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The Promise and Challenge of Racial Justice

Mission Day sparks a conversation on how the university can better live up to its values

Written by Mike Thee
April 12, 2016

Faculty and staff took up a difficult but important topic at Mission Day on April 7 as attendees considered "The Promise and Challenge of Racial Justice." It was a timely theme given the recent recommendations put forth by the Task Force for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence. 

(Click here for more photos from Mission Day.)

Task force co-chairs Natasha Martin (School of Law) and Alvin Sturdivant (Student Development) opened the day by framing the conversation, Jeanette Rodriguez (Theology and Religious Studies) offered an invocation and President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., shared his thoughts on the topic. With great candor, the president acknowledged his own racial bias and said that Seattle University's commitment to racial justice is a question of integrity. 

"I think it's important…that we hold our standards high in terms of what our mission at the university is," Father Sundborg said, "(and when we fall short of that) we should try to implement our mission more fully and we should admit when we do fail." 

Racial justice, he continued, is "very much at the heart of our mission…It's really about how do we treat one another? What are our relationships with one another...How do we model to our students how we want them to treat one another by how we treat each other?" 

A "fish bowl" conversation followed, involving moderator Monica Nixon (Student Development), Tyrone Brown (Student Development), Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs (Modern Languages and Cultures, and Women and Gender Studies), Christina Roberts (English and Women and Gender Studies), Erica Yamamura (College of Education), Bryan Adamson (School of Law), Diane Schmitz (Student Development) and Jimmy McCarty (Campus Ministry). Each participant shared their personal experiences with racial biases and their hopes for how the university as it strives to more fully realize its commitment to racial justice. 

Wrapping up the morning, Father Sundborg called it the best Mission Day yet and observed that the conversation on racial justice at SU was only just beginning.