As we struggle as a nation to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and the deaths it has caused, we must also come to grips with the fact that countless unnecessary deaths in our country have originated from a place of hatred and institutionalized racism. We are fortunate in our region that the majority of those protesting the tragic death of George Floyd and others before him are peacefully making their voices heard. We also are fortunate to have government leaders and police officers who honor the first amendment and the rights of those protesters while also protecting public safety. There are no easy answers here and I will not pretend that I have a solution to the turmoil and anger that is boiling over in our nation.
What I do know is that education has always been and will always be the great equalizer. It gives individuals a way to uplift their lives and the place of their families in our society. It teaches us to approach others with understanding. At Virginia Western Community College, I am most proud of the “community” in our name. I believe we have fostered a community where anyone, no matter the color of their skin, their economic situation or their place in life can find their path to personal success.
Dr. Glenn DuBois this week released a statement regarding steps Virginia’s Community Colleges will take to ensure all individuals across the Commonwealth have equal access to opportunity no matter their race. He has appointed a task force to examine what all VCCS institutions are doing to ensure equity and to develop goals and measurable strategies to increase it. He also appointed a panel to examine the curricula used across the system to educate law enforcement officers in criminal justice.
I fully support Chancellor DuBois for taking this important step. As the first community college in Virginia, founded in 1966, Virginia Western has always been a leader in providing educational opportunities. Today, we must also be a leader in helping to tear down racism and build a stronger future for the Commonwealth and our nation.
As we proceed to make changes to how we operate in response to the pandemic, I promise you we will not change our dedication to our core values of diversity, integrity, respect, success and teamwork. We will continue to foster a marketplace of ideas in the region. We will continue to help all our students reach their goals through education. This is our community and we are committed seeing it remain safe and healthy, and to seeing it thrive.
Dr. Robert H. Sandel
Virginia Western Community College