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An Open Letter to St. John Fisher College President Gerard Rooney

George Payne

Dear President Rooney,

My name is George Payne. I am a graduate of St. John Fisher College (2004), a father of two, and a resident of the City of Rochester. Like so many members of the greater Rochester community, I was appalled and saddened when I heard that two St. John Fisher students vandalized a Frederick Douglass statue on December 16, 2018.

Speaking as a Fisher alumnus, I am most concerned about what direction the College takes moving forward. It is my belief that private institutions of higher learning have a responsibility to at least try to undo unchecked white privilege. For a college to not address the inherent white privilege and racism that is a systemic disease of every incoming white student, is to fail to attempt to develop the whole student, not just their knowledge bank and ability to be employed.

According to College Factual, an organization that obtains their data from the Integrated Post-secondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the National Center for Education Statistics, St. John Fisher’s college faculty is 85.5% white. 5% of the faculty is African- American. 84% of the undergraduate student population is white. Only 3.8% of the students are African- American. (Please feel free to correct me if these statistics are not accurate or have changed since this study was finished.)

Moreover, I found online that there are 30 people on the SJFC Board of Trustees: only one is African American and twenty three are white men. This type of racial disparity should not be tolerated.

As an alumnus, I expect SJFC to take dramatic action to increase diversity education on and off campus. I also expect to see the College commit to increasing the number of minority Board members, and to enroll more students of color, hire more faculty of color, and recruit more administrators of color. Although I am aware of the current diversity programs offered by the school, my contention is that these programs are not enough. More can and should be done.

That being said, I very much appreciated your immediate and forceful condemnation of the vandalism itself. In general, your words and actions to date have provided a clear signal to the SJFC community that the status quo is not acceptable. Thank you for your ongoing leadership and commitment to making St. John Fisher College a place where students are taught the true meanings of “goodness, discipline, and knowledge.”

George Cassidy Payne

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