The following comments were delivered by President David Fithian at the May 25, 2021, ceremony celebrating the recent graduates of the Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program.
I am very pleased to be part of today’s event. You are the fourth graduating class of the Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program, and I’m incredibly honored to help celebrate this accomplishment with you. I know that you have been engaging in vital and honest conversations about how we can become a more just and equitable institution, and you’ve explored the tangible ways that you will be essential to this effort. The earning of this certificate is not a pat on the back. Rather it’s a pledge to continue doing the necessary and hard work of translating our values into action, especially in support of our community members of color, every day, and in every area of our University.
We are participating in this ceremony on a sadly appropriate day. A year ago today, George Floyd was murdered beneath the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in full public view while pleading simply to be allowed to breathe. This brutal and unforgiving act rightly forced us to acknowledge and confront once again the systemic racism that infects this nation and warps the structures of power and privilege so that they benefit only the few.
The extended tragedy of George Floyd’s death is that it was no isolated incident. People of color continue to be undercut by violent acts and racist policies that cost them their lives and rob them of their agency. As we gather here, state legislatures across the country are passing onerous laws aimed squarely at restricting the voting rights of people of color and ultimately silencing their voices in the political, social, and economic arenas.
At Clark, we are listening to the voices that urge us to do better. While we’ve been working toward better serving and supporting all Clark community members, we still have more to do. Many of our students have told us forthrightly that our efforts have not been as effective as we would want and they challenge us to be an institution whose actions more intentionally reflect the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion that we espouse. The students are right to ask us to meet our own high expectations and fulfill our expressed commitment to be a university that prioritizes inclusive excellence, equity, justice, and belonging.
Your partnership with Clark fills me with the confidence and optimism that we will successfully achieve these ends together. This graduation ceremony is especially meaningful given the gravity of the moment and the reach of our aspirations, and I congratulate and thank you for contributing your talents, your compassion, and your commitment. I look forward to working with you.
David Fithian ’87