Historic and systemic racism:
A message to students

Email from SPU President Dan Martin and the Senior Leadership Team to all undergraduate and graduate students on May 31, 2020.

During this time of global crisis, the safety and well-being of Seattle Pacific University students remains paramount to the mission of this place and it is something we take seriously. This morning, as a community, we continue to grieve the ongoing assault on Black bodies and the historic and systemic racism in the United States and the Church that has given rise to recent events. At the very root of this evil is a fundamental devaluing of lives. It is the same devaluing that has fueled anti-Asian racism and xenophobia in the wake of COVID19, and it is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ which calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. While all students are negatively affected by this climate of fear and racism, we know that recent acts of racial trauma and violence are having a disproportionate and deleterious impact on students of color.

The University’s leadership wants to make clear that we denounce any acts of bias, discrimination, harassment, and hate and stand ready to listen and respond to the needs of students within the SPU community. As mentioned in yesterday’s campus message, there will be a series of Zoom sessions for members of the campus community to process recent events, seek support, and identify solutions moving forward. Members of the leadership team will also provide additional space for students of color to voice their concerns.

We are listening and will continue to do so.

We are aware that students of color want a safe and effective system for reporting incidents that create a hostile educational and living environment. The University believes this is important and is committed to continuing to improve its policies and procedures to be responsive to the needs of the campus. Earlier this year, the University engaged an external consultant to conduct a thorough review of SPU’s policies and practices for addressing complaints by faculty and staff of discrimination, harassment, and unprofessional conduct, and the University plans to make revisions to both its student and employee policies based on feedback from the consultants and from community members.

As improvements are made, please know that there is currently a process in place for students to report bias-related incidents, which include “any physical, spoken, visual, or written acts of abuse, harassment, intimidation, or vulgarity, or remarks of a personally destructive nature toward another person because of actual or perceived defining characteristics.” If you are seeking support, advocacy, or remedy for a bias-related incident, we encourage you to make a report to one of the designated report receivers:

  • Dr. Jeff Jordan, Vice President for Student Life: (206) 281-2481; jordaj2@spu.edu; on campus: Room 209 Student Union Building; by mail - Seattle Pacific University, 3307 Third Avenue West, Suite 212, Seattle, WA 98119
  • Dr. Sandra Mayo, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: (206) 281-2191; mayos@spu.edu; on campus – Demaray Hall 253; by mail – Seattle Pacific University, 3307 Third Avenue West, Suite 104, Seattle, WA 98119
  • Rev. Lisa Ishihara, University Chaplain: (206) 281-2458; chaplainlisa@spu.edu; on campus: Room 200 Student Union Building; by mail - Seattle Pacific University, 3307 Third Avenue West, Suite 207, Seattle, WA 98119

Yet, we know that a bias reporting system alone will not cultivate the kind of community that affirms and upholds the dignity of all students. Work remains in areas of curricular development and classroom pedagogy, co-curricular programming and resources, and ensuring that students of color have adequate representation in SPU’s faculty and staff.  This is ongoing and long-term work that requires the efforts of faculty, staff, and administration – working at an individual, departmental, and institutional level to identify and alleviate deeply rooted institutional biases. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion continues to focus its efforts on providing resources for all faculty and staff to develop diversity competencies; creating diversity action plans that lead to change at the department and universitywide level; and establishing hiring processes that mitigate bias and contribute to a more diverse workforce at SPU.

In this time, when things seem more disruptive than ever, when the campus community remains physically distanced and less able to engage each other’s stories, we have an opportunity and responsibility to create new pathways for cultivating deep listening and bringing healing and repair. We believe in our capacity to do so, and take responsibility to ensure that we become better than ever.

As a leadership team, we remain committed to taking active steps toward change.

Daniel Martin, President
Bruce Congdon, Interim Provost
Louise Furrow, Vice President for University Advancement
Jeffrey Jordan, Vice President for Student Life
Craig Kispert, Vice President for Finance and Business Affairs
Sandra Mayo, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Nate Mouttet, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing

Posted: Sunday, May 31, 2020