Last week, in my president’s update message to the students, staff and faculty of Forsyth Tech, I shared my personal heartbreak and sadness over the senseless and tragic death of George Floyd earlier in the week in Minneapolis, and the incomprehensible deaths of so many other black and brown citizens. Today, I remain heartbroken.
As I write this, a shadow of despair blankets much of our nation; pain and bitterness borne from unfathomable injustice envelops our hearts. In the midst of the continuing toll of the global pandemic, our nation was laid bare in 2020 by three separate racist acts causing the deaths of three African Americans — Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.
Across our state and our country, we are struggling, and it is heartbreaking. I have to believe we want to accept, own, and overcome the discrimination, oppression, and inequities which have long threatened to destroy our democracy, but the roots are deep and the healing and transformational pathway forward will be long and difficult. We must focus on eradicating the root cause behind the heinous actions that have brought us here. We have spent this year fighting the novel coronavirus COVID-19, and now we are fighting another disease — one which is tearing us apart and is created by prejudice, racism, hate and evil.
In 2019, my first year as your president, our college community created a new shared vision: “Forsyth Technical Community College is a catalyst for equitable economic mobility, empowering lives and transforming communities.” We also worked together to build our Vision 2025 strategic plan and we adopted our first ever equity statement: “Forsyth Technical Community College equity is grounded in a culture of belonging. We will intentionally design the college experience to ensure that each learner receives what they need to be successful.” As an institution, we have established our core values: excellence, learning, innovation, diversity, and integrity.
Everything we did together over the past year has positioned us to be leaders, and moreover, to lead boldly and bravely. If ever there was a time when our students and the communities we serve needed us to lead, and to do so fearlessly and courageously, that time is now.
Perhaps one place we can lead is through advancing dialogue — real, hard, courageous, respectful, honest, and healing dialogue. Despite everything that has happened this year, and maybe in spite of it all, I still have faith. Many years ago, Charles Spurgeon said: “Faith goes up the stairs that love has built, and looks out the windows which hope has opened.”
At this critical moment in our nation’s history, perhaps our leadership imperative at Forsyth Tech is to advance courageous and difficult conversations to create productive and systemic change. Perhaps our values of excellence, learning, innovation, diversity and integrity can frame our conversations and lead us to action that expands our institutional culture of belonging into efforts to build a world of belonging. Perhaps our dialogue can be grounded in our work to be a catalyst for equitable economic mobility and we can use the power of knowledge to empower our students so they can be a part of transforming our communities.
I have faith that stairs built by love lead to windows opened by hope. I have faith in the hope of a better tomorrow for our country and a nation where all men and women are truly equal and free. I have faith that we as a country want to be better than we have been. I have faith that we, Forsyth Tech students, staff, and faculty, can be the change that we want to see in the world, and as a college community we can be a model for systemic transformation and healing.
I am privileged to lead Forsyth Technical Community College. This year, as we celebrate our 60th year as a life-changing institution of higher education in North Carolina, I pledge to be the leader you and our community deserve and need. For me, that means being a leader who does not accept that some things cannot be changed, but rather a leader who strives with her whole heart to lead change for the things we should not, cannot, and will no longer accept.
Forsyth Technical Community College firmly denounces all acts of racism, violence, and injustice.
- We stand firm in our belief in the power of education to empower and transform.
- We stand firm in our belief that equity matters.
- We stand firm in our acknowledgement of the existence of systemic racism and commit to doing our part to dismantle unjust systems, including the barriers that may exist here at Forsyth Tech.
- We stand firm in our belief in the words that undergird our nation’s democracy: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
- We stand firm in our belief that we can change the things that we should not, cannot, and will no longer accept.
With hope for a better tomorrow . . . Your president,
Dr. Janet N. Spriggs