As we move forward to the start of next semester, I want to thank you once again for the dedication you have shown to Iona and our students in responding to the COVID pandemic. You may have seen that the pandemic has caused several of our neighboring schools to face budget shortfalls ranging from $10 million to $55 million. These shortfalls are forcing schools to lay off hundreds of workers. While our budget is under pressure for the coming year, we are not facing layoffs. This is in large part due to the effort of everyone on campus. We will need to sustain this effort in order to maintain our fiscal health.
In addition to the COVID pandemic, the past few weeks have shone a bright light on another pandemic that has plagued our nation for centuries: racism. Recent instances of racial injustice and brutality have led to protests throughout our country and around the world. These events have forced all of us to examine our role in the perpetuation of racism and the structures that enable it. In numerous conversations with members of our community, it has become clear to me that Iona is not immune from this pandemic, and that we must address it with the same determination we have brought to the battle against COVID. As with our response to COVID, we will get ahead of the problem only through an intentional, community-wide effort. We will address our shortcomings in both the short and the long term.
Slavery is this country’s original sin, and racism our chronic disease. Iona was founded to empower students to live a healthy and full life through education, to lift up the marginalized, to pursue truth and promote justice. We cannot fulfill that mission if we do not work at living it.
This Friday is June 19, or Juneteenth, so called to commemorate the day slavery effectively ended, in Texas, in 1865, two years after the conclusion of the Civil War. This year at Iona, I am declaring it a holiday. I do this to acknowledge the tremendous effort you are making to get ready for the fall semester. More importantly, I ask those of you who are not subject to daily acts of implicit and explicit racism to use the day to reflect on what it must feel like to endure those acts and the structures that enable them day after day, week after week — at work, in the store, at school.
This Friday, please take some time to consider how you will contribute to helping the Iona mission manifest in new and essential ways to combat the chronic disease of racism.
Thank you again for all you do.