To members of the college community. I want to take some time to reflect and share insights on items that are extremely important and impact all of us. For some, the speed of change that has been taking place over the last few weeks on some of these large societal issues has been mind-blowing. For others, the change has been long in coming and hasn’t happened soon enough or quickly enough. How we each internalize the things happening in and shaping our world is representative of how the larger collective body also views the changes taking place. Inevitably, there will always be a broad and wide-ranging spectrum of opinions, insights and deep emotions tied to these very important issues we are dealing with and trying to work through.
Being an institution of higher learning we are blessed to have some of the brightest minds in our community as our colleagues and friends. When really smart people get together I believe any problem we face can be solved through the combined efforts and intellect of the group. It is here at the college where we can have powerful and insightful conversations about race, justice, equality, democracy, poverty, gender, identity, religion, and any other topic in between that is worth having. On campuses like ours, the freedom to exchange ideas and challenge each other intellectually is one of the pillars on which we are built.
Having the freedom to have powerful and significant conversations about difficult topics is but a start. We need to have awareness and move to understand, then shift from understanding to action so that what we do as campus helps fulfill the goal and mission of making the lives of the people we serve better with happen at our college. With this said, I wanted to share three very important items that have taken place or will take place this week.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – AKA DREAMERS
There are roughly 700,000 DACA students in the United States. These students are unique among all of our students in that are caught between worlds. One world that they know here in the US and one that they don’t know in their country of origin. Having worked with DACA students for many years I can tell you that the stories they share about their circumstances can be gut-wrenching. Prior to today, they have lived in fear of being deported to places they have never been, with no family to turn to in the event that they are deported, and in many instances the only language they speak is English. Living, under those circumstances, can be difficult at best, but recently the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion on the three DACA cases that were consolidated and argued in front of the justices last year. In their 5 – 4 the decision, the justices ruled the Trump administration failed to give an adequate justification for ending the DACA program thus keeping the program alive.
Another huge legal win impacts our LGBTG community. At the start of the week, it was legal in many states to fire someone simply because of who they choose to love or how they opt to live their lives. On Monday, that became a thing of the past across our country. The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-to-3 decision that “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” Being singled out for termination of employment because of who someone chooses to love or because of how they live their lives may seem foreign to many of us, but now the highest court in the land has ruled that this practice is acceptable no more.
June 19 also marks Juneteenth. The celebration of this historic event has always been important, but the one taking place this year is more important than ever. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It goes back to the end of the civil war. It was on this day that Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Given all that has been taking place over the last few weeks with the murder of Mr. Floyd, it’s more important than ever for each of us to contribute to the discussions and steps forward that have helped with some of the healing that needs to take place so that we can share in the solutions to the challenges we face.
Please keep in mind the above listed bright spots. These wins are significant responses to some of the larger issues that affront us, but thankfully, these are steps in the right direction. Keep in mind that no matter how rough the storm, there are times the sun shines through the darkest of clouds.
Stay safe. Be well and thank you for all you do.
WNC President, Dr. Vincent Solis