Message on Racial Justice in Today’s Climate

Created: June 1, 2020  |  Last Updated: September 16, 2020  |  Category:   |  Tagged: ,

Dear W&J Community,

I write to you today with a heavy heart after a weekend of public protests across the nation reminding us that the pandemic of racism and injustice continues to plague our society. We at W&J do not imagine that we somehow have acquired immunity to this systemic sickness, so this is a time to redouble our commitment to being a healthy college community where every individual is assured of protection, respect, inclusion, and the freedom to pursue their full human potential.

W&J’s strategic plan, adopted last October, provides a mandate to proactively prioritize actions, policies and practices enabling all to thrive. When spring semester was interrupted by our transition to online instruction, we were preparing to launch a campus-wide project with the guidance of an expert known nationally for helping create inclusive campus cultures. This week’s events confirm that this planned work is of the utmost importance. At the beginning of the fall semester, I will invite every member of our student body, faculty and staff to participate in a series of Courageous Conversations aimed at reinforcing and assuring mutual accountability for our shared expectations, commitments and values. What could be more important at a college whose mission calls us all to be people of uncommon integrity?

Today I spoke with the leaders of our Black Student Union to seek their input and thank them for their courage and candor in sharing a statement via social media over the weekend. I encourage you to take a moment to read it. I think you too will appreciate the wisdom of these W&J students in this time of great challenge.

I cannot begin to know the deep and abiding pain of America’s black community, but I believe we all must do everything in our power to overcome the deeply rooted attitudes and structures in our society that have for so long denied dignity and justice to people of color. I also believe we must not tolerate behaviors in our college community that fail to accord to each person the respect they deserve. And I believe that Washington & Jefferson College has a special responsibility for educating future leaders who are prepared to work for the common good with integrity and compassion.

Let us keep before us our motto, “Together We Thrive.” All of us.

Juncta Juvant,


John C. Knapp, Ph.D.
President and Professor