Letter to the Editor: Faculty Senate Executive Committee responds to the police murder of George Floyd

By Faculty Senate Executive Committee

Dear members of the Columbia College Chicago community:

As members of the committee that guides our Faculty Senate, we have watched with anguish rather than surprise as racist police violence has once again rippled into unrest in our college, city and national communities.

Damage to buildings and businesses where we live, work and gather is gut-wrenching to observe but, as Dr. Kim noted in his statement to the College, buildings can be restored and businesses can be brought back. What we cannot bring back are the numerous black lives that have been lost to state-protected violence.

We, the members of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate at Columbia College Chicago, stand against police brutality and state-sanctioned white supremacist terror.

We stand against the ways in which our legal and judicial systems continue, protect and support racist actions. And we stand in solidarity with the families and friends who have lost their loved ones to police violence and white supremacist terror including, most recently, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and David McAtee.

We understand that the hypervisible destruction of property pales in comparison to the everyday, often invisible, violence against black communities, communities that are also currently bearing the brunt of over three times more deaths than white communities from the COVID-19 pandemic in Chicago.

It is not lost on us that Minneapolis police suffocated George Floyd to death for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill, while the banks and bankers responsible for effectively robbing black communities of an average of $16,700 per household face no punishment.

The implications of what gets defined as violence and what does not, or what is understood as criminal and what is not, must be part of how we interpret our current circumstances.

We are committed to confronting systemic and institutional bigotry, including and especially at our own institution. The City of Chicago recently renamed Congress Parkway in honor of Ida B. Wells, who first rose to prominence in the late 1800s, titling what she documented, “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all its Phases.”

Her great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster (‘85), is part of our Columbia College faculty community, and several prominent Columbia College buildings cluster around what is now called Ida B. Wells Drive. We are convinced that this proximity should not be a historical accident nor merely a superficial connection. We must commit ourselves to continuing Wells’ fight, which is unfortunately as relevant today as it was 150 years ago.

As critical creatives, we must be committed to equity and social justice, and not only stand with but also join those who have enlisted in this anti-lynching movement of the 21st century.

Given our college’s stated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as its mission to “educate students who will communicate creatively and shape the public’s perceptions of issues and events and who will author the culture of their times,” we are charged with supporting our students as they engage in the difficult work of comprehending and combating the profoundly unequal systems in which they find themselves.

The purpose of a Columbia College Chicago education cannot be simply to prepare students to enter a cultural industry; it must prepare them to transform the culture in which that industry operates. This is what faculty must aspire to when we talk about a curriculum dedicated to meaningful and true equity.

We understand that though all of us are diminished by bigotry, not all of us in the Columbia College Chicago community experience the effects of racism in equal ways.

In the spirit of humility as well as of righteous outrage at the gross mistreatment of black people in this country, faculty who are not black and especially those who benefit from racist structures should stand ready to actively work against the continuing dehumanization of black Americans.

We have faith that the Columbia College community has the capacity to move beyond speech and into action.

As faculty and as faculty senators, we intend to be on the front lines of efforts to enact change. For instance, Faculty Senate Executive Committee member Jennifer Sadler has established a new Black Faculty @ Columbia group, accessible via Microsoft Teams, to provide our colleagues with a space to discuss issues that impact black faculty members, and will bring relevant concerns to the attention of the Faculty Senate as necessary.

As we plan for other specific antiracist actions, we welcome questions and suggestions that you can email us at Facultysenate@colum.edu. There is much work to be done.

 

Executive Committee, Faculty Senate (2020-2021)

Sean Johnson Andrews (President)

Madhurima Chakraborty

Frances Maggio

Laurence Minsky

Sharon Ross

Jennifer Sadler

Christopher Shaw