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Read the following message from CEO, Wes Hickman, and President of the Alumni Association Board of Governors, Robert Dozier.
Dear Gamecock Alumni,
We are a nation and a family in turmoil. As we continue to struggle with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, our hearts now ache with the brutal and needless killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless others, past and present. We pray for their families, friends and communities that they might find peace in the face of tragedy.
We are a nation of unrest. Confusion, angst, frustration and anger grow as we once again grapple with the reality that racism still persists in the United States. Racism by its very nature is cruel. We stand in solidarity with those, particularly African Americans, who seek to call it by name and bring about change.
As Gamecocks, we recognize those words as the English translation of our university motto. Over the past few days, we’ve thought a lot about our motto. We believe it tells us that the fundamental purpose of education is to make oneself a better human being. For us, that pursuit of self-improvement rises above all others including the discovery and dissemination of knowledge, the memories made outside of the classroom and, yes, even the preparation for a career. As we’ve reflected on our motto, we’ve questioned if we have really embraced the meaning of it and whether we have the courage to truly do so. It seems that inherent in the charge of our motto is to spread its ideal throughout our society. How can we claim our character is humanized if we allow cruelty in the form of racism to persist around us? How can we respond, stand in solidarity, serve as an ally and lend our voice to those who are oppressed?
The truth is that we don’t yet fully know. We cannot relate to the suffering and racism experienced by people of color every day in this country. We are both white and absolutely products of that privilege. We are keenly aware that we have had more advantages than most, in education, opportunity and security, among others. To be fair, we don’t discount the hard work put in to capitalize on these advantages, but they are real and they are significant.
So, to further understand the fight for justice we’ve concluded, with advice from several friends closer to the struggle, that we must first listen more, learn more, offer our support and then act.
We are thankful for and value the leadership of the Association’s Black Alumni Council. We encourage everyone to read their statement, hear their voice and stand united in their call for action, support and solidarity. Please also read the statement from University President Bob Caslen and Interim Chief Diversity Officer Tracy Weldon in which they call on us to demand justice, peace and love. Hear also the voices of those around you and those calling for justice in your local communities.
As Gamecocks, we believe that learning humanizes character, so let’s embrace it. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves about race and injustice. There is no shortage of scholarly works, articles, books and opinion pieces. Seek them out and be prepared for the discomfort that knowledge may bring. The discomfort will inculcate empathy and the knowledge will help define our action.
For our part, the Alumni Association stands ready to serve, to promote listening and learning and to create opportunities for civil discourse and the free exchange of ideas on how we address racism on our campus, in the Columbia community, throughout South Carolina and across the country. Furthermore, we believe we can promote greater diversity and inclusion at the university by expanding our student scholarship program. Finally, we can be proactive in promoting diversity within our staff, leadership and volunteer base. As an immediate first step, we are creating a task force to review Association programming and policies, university engagement and partnership opportunities and make a recommendation on a holistic diversity, equity and inclusion strategy. All of these are long-term commitments and we look forward to working with our Board, staff and affiliate groups to make them a reality.
We will close with a few beliefs that we share. Black lives matter. Saying so does not diminish the values of others’ lives but is a conscious recognition that black lives are threatened by violence and systemic racism. Racism exists in this country, as does privilege. We easily recognize the acute demonstrations but it is harder to see the historic and systemic societal structures that enable their continued existence. Real change will take honest and painful conversations, uncomfortable learning, a willingness to rethink our society and, perhaps most importantly, courage. As Gamecocks, our motto and our Carolinian Creed obligate us to be better, so we invite you to join the Alumni Association as we seek to be part of the solution.
Forever to Thee,
Chief Executive Officer
UofSC Alumni Association
President, Board of Governors
UofSC Alumni Association