In Solidarity: Faculty and Staff Letter to Students

Dear K College Students,

The pandemic of novel coronavirus has reshaped our world and transformed our institution in profound ways. Over the last few weeks as we pivoted sharply to take our classes online, we have seen the painful and unequal impact of the virus-related changes and restrictions on our most vulnerable students. We have witnessed how disparities in access to technology and internet service affect student learning. We have also witnessed the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Brown, Latinx, and immigrant communities in Kalamazoo and across the nation. We know that many of our community members have lost loved ones and are grieving them now. The pain of losing relatives and coping with the death of over a hundred thousand people in a few short weeks has been exacerbated by our inability to mourn them together and by the knowledge that many of these deaths were preventable. Our pain and frustration have been compounded by the violent murder of unarmed Black people by white racists.

The lynching of Ahmaud Arbery for being Black while running, the shooting of nursing student Breonna Taylor by police as she slept in her bed, the killing of Black trans man Tony McDade by Florida police, and the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police have shaken us to our very core. The incident in New York’s Central Park involving false allegations made by a white woman named Amy Cooper against a Black birdwatcher has also been a chilling reminder of how Black and Brown folks are harmed by large and small daily acts of white entitlement, untruthfulness, and aggression. We cannot go on without acknowledging how this violence affects us as people and as members of the Kalamazoo College community committed to social justice. We stand in solidarity with protesters in the US and around the world calling for an end to the murder of Black people by police, and for abolition, decolonization, and Black liberation now.

Beyond the discourse of institutional diversity as an asset, we want to strive together to create a different reality in which our Black, Brown, trans, queer, and gender non-conforming community members’ lives are valued, cherished, and protected. How do we move forward in light of these new realities? We need historical perspective to help us discern the crossroads where we stand—a place of both convergence and disjuncture. We need to learn from and mobilize forms of historical memory and anti-racist coalitional work now more than ever.

We need to move forward together. During the past week, we have heard from you: in emails, in video conferences, in phone calls, in SMS texts, in posts on the K-College Facebook site, and ongoing informal and formal correspondence.

To Black students, we have heard your anger at what is happening on campus, of the wearying effort to just be heard during this term and your years at K. Beyond Kalamazoo, we have heard you tell of what is happening outside your doors and in your communities. We have heard your righteous anger and justified fear. We have smelled the smoke of fires burning outside your doors and heard the sounds of sirens, not from the news or Facebook or Instagram, but from your own lives and your own witnessing. We have seen parents and siblings walk in and out of your screens and so felt the immediate presence of those you love and who love you, and who make it possible for you to be part of the K College community. And, for some, the turmoil and anger mixes with the grief of family members, friends, or neighbors who have lost loved ones or feared the loss of a parent, grandparent, relative, or friend who contracted COVID-19.

To non-Black students of color, we have witnessed you engage in acts of solidarity and moral courage. We have learned of you providing transportation and aid to protesters and filming protests. We know you have been challenging anti-blackness within your own communities. We have heard you tell us of how you have reached out to friends and fellow students who absorbed in traumatic and inexpressible ways the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery. And you have told us of your own experiences, when you felt able and heard, of what it means to walk in a Brown body on our campus and in the streets.

To white students, we have heard your own struggles with negotiating the pandemic and the violence perpetrated upon George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and others. Albeit in very different ways, these struggles also exist within your own communities, and, in painful ways, among friends and family members. We are hearing you give language to systemic racism. We are learning of difficult family conversations. We are reading emails reaching out to us in support of students of color, especially Black students navigating the impact of the past week (and weeks).

To first-generation students, for those who have had to work many hours to help their families, or struggled to find secure housing, we have watched the burden and your response to it unfold during the past weeks. We have witnessed your struggles with housing and food insecurity. We have also seen folks risk the vulnerability of speaking, loving, and standing in solidarity.

At the end of this long academic year, everyone is carrying the added burden of the lockdown, quarantines, illnesses, family health concerns, curfews, and this next cycle of social unrest. All of us are suffering, but especially Black students, faculty, and staff. We must collectively recognize the impact of these events on our community members’ well-being.

As we acknowledge that we are differently positioned within the institution and in the world, we can work together by prioritizing Black, indigenous, queer, trans, and people of color leadership within this historically predominantly white institution. Attempting to think from and with the point of view of the most marginalized among us will help us overcome some of the enduring inequalities that limit the free enjoyment of our learning community by all.

We understand that completing academic assignments may be very difficult, even impossible for some, especially for students who are being and have been affected by systematic racism and violence. The quarter’s Credit/No Credit grading format provides flexibility to professors to extend grace, accommodations, and alternative projects to satisfy requirements for passing a class. It invites, too, a framework for faculty to use remaining time and assignments as tools for timely critical reflection, taking stock of what is truly necessary at this point. We can alter expectations without lowering standards.

We wish to encourage faculty to adjust expectations for final work, including canceling exams or making assignments optional wherever possible. This is a time when we need to make peace with doing enough instead of doing the usual and students just need to do enough to pass.

At the end of his address, “In Search of a Majority,” delivered to students, faculty, and staff at Kalamazoo College in November of 1960, James Baldwin said: “Whether I like it or not, or whether you like it or not, we are bound together forever. We are part of each other. What is happening to every [Black person] in the country at any time is also happening to you. There is no way around this. I am suggesting that these walls—these artificial walls—which have been up so long to protect us from something we fear, must come down.” Let’s dismantle these walls together.

Lux Esto,

The Undersigned Members of the Faculty and Staff

1. Adriana Garriga-López

2. Bruce Mills

3. Kyla Day

4. Rochelle Rojas

5. Santiago Salinas

6. Eric Nordmoe

7. Katie MacLean

8. Alyce Brady

9. Candace B. Combs

10. Blakely Tresca

11. Brittany Liu

12. Mark Murphy

13. Anne Marie Butler

14. Charles Stull

15. Francisco J. Villegas

16. Leslie Burke

17. Jennifer Einspahr

18. Francesca Gandini

19. Beau Bothwell

20. Kelly Frost

21. Isabela Agosa

22. Sarah Lindley

23. Jennifer Perry

24. Christine Hahn

25. Regina Stevens-Truss

26. Jennifer Langeland

27. Katerina Stefatos

28. Dennis Frost

29. Sally Read

30. Nayda Collazo-Llorens

31. Bryan Goyings

32. Michael Powers

33. Amy Smith

34. Christina Carroll

35. Richard Koenig

36. Larissa Dugas

37. Jessica Stachowski

38. Hafiz Nauman Akbar

39. Binney Girdler

40. Patrik Hultberg

41. Kathryn Sederberg

42. Justin Berry

43. Dimitrios Papadopoulos

44. Oliver Baez Bendorf

45. Darshana Udayanganie

46. Joshua Hartman

47. Jessica R. Smith

48. Andrew Koehler

49. Taylor Petrey

50. Amelia Katanski

51. Sandino N. Vargas Perez

52. Shanna Salinas

53. Tom Rice

54. Cynthia Carosella

55. Babli Sinha

56. Pam Cutter

57. Tyler Walker

58. Aman Luthra

59. Elizabeth Manwell

60. Timothy Conrad

61. Siu-Lan Tan

62. Ivett Lopez Malagamba

63. Josh Moon

64. Jennifer Furchak

65. Andreea Prundeanu

66. Stacy Nowicki

67. Maria Romero-Eshuis

68. Kelli Duimstra

69. Ethan Cutler

70. James E. Lewis, Jr.

71. John Dugas

72. Graham Chamness

73. Blaine Moore

74. Charlene Boyer-Lewis

75. Daniel Kim

76. Eric Barth

77. James Zorbo

78. Tom Askew

79. Max Cherem

80. Andrew Mozina

81. Lisa Murphy

82. Lisa Brock

83. Robert Batsell

84. Hannah Apps

85. Shannon Dion

86. Aurelie Chatton

87. David Wilson

88. Jan Tobochnik

89. Gary Gregg

90. Alison Geist

91. Ren Berthel

92. Mark McDonald

93. Tom Evans

94. Lanny Potts

95. Arthur Cole

96. Joanna Steinhauser

97. Karyn Boatwright

98. Mikela Zhezha-Thaumanavar

99. Marin Heinritz

100. Masanori Shiomi

101. Michael Wollenberg

102. Chris Ludwa

103. Will Georgic

104. Michael Ott

105. Peter Erdi

106. “C” Heaps

107. Menelik Geremew

108. Ryan Fong

109. Amy MacMillan

110. Michael T. Walsh

111. Robin Rank

112. Lars Enden

113. Lori Sands

114. Mitch Wilson

115. R. Amy Elman

116. Jim Langeland

117. Anne Haeckl

118. Jan Solberg

119. Christopher Latiolais

120. Autumn Hostetter

121. Kiran Cunningham

122. Tim Shannon

123. Stephen Oloo

124. Anne Haeckl

125. Duong Nguyen

126. Susan Lawrence

127. Alyssa J. Maldonado-Estrada

128. Sara Tanis

129. Amy Newday

130. Carol Anderson

131. Leihua Weng

132. Rachel Wood

133. Laura Livingstone-McNellis

134. Andy Brown

135. Sarah Frink

136. Jory Horner

137. Ann Jenks

138. Audrey Bitzer

139. Kim Aldrich

140. Kerri Barker

141. Christy Honsberger

142. Renee Boelcke

143. Katherine King

144. Melanie Williams

145. Jane Hoinville

146. Sara Stockwood

147. Kierna Brown

148. Derek Mann

149. Haley Mangette

150. Jessica Fowle

151. Joisan Decker DeHaan

152. Hillary Berry

153. Dana Jansma

154. Lesley Clinard

155. Abbie Dahl

156. Shannon Milan

157. Angela Batts

158. Lynsey VanSweden

159. Louise Tennant-Filkins

160. Jessica Fowle

161. Margaret Wiedenhoeft

162. Sarah Matyczyn

163. Jason Kraushaar

164. Deia Sportel

165. Jay Daniels

166. Nicole Kragt

167. Wendy Fleckenstein

168. Jackie Srodes

169. Angela Erdman

170. Jon Reeves

171. Kendra Leep

172. Matthew Brosco

173. Jess Port

174. Claire O’Brien

175. Yit-Yian Lua

176. Laurel Palmer

177. Kelly Kribs

178. Tapiwa Chikungwa

179. Jonathon Collier

180. Roderick Malcolm

181. Kathryn Lightcap

182. Regina Stevens-Truss

183. Cindy Cavanagh

184. Kelly Esper

185. Nicholas Wilson

186. Brenda Westra

187. Andy Miller

188. Tom Wilson

189. Alexandra Altman

190. Joshua Lull

191. Shelby Long

192. Debbie Thompson

193. Jeff Bartz

194. Sandy Dugal

195. Kathie Yeckley

196. Elizabeth Lindau

197. Betsy Paulson

198. Deb Annen-Caruso

199. Debbie Ball

200. Tony Nelson

201. Andrew Grayson

202. Marcie Weathers

203. Susan Lindemann

204. Sarah Gillig

205. Jenn Williams

206. Erika Perry

207. Kate Yancho

208. Chris Buckhold

209. Kristen Eldred

210. Lizbeth Mendoza Pineda

211. Teresa Denton

212. Jennifer DiGiuseppe

213. Peter Zillmann

214. Becky Hall

215. Nichole Real

216. Carolyn Zinn

217. Steve Lewis

218. Mike Maxson

219. Kathleen White

220. Mallory Heslinger

221. Katrina Naoko Frank

222. Valerie Miller

223. Jim VanSweden

224. Stephanie Robison

225. Margie Stinson

226. Rick Amundson

227. Anne Engh

228. Paige Oudsema

229. Danielle Turner

230. Katie Miller

231. Lauren McMullan

232. Jennifer Combes

233. Andrew Stone

234. Ryan Orr

235. Moises Hernandez

236. Aaron Rice 

237. Darshana Udayanganie

238. Jen Bailey

239. Maureen Yanik

240. Jennie Hill