosque. These are not war zones. No one deserves to be attacked because of their race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or simply because of who they are. The senseless violence, vitriolic language, and divisive rhetoric is Un-American. At GCC, we will respond to these growing expressions of hate with love, discourse, and understanding.
As an adult, I carry with me the images of political violence I witnessed as a child growing up in Haiti. I carry the memories of scrambling for safety and shelter as gunshots rang in the air. As a naturalized American, these are not images that I associate with my country. The image of a car running down people in Charlottesville, killing a young woman and injuring dozens is terrorizing. We must do better.
We are a democracy. We lead with our first amendment and with civility. One of the purposes of education and higher education, specifically, is to develop the skills to better understand each other, our espoused values, our differences, and to learn how to navigate conflict. We want to assure our students and our communities that no matter your political affiliation, your gender, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability, and any other unique characteristics, that at GCC, we embrace your difference. We aim to model the values that we espouse when it comes to respecting human dignity and human life. We will not always share the same views, but we can agree that, when we differ, we will do so with respect. As our motto says: You Belong Here.
Over the course of this academic year, we will be holding a series of community conversations about difference, inclusion, and leadership. We invite the entire Pioneer Valley and beyond to engage and lead with us as we aim to model what it means to be American. In addition to preparing students for expertise in their disciplines, for citizenship, and for stewardship of our natural resources, we will prepare them for leadership. What our country needs most is for each of us to lead, no matter the space we functionally occupy within the hierarchy of our institutions. Regardless of status or position within our communities, we each can lead.
You Belong Here at GCC. And we welcome you.
Yves Salomon-Fernández is President of Greenfield Community College. You can follow her on Twitter @PrezYves.