June 1, 2020 Having trouble viewing this message? View it in a web browser →
Fairfield University
    Office of the President    
Dear Members of the Fairfield University Community:

Over the last few weeks, I have been sharing with you thoughts about the global pandemic and our University’s response to the ongoing challenges we have faced as a learning community, as we adapt to these circumstances.

Ever mindful of our broader context, I write today to share some personal thoughts regarding the tragic deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, other instances of violence and discrimination in our society, as well as the protests and disorder that we have seen over the last few days across our nation. While I would not presume to have particular wisdom nor pretend to speak for everyone at the University, having reflected at length on events over the weekend, I want to try to contribute to a discussion regarding some of the issues that our institution must confront as we grapple with what is happening in our country right now.

What is of great dismay to me is the persistence of racial inequities and injustice in our society. At a time when the entire country is under duress, when people are angry and many are unemployed, scared, and frustrated, it is understandable the intensity of expression this injustice has brought to the fore. The right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression is of incalculable importance to our country and must be safeguarded. We must stand with those whose voices legitimately need to be heard.

It is in this context that I believe our unique role as a civic institution, and as an instrument of understanding and healing, comes into relief. At Fairfield, we have to encourage open, critical dialogue, while sharing the respect for each citizen’s rights that are the essence of a democratic society.

This is where our duty and mission remain: to teach and uphold the values of a civil democracy and to prepare our students to uphold these values wherever they go. Fairfield University must be a place where we discuss and interrogate the underlying and often unseen and unpleasant web of assumptions and prejudices detrimental to basic fairness. Where we can talk openly about what is not working and why. Where we can assess the application of our laws and assess how our civil institutions can act in a manner that is unfair and discriminatory. Where we can talk about the hurt and the anger that we feel.

I ask we do this with the reassurance that we will be heard and not attacked, insulted, or vilified. I ask that we be an environment that is radically inclusive, that is open to the voice and narrative of the other, expecting we will all engage with respect. I ask we be a place that studies how our culture truly operates, and that listens to and for the truth, no matter how unpleasant.

At the same time, we must also be – and I believe that we are – a community of instruction and formation that supports the primacy of reason and fairness, in balance with the essential love for one another that is the doorway to compassion and forgiveness. I do believe that Fairfield, as a modern, Jesuit and Catholic University, is the inheritor of an educational tradition that has always aspired to develop the capacity for reason, critical thinking, and a love of truth and justice in our students, while at the same time emphasizing the dignity and value of each and every human person. I fundamentally believe that the way out of the hurt and confusion that we are witnessing at the moment is through a renewed and emboldened willingness to stand for what is reasonable, true, and just, along with an openness for love of the other, and compassion for the suffering of our neighbors.

Institutionally, Fairfield University is committed to a love of truth, to a respect for justice and to the loving compassion for the other that is our inheritance as a Jesuit institution. We are called to be stewards to leave our world a better, more inclusive, and more humane place. We will and must pass this call on to every generation of students that comes to us for formation, and we will and must do more in the present day to ensure that we are meeting the world as it is – doing all we can to preserve and advance our nation as truly just and civilized.

With my warmest best wishes,

Mark R. Nemec
Mark R. Nemec, PhD
Professor of Politics
Fairfield University
1073 North Benson Road, Fairfield, Connecticut 06824
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