July 28, 2020
Dear Members of the Gonzaga Prep Community,
Last week, a column was published in the Inlander newspaper written by a Gonzaga Prep alumna, describing her experience of racism while at Gonzaga Prep (“Silence is Deafening,” Inlander, 7/23/20). This column has evoked strong responses from members of our community, ranging from students and alumni who have expressed similar painful experiences and calls for action, to others who do not identify with the author’s portrayal of Prep, and are hurt by her conclusion that our community is complacent and silent in the face of racial injustice.
As I stated in a recent letter to our community, I believe that Prep’s work for racial equity is best understood in the context of the Jesuit call for each of us to be companions in a mission of justice and reconciliation (Universal Apostolic Preferences). To work for justice demands that we listen to the experiences of others, paying special attention to the voices of the marginalized, in order to develop a critical consciousness that seeks to understand what is true, right, and just. In addition to listening, working for justice calls each of us to engage in earnest dialogue, and to speak up for the dignity and equality of all life.
The pursuit of justice, while essential, is not enough. Our work for justice must be married to our deep commitment to reconciliation with God, neighbor, and especially one’s perceived enemies. I am extremely concerned by the divided state of our communities, nation, and Church, and I cannot help but trace at least some of this division to well-meaning people who are in serious disagreement about what they believe is right and true. I am equally concerned that it is becoming increasingly unsafe for a person to share their opinion without risk of being vilified by those with opposing viewpoints. This is a grave situation for an educational program that seeks to promote critical thinking, free thought, and intellectual discourse. Our commitment to reconciliation requires that we reach out to build bridges of understanding, empathy, and forgiveness, most especially as we work for justice. The work of justice and reconciliation are inseparable, and neither can reach their fulfillment without a fundamental commitment to being in relationship.
The Inlander column referenced a coalition of Gonzaga Prep students and alumni who have authored a letter to our board, administration, faculty and staff, requesting a comprehensive strategy for promoting racial equity at Prep with measurable results. We have since received the coalition’s letter, titled “An Invitation to Meet and A Call to Action,” and earlier today members of our administration met with leaders from the coalition. We have co-published the coalition's thoughtful letter, which you can read here. The school is forming a task force in order to support our understanding of the coalition’s requested action and carefully discern our ongoing work to improve equity and inclusion in light of Gonzaga Prep’s Catholic, Jesuit mission and identity.
I share this information with a commitment to transparency and improving communication on our efforts. To support this goal, we are establishing this page that will be regularly updated to help our community stay abreast of this important work, as well as our conversations with the coalition.
It is in this spirit of justice and reconciliation that I welcome this opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations with our students, alumni, and greater community about racial equity. I invite all members of the Prep community to come together in respectful dialogue, as companions in our shared mission. I am convinced that we learn more from our differences than our similarities, and our work must be to create spaces that promote critical awareness, reflection, and discourse. Thank you in advance for all that you do in support of our students and mission to educate them to be leaders who offer their gifts in service to a more just, loving, and peaceful world.
In service to the greater glory of God,