Dear Maritime College Community,
As a public university and institution of higher education, we must make every effort to achieve a community that is anchored in respect, civility, and compassion – core values critical to the makeup of Maritime College. While the free exchange of ideas is encouraged at Maritime College, it is important to note that hate speech tears apart the substance of our College identity and deeply harms every member of our campus community. We strongly condemn all forms of racism, racist behavior and bias. We know that our strength as a college stems from our remarkable diversity, and that only through meaningful inclusion can the transformative power of our diversity be activated.
During his time as U.S. President, Harry S. Truman underwent a personal transformation when he desegregated the U.S. armed forces on July 26, 1948. His executive order stated, “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.” He also signed an executive order to desegregate the federal workforce on that same day. This was monumental for a former military captain who supported segregation when he was elected president. Despite personal views formed during his upbringing in once pro-slavery Missouri, Truman understood that in order to defeat a common enemy the military could not be a house divided. It would need to harness and promote the best talent, regardless of race or color. Although our campus is not immune to the broader fractures facing society today, and we know that on some days we will fall short of our goal, our community response to all forms of racism is notably as important as President Truman’s. Our response should reflect dignity, civility and a collective resolve to make Maritime College a place where everyone is welcome and included.
Through thoughtful examination, I propose the following framework, which I hope will LEAD to systemic changes we would like to see at Maritime College to ensure it is a place where each person is valued.
First, we must listen. We must listen to each other with open minds. We must listen with an attitude of mutual respect. We must learn to listen with an intent of understanding not only the words, but what is behind the words.
Every individual who makes up the fabric of the Maritime College community holds their own unique perspective and experience. The goal of listening is to hear the voices of those who have been silenced including our students of color, LGBTQ+, immigrants, first generation students, etc. We must take the time to understand these various experiences and perspectives if we are to recognize the value held by each member of the College community.
We aim to listen by holding a wide variety of listening forums for faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
Education is a continuous process and Maritime College supports the ongoing pursuit of knowledge as an academic institution. The new Provost and I will work with Academic Departments to infuse topics on race, diversity, structural inequity, and multi-cultural awareness across the curriculum. We will review the LEAD 101 curriculum to begin the discussion around these topics, and look for follow-on courses later in the curriculum to re-visit them. We must examine changes to our non-academic programming as well as the curriculum.
While freedom of speech is protected, it is not without consequences to individuals and institutions. Hateful and offensive speech does not align with our core values and is destructive to the very fabric of our community. Freedom of expression and the potential outcomes of free speech is a topic we need to further discuss as a campus community.
As such, the College will require those who harm the inclusive climate of the campus to repair the damage with the adoption of a restorative justice program. Restorative justice is a system that focuses on reconciliation with victims and the community rather than focusing on punishment. The program will be comprised of students, faculty, administrators, and staff who voluntarily serve to provide direct support to any individual impacted by prejudice-based aggression. This may include providing assistance with reporting bias, guidance through the investigative process, and access to safety and support resources. When appropriate, it may also include facilitating restorative conversations between affected parties to promote healing and learning outcomes.
Our differences are what make us unique and valuable. On a regular basis, we will provide Anti-Bias education and training to the College community to better understand our differences and challenge stereotypes and other forms of discrimination.
We will conduct annual training for all faculty, staff, and students on the reporting of harassment, bullying, and bias. The training will include the different mechanisms by which to report, what happens to a report, and what happens after a report.
We must truly treat each other as members of a common community including those who come from races, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation and other protected categories and religious beliefs different from our own.
I will establish a Campus Climate Task Force that will identify actions that must be taken to improve the climate and culture at Maritime College. This Task Force will include faculty, staff, and student representation from across the College, and will seek input from alumni and industry.
We must be deliberate in our actions regarding diversity and inclusion. While diversity enhances our campus climate, inclusion activates diversity and allows our campus climate to reach its full potential. Responsibility for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion does not reside solely in one office. Rather, it rests across all aspects of our campus. We will ensure accountability at all levels. Campus administrators, faculty, and staff must all demonstrate they are advancing equity and diversity, eliminating bias, and ensuring an inclusive campus climate.
We will review and revise, if necessary, all College policies and procedures for consistency and alignment with College’s Core values, as well as SUNY policy and State law.
We will conduct a comprehensive review of the Regiment, including INDOC. This review will include input from external reviewers.
We will provide support to those who were subjected to harassment, bullying, and bias.
There should be multiple venues for the College community to discuss the issues of diversity, race, and social-economic equality.
People should be able to express their opinions in a respectful and civil manner, and others should similarly respect the opinions they express.
We need to continually discuss the status of systemic change at Maritime College. Are we making progress in creating an inclusive climate and culture? Where are we falling short? What additional actions need to be taken?
This is a continuous and cyclical process that requires us all to be active participants in a critical time in history. It is an important first step in a journey towards enacting change through discussing, listening, further educating ourselves, and additional actions that will result in a respectful, inclusive, and compassionate community.
I invite you to join me in this endeavor.
RADM Michael Alfultis, USMS, Ph.D.