Dear Seattle University Faculty, Staff and Students,
I write to you as Chief Academic Officer in collaboration with Dr. Natasha Martin, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Dr. Alvin Sturdivant, Vice President for Student Development, and after consulting with Fr. Stephen Sundborg, President, to address our community in these harrowing times. The recent murder of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement, preceded by the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery and initial lack of legal action, the shooting death by police of Breonna Taylor in her own home, and the deaths of so many other Black lives by law enforcement brings us to an irrevocable moment in our nation’s history. The cumulative effect of these actions, overlaid against centuries of slavery and oppression against Black people, create the backdrop for the social movements that are occurring in our country and across the globe. Even in the face of the very real ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and 100,000 deaths, we must acknowledge that the 400-year legacy of racism and violence against Black and Brown lives damages the very soul of humanity.
In this moment we wish to affirm our Black students, staff and faculty and commit our efforts towards anti-racist and culturally responsive pedagogy and practices in our work. We have received and affirm the recent motion of the Academic Assembly, the official elected voice of the faculty, on these matters and share it with you here. We will work with the Academic Assembly, the Staff Council and our student governing bodies to address the issues that are being called out for our community. We have also received many letters and emails from students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni expressing their outrage at the current situation and asking for support, direction, and change. In particular, we received a letter to the College of Arts and Sciences signed by 133 of its faculty and staff calling for reflection and change in the college and the university. We, along with Fr. Stephen Sundborg, will meet with the principal authors of this letter for deeper discussion on the issues they have raised for our community.
Acknowledging that we are in the closing days of the Spring quarter, which has been already disrupted by an unprecedented global pandemic, these issues must be and will be addressed. We are a Jesuit university, and we will lean into the best of our Jesuit educational traditions and values as a professional learning community to actively engage and respond to the issues that the current social movements bring to the forefront of our lives.
One immediate concern is the well-being of our students as they strive to successfully complete the term challenged by many stressors. To that end and after consulting with the university deans and the president, I am providing the following guidance to the Seattle University faculty and students:
- Faculty in courses with scheduled final examinations should communicate with their students and let them know the grade that they have earned for all work completed, not including or calculating the final examination. Students have the option of accepting that grade or taking the final examination.
- For courses that do not have a final examination but a culminating project or activity, the professor should decide if the culminating project or activity can be waived (some professional programs require completion of these activities for licensure requirements). This should be communicated to students.
- In either case, a student may also request an incomplete, which should be honored. A student who requests an incomplete has up until the first four weeks of the Fall quarter to complete the final examination or culminating project or activity, or other work.
- As previously communicated and because of COVID-19, students may also request a CR/F grading option, for which they should first consult with their academic advisor or program director.
- If faculty have questions about the above guidance, they should consult with their dean’s office or the provost office.
These are very difficult times and the road ahead will not be easy. We have lived with the insidious effects of racism, including institutionalized racism from which Seattle University is not exempt, for centuries and humankind has been marred by its very existence and failure to address it. The present moment calls for soul-searching, discourse, and action. Using the tools of the university—teaching, research, policy analysis, dialogue and debate, and the development of creative works and new ideas—we will redouble our efforts to be leaders for our communities and to stand with the Black community in support of anti-racism and against white supremacy. Please join us in committing to do the work for a better future that affirms Black Lives Matter.
Shane P. Martin
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion
Vice President for Student Development