ANOTHER TRINITY IS POSSIBLE
Letter from Some Trinity Faculty.
We, Trinity College faculty members, stand with you – our student scholar activists. We are inspired by the acts of students from the University of Missouri to Yale University, and of course by you – our students. Your acts are important and they are part of a long history of student movements for justice. Trinity has been the site of frequent acts of micro-aggressions and macro-discrimination. It has also been the site of past transformation. We, the undersigned, believe another Trinity is possible.
The US Department of Education mandates that colleges – such as Trinity – must provide students with a “nondiscriminatory educational environment.” We concur. But has Trinity College done so? We believe it has not.
The recent student protests, the walkout, and many vibrant discussions about the hostile environment on Trinity’s campus are not new. For decades, our students – Black, Latino, Asian, Arab, GLBTQI, women, and others who feel marginalized – have made similar complaints. Over the years we have seen our students endure far too many hateful acts of aggression: a swastika drawn on campus; the n-word spray painted on the tennis court; an internet post that revealed a student’s sexuality and then authorized death threats against him; racist and homophobic slurs smeared in human feces on the dorm room door of a gay Latino student; students at Halloween parties dressed in blackface or in other racist clichés; and the daily sexual violence and racist assaults on our students that go unreported or become silently internalized. Students and staff experience the accumulation of such humiliations. Such incidents make this campus an unsafe environment in which to teach and learn. We understand the anger of students; we feel it too.
How has the administration reacted to these incidents in the past? The college has offered band-aid solutions to individual acts of racism, sexism, or homophobia – a town hall meeting here, a new policy there. Committees have been formed, recommendations generated, and reports buried. There was the 1998 Critical Issues Team Diversity Report. There was the 2007 Charter Climate Report. There was the formation of the Charter Climate Council. All with good intentions. All with limited results. Despite past “solutions,” the hostile environment has been left intact, unaffected by the reports and the recommendations. The college has failed to commit itself to systematic change. For the safety and sanity of our students, the administration – including the Trustees – can and must do better.
We stand with the protesting students at Trinity as well as those who have not yet found their voice to protest. We understand what angers you. We hear your individual stories. We empathize deeply with your frustration, sadness, anger, and confusion. We believe that these micro-aggressions must be understood in a broader context of macro-discrimination. This is not merely about you and your safety. This is about a system and its failure to forge a universal social contract with everyone. This letter is not about retention – preventing you from transferring elsewhere – or assimilation – making you forget who you are and what you believe in. This is ultimately about the transformation of the culture of an institution and society. We believe change is possible – that another Trinity is possible – but only if we are willing to face what is destroying us.
Student protestors at Trinity and across the country have been accused of infringing on the freedom of speech of others. This is an old political tactic to shut down uncomfortable discussions. As UCONN Professor Jelani Cobb wrote recently in the New Yorker, “The freedom to offend the powerful is not equivalent to the freedom to bully the relatively disempowered…the natural limits of one’s liberty lie at the precise point at which it begins to impose upon the liberty of another.” The practice of free speech does not remove our collective responsibility to respect the dignity of others. No institution of higher learning can support, protect, or forgive hateful or discriminatory practices. We are better. We can all be better. Perhaps it is time for us to have some uncomfortable discussions.
We need to be able to listen to one another. We should not be unkind to those who are trying to make our society a better place. We remember how every agent of social change in the past has been disparaged. But, when their change becomes our reality, those who have been humiliated are held up as role models. Such histories should give us all strength.
Ours is a letter of support. It is also a note to the Trustees and to the administration that serve on their behalf. We believe that the college needs to chart out an agenda for justice. Parts of that agenda are already in motion – bringing in a more widely diverse student body with substantial endowment support, ensuring the creation of a more diverse faculty body, making efforts to retain diverse staff and faculty, enriching the social life of campus so that there are a multiplicity of spaces for social interaction, protecting all workers throughout the campus, etc. We are here, standing with the students, ready to build a new culture that breathes in new life. Another Trinity is possible. We stand with you and look forward to realizing it.
Andrea Dyrness James Prakash Younger Reo Matsuzaki
Anida Yoeu Ali Jane Nadel-Klein Robert Corber
Anne Lambright Janet Bauer Scott Gac
Barbara Karger Jeffrey Bayliss Serena Laws
Bishop John Selders Johnny E. Williams Seth Markle
Ciaran Berry Joshua King Shafqat Hussain
Christina Heatherton Lida Maxwell Stefanie Chambers
Davarian Baldwin Linda Tabar Stephen Valocchi
Dina Anselmi Maurice Wade Tanetta Andersson
Donna Dale Marcano Michael Preston Vijay Prashad
Gail Woldu Pablo Delano Xiangming Chen
Hebe Guardiola-Diaz Prabhakar Venkateswaran Zayde Antrim
Isaac Kamola Raymond Baker