Community Message from President Perkins
New England College leads by example with a movement that celebrates diversity, overcomes inequality, and promotes the greatest antidote to racism – education.
Community Message from President Perkins (5/31/20)
Dear NEC Community,
I am writing today to share some thoughts on what is taking place across the country in response to the death of George Floyd. I am also writing to issue a call to action for all members of our community, including students, staff, faculty, alumni, and all of the many supporters of New England College. Like you, I have seen the images of a black man robbed of his life at the hands of a law enforcement officer. As a citizen, I am outraged that these encounters, that lead to the harm or death of so many men and women of color, particularly black people, continue to be so common in our lives. As a mother, I am heartbroken to think of this young man’s family having to deal with the grief that accompanies such a loss. And as an educator, I am determined that we will begin here on our campuses in Henniker and Manchester to lead by example with a movement that celebrates diversity, overcomes inequality, and promotes the greatest antidote to racism – education. We can do more. We must do more. We will do more.
The violence across our country that has followed Mr. Floyd’s death is troubling. I certainly do not condone such lawlessness which has destroyed property, injured countless Americans, and led to an assault on police officers. Burning, looting, and vandalizing the communities we all so desperately want to support is not the answer. Still, I understand the frustration and the anger. Ta-Nehisi Coates, a well-known African American author, has written, “Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.” Mr. Coates is quite right in his statement. The context of the African American experience is unique and different from that of so many others. The source of their anger and frustration is well known and articulated by Mr. Coates. We must come to understand this experience not as a history lesson but as part of our everyday lives. We can do more as a nation. We will do more in our college community.
The way forward for our country and for our New England College community is clear. We must work to understand the history and experience of ALL Americans and not just a privileged few. We must work to teach and learn more about the psychology, history, and social science associated with institutionalized racism, prejudice, and discrimination. We must work to live lives dedicated to social justice and promoting access to the American promise for all who call this country and our campus home. We can do this. We will do this.
Tomorrow, I will call upon my Senior Team to collaborate with our Offices of Diversity and Inclusion, Student Engagement, Academic Affairs, and the Student Senate to establish a Task Force to develop a commitment to realize America’s promise for all members of our community. My charge to this group is to develop programming, partnerships, and community gatherings for the coming year that focus on diversity, social justice, and activism. The efforts associated with this Task Force’s work will involve all members of our community and will take time. But, there is more that can be done immediately.
First, if we want to see change in our country, our states, and our communities, such change begins at the ballot box. I strongly encourage the members of our community to register and cast their vote wherever they call home. Our college’s commitment to civic engagement includes making the resources available so all community members know how and where to register along with the correct ways to vote absentee if appropriate.
Second, we will increase our support for community organizations whose focus is service to individuals who experience racism, prejudice, and discrimination. Developing partnerships that promote programming on campus, create volunteer opportunities at partner sites, and allow us to extend our educational mission to current and future students whose access to education is not guaranteed are among the ideas I am committed to develop further.
Third, I will be personally reaching out to our local and state elected officials to strongly encourage that we do more with them to help end racism in the communities they represent. I invite you to do the same and we will support your efforts if you choose to do so.
I know the greatest antidote to racism and ignorance is education. As Nelson Mandela so aptly said, “No-one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn hate, they can be taught love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
As responsible and engaged citizens, it is our duty to speak out against injustice wherever we see it. But, words are not enough. We must do more. There is a great deal of work ahead of us. I am committed to this work. I invite you to join me. There is little more important than taking a stand for justice in our world today.
Dr. Michele Perkins, President
New England College