A Message From Dr. Pestello
Dear Members of our Saint Louis University Alumni Community,
I write to you today as a fellow global citizen and as a representative of our institution as we all continue to mourn the loss of Black lives unjustly taken from their families and our world — Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the list continues.
It is important for you to hear me reiterate that Saint Louis University stands in stark opposition to the systemic racism that took these individuals from their loved ones.
Here at SLU itself, I realize that the positive and affirming lived-experience that I and those who look like me have each day, has often not been the same for Billikens of color. Further, as part of our painful past, our university is implicated in the sins of racism that have plagued institutions across the country. And it has been since our beginning, when the Jesuits departed from Maryland to expand their mission to Missouri in 1823, they travelled with three couples — Thomas and Mary (Polly or Molly) Brown; Moses and Nancy Queen; and Isaac and Susan Queen-Hawkins — all enslaved by the Society of Jesus.
These are not matters of opinion. Through the joint research we have been conducting with the Central and Southern Province of the Society of Jesus, we know them to be facts.
Where do we go from here? We affirm the dignity and value of our Billikens of color in words. We continue the equity work we have been doing on our campus and in our city. We reassess where we are falling short and formulate plans to break down the barriers for Billikens who do not feel they are fully part of OneSLU.
In a message to campus June 1, I wrote, “I want to assure the [B]lack members of our community that I see each and every one of you, and that I care about you. That we at Saint Louis University care about you, we see your pain, and we grieve with you. I am grateful for your presence and contribution to our university community.”
Our faculty, staff, students, trustees and you, our alumni, shape and transform us. Without you, SLU loses meaning, purpose and any compelling reason to identify itself as Jesuit or Catholic.
We are all called to do better — to be better. Racism has no place at Saint Louis University. Our Jesuit mission calls us to be people for and with others, and as I have said before, solidarity and community mean that we never have to face such evil alone.
I am grateful to those of you who reached out after seeing our campus message. Your words of encouragement and support on this journey mean a lot to us. But as I said in the subject line, our work is far from finished, and this moment in our history calls us to work with renewed vigor.
We look forward to talking to you more in the weeks and months ahead about the progress we have made toward the Clock Tower Accords, signed on October 18, 2014, and where we must focus now. To remind you, the Accords are 13 distinct but interrelated pursuits to advance diversity, inclusion, and educational and economic opportunity for people of color on campus and in St. Louis. We update the website annually with our progress, and are in the midst of an update right now.
The work that needs to be done to be more inclusive and anti-racist has to happen on several levels: personal, divisional, institutional and beyond our campus. We remain committed to doing that work, and look forward to engaging you, our alumni, along the way.
In the coming weeks and months, the University and the Office of Alumni Engagement will address this directly by pioneering programming, activities and providing resources to alumni and members of the SLU community.
In solidarity, Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.