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Monday, June 1, 2020 - 3:15pm

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

In a season of celebration, I am full of grief. I should be celebrating another graduation season at Mercy College. More than three thousand students graduated a few weeks ago. Because Mercy is the largest private, nonprofit, minority-serving college in New York, most of those graduates were students of color, many of them black. The majority, even with the resources of family and community, came from low income backgrounds, without some of the material benefits available to more affluent students. And yet they prevailed, against the odds, in earning a college degree. They prevailed even though their last semester saw them add to their challenges the COVID-19 pandemic, and its forced transition out of classrooms into a new and unfamiliar online environment. Mercy College, like most other colleges, couldn’t even celebrate their accomplishments in a traditional graduation ceremony. For the time, at least, we could only mark their achievements in a virtual ceremony. But even the coronavirus couldn’t diminish their accomplishment or the celebration of their college, along with their family and friends. We rejoiced in their achievement, but we also rejoiced that this achievement would better equip them to flourish in the years to come.

But now, once again, a black man has died in America. He died in Minnesota with a white man’s knee on his neck, a man who wore a badge representing the law, a white man unrestrained by others who wore the same uniform.

So long as racism exists, it stains the promise of equal opportunity under the law. This is so because the violence exacted upon George Floyd is not an isolated example, and we know it is not. We know black mothers will have yet another reason to fear for their sons in ways white mothers have never experienced.

Americans have condemned the murder of George Floyd, but if history allows us to predict the future, many Americans will be quickly distracted by tomorrow’s news. They will leave racism to flourish, as it continues to flourish in America, even in the structures of law and power in America—unremoved, unmitigated, ungrieved.

But at Mercy College, I invite its various members, whether students or staff or faculty, to renew our commitment to justice and equality. The college has an historic passion to serve all students, without regard to their race or economic circumstances, to learn with them and from them. To make its campuses a place of safety from the poison of racial hatred.

As for me, I continue to grieve the death of George Floyd. But I can’t stop thinking about this year’s Mercy graduates, and those who have graduated before, and those who will graduate in years to come. Even as I celebrate their collective accomplishments—past, present, and future—I look forward to their being agents of justice and of change in our communities, our state, and our nation. I have high hopes for them, and for all of us who have embraced the mission and calling of Mercy College.

Tim Hall