William Jessup University is a covenant community for Christ-centered higher education. We believe that our calling is to live and model what Jesus intends for us as the Kingdom of God people we are in the midst of the everyday realities of life. Scripture tells us in Ephesians 4:3 that we have to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit”. As followers of Jesus, there is a unity that is transcendent of every other reality of life. And yet, in these times, that truth is hard to see in the fog of pain and confusion we live in. I personally want to resolve the tensions that I experience as I see pain and injustice, and many of us just want to go back to “normal”.
Even as I write the date at the top of the page, I am in a bit of a fog. How could we have gotten to this point in 2020, and how could 2020 have gotten to this point? Further, how could we have experienced the last 100 days of COVID-19 and the last 16 days since the May 25th date of the murder of George Floyd, a man and name that now is synonymous with injustice and betrayal of Black Americans? Pain, loss, anger, injustice, shock. What some people have experienced for generations is only now being exposed and expressed by multitudes. Acts of violence and injustice have occurred by some law enforcement officials against black Americans and now some law enforcement officials have lost their lives as well. Society is troubled and increasingly we recognize that the American experience continues to fall far short of our founding ideals; ideals we have expressed boldly but have failed greatly to achieve for many in our history and in our present. At Jessup, we condemn racism in every manifestation as a work of Satan, the enemy of our souls.
I have spent a number of hours in prayer, study of God’s word, personal meetings, hard conversations, and in tears as I have spoken with faculty, staff, and students of Jessup, pastors in our regional community, and with the general public via social media. Further, there are a number of conversations I am having in the days and weeks ahead with my friends who are black pastors, faculty/staff/students at Jessup who are wounded and hurting. As one personal example, I recently made a social media post which I later deleted because I have come to understand that in this current environment, the content of the post itself was offensive to people I love and care deeply about. I am personally sorry for having caused pain to people. Further, I have decided to not participate in social media these next 30 days so that I can increasingly hear the voice of the Lord and of our community in the midst of these challenging moments.
It is in this environment that Jessup University is taking our next steps. Previously, we discussed how each of us personally need to accept responsibility and take action individually(https://jessup.edu/about/office-of-the-president/pray-press-in-push-forward/). Based on Scripture in John 10:10, we know that the fingerprints of the enemy (stealing, killing and destroying) are contrasted with the fingerprints of Jesus (life, abundance, freedom). We want to be Micah 6:8 people and love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly with our God. We know that we are praying, we are pressing in, and we are pushing forward. What does that mean, in real action steps, for Jessup in real time here in June of 2020?
Some of you will know that Jessup established a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force in 2017; the group met monthly during 2017-18 and formulated a plan of action during 2019; their final report was prepared in April of 2019. That report encompassed five major goals and 21 support recommendations. The report included work on a potential new chapter in the Community Covenant and the President and General Counsel have been working on that with the DEI Chair since early Fall, 2019. The Task Force, now a standing committee, has now provided me with their priorities which are condensed into four action steps for immediate implementation. The full report of the Committee and its recommendations, from which the four action steps are derived will be made available to the Jessup Community through MyJessup within the next few days.
However, in light of the great urgency we all are experiencing, and in order to facilitate these next steps quickly and well, I wanted you to see them here (edited for space considerations) and how we will be going about accomplishing them:
DEI Committee Recommendations 2020
- All-Staff Conversations be held at the call of the President via Zoom or face to face wherever possible.ACTION: We will schedule a series of conversations in June, July, & August.
- Unity in Diversity Community Covenant Chapter.ACTION: The Board of Trustees will be considering a renewed Unity in Diversity emphasis and statement at its October 2020 meeting.
- Professional Development/Training for Faculty and Staff.ACTION: University wide faculty and staff training to be scheduled for Fall 2020 with input from DEI Committee. We will also be providing additional training for students throughout the Academic Year in 20/21 through Chapels and Student Life support.
- Grievance Process.ACTION: DEI Committee will recommend a grievance process; the President will seek to implement by Fall 2020.
- Affinity Groups.ACTION: The President and/or VPAA will engage with leadership of BSU regarding regular communication and process to address specific concerns and hear experiences.
- Equity/Inclusion Coordinator Role.ACTION: The President is seeking to establish a DEI Coordinator for a strategic and solutions oriented approach to critical matters of student, staff, and faculty experiences related to the Jessup experience of Unity & Diversity.
William Jessup University longs to be the type of Christ Centered University that manifests the life and love of Jesus. Our DEI Committee has been helping to shape our common understandings. I would like to close this document with a series of Biblical and theological affirmations that form the foundation and core of who we long to be as a covenant community. When I fall short of these affirmations, I seek your forgiveness. I pray that we are a community full of grace and truth, just like Jesus.
Here are our foundations regarding Unity and Diversity:
We believe that:
- Our acknowledgement and embracing of our diversity begins with an understanding of who we were created to be, and how Christ Himself has unified us and brought us together for the glory of God, baptizing us into one body as joint heirs to the kingdom of God. (Malachi 2:10; Psalm 133:1; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 8:17).
- Because Christ has unified us, we can pursue Christ’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves. Out of love for one another, we can embrace and appreciate our differences while recognizing we are all fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. (Matthew 19:19; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Genesis 1:27; Psalms 139:14).
- In recognizing that our differences are a reason for celebration, we acknowledge that the richness of our diversity is to be found in many ways, including but not limited to: race, ethnicity, culture, language, gender, socioeconomic status, class, age, ability, denomination, and theology. We are a diverse society and desire that our campus reflect that diversity as a strength and an essential part of God’s plan. (Galatians 3:28)
- Whether it is diversity of thought, activities or people—our lives are enriched as we learn about, experience and discover the world created by God and the diversity He has created within it. Therefore, we must submit to Christ and love one another as we respect and reflect the diversity in which we are created while pursuing the unity for which Jesus prayed and to which we are called. (John 17:21).
Thank you for being Kingdom of God people. Thank you for being Jesus people. Thank you for being broken and wounded travelers seeking to point to the One who makes all things new and makes all things whole in His time.
For His Glory,
John Jackson, PhD