A Message from SLU's President
Dear members of the Saint Louis University community:
At our University, there are people who do not feel safe, supported or affirmed. These
are not strangers. They are our classmates, co-workers and collaborators, and their
feelings are real. I have been moved by recent conversations in which students and
colleagues have made themselves vulnerable by revealing exactly how fearful, hurt,
and troubled they are. Most at SLU are struggling at this moment to comprehend this.
I among them.
How are we as a University to respond when members of our community are hurting and grieving? What is our role when we see these emotions amplified within the larger St. Louis community? I believe we should begin by affirming their experiences. It requires grace and boundless empathy, acknowledging there is difficult work to be done at Saint Louis University and in St. Louis.
Law School Dean William Johnson said it best when he wrote, “Regardless of one’s views on the [Stockley] verdict, the reality is that members of the greater St. Louis community, including many of those who have been engaging in peaceful protests, have been bearing the burden of centuries of inequitable treatment, and we should be sensitive to that injustice. We should also be mindful of the role we can play in addressing inequities and injustice in society.”
I could not agree more.
From the students who have protested, to the dialogues that have taken place, to the emails I have received, this theme has been the common thread. We cannot be insulated from the world around us, especially the neighborhoods that surround us. We cannot afford to ignore racism, poverty, and all which dehumanizes.
The loss of life should not have to be the catalyst to illuminate these harsh realities. We should be addressing such injustices today, tomorrow, and beyond. Every one of us should be held accountable.
On Sunday night, protesters led by area clergy walked past our north campus. Some
SLU students, who were part of the protest, invited them onto campus.
Not knowing how long the group would remain, and with only a small window of time, I made a decision based upon the well-being of our entire campus community. Only those with a SLU ID would be allowed to protest on campus. I did so knowing that the majority of weekend protests were non-violent. There was, however, a smaller group who caused damage and injury the previous nights, despite the organizers’ efforts to deter them. As we look ahead, I am inclined to limit protests on our campus to members of our SLU community.
I want to take a moment to address the alert sent to the SLU community Sunday night. Included in that message was an instruction to: “shelter in place.” This instruction wrongly gave the impression that there was an imminent threat. There was not. We own that mistake.
I continue to believe that the Clock Tower Accords are one of the most important and tangible ways we can address some of the seemingly intractable injustices that plague our community. At times, our conversations will surely be uncomfortable, but nothing worthwhile is easy. I humbly ask all of you to join me in this essential endeavor.
Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.