In 12 weeks, fall semester classes begin at USJ and changes are being made campus-wide to create the college experience you want while complying with official guidelines to reduce the risk of COVID-19. That would have been enough of an introductory sentence about reopening USJ before events in the last two weeks escalated the civil rights and justice movement and reminded us of our commitment to use education as a tool for understanding and action.
USJ’s Core Values are integrated into the curriculum, activities, words, and deeds of all members of our community. Since its founding by the Sisters of Mercy, the University of Saint Joseph has been committed to eliminating poverty and promoting human dignity and basic rights. USJ faculty, students, and staff actively pursue this commitment as they seek opportunities to serve others and prepare for careers that meet the needs of society.
While you and your family and friends may be engaging in activities about the changes needed to end racism now, we will continue to address race and related issues when we are back on campus in the fall. In addition to scheduled activities through the Student Government Association, Clubs, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the USJ 2020 Common Read book, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson will provide a lens for each of us to explore inequities in the United States. Stevenson’s account of his decades of work with marginalized people who have been either harshly sentenced or wrongly convicted allows readers to examine the effects of unequal treatment on individuals, families, and communities. Going beyond conversation, the University’s Common Read activities will introduce students to The Equal Justice Initiative, an organization Stevenson founded to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, challenge racial and economic injustice, and protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.
These are difficult times, and challenging discussions and national events can be emotional and unsettling. USJ’s Counseling and Wellness Center is always available to students, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is available to address any incidents of discrimination.
More information about reopening USJ and the Common Read program will be shared in the coming weeks. For now, stand as part of the USJ community as we live our Core Values and join the Sisters of Mercy “…in recognizing and dismantling institutional racism in order to become an anti-racist multicultural community.”