Greetings Citadel Campus Family:
I trust this message finds you well. We are working hard preparing our return to face-to-face instruction in the fall, and I thank everyone on our team who are developing plans and doing the hard work to make ready for cadets and students. I wanted to pause for a moment, and share my thoughts on recent public discourse about race.
The past several weeks shook our country to the core. We were sickened by the brutal death of George Floyd, and many other Black men and women. As we contemplate these events, we also reflect on the life and tragic death of our alumna Myra Thompson who was praying with fellow congregants when a sociopath came into the Mother Emanuel AME church and killed her and eight other people in June 2015. Our alumna—a lifelong educator and mother who devoted her life to serving others—was killed because she was Black. Many of our employees, cadets, students and alumni had family relationships and friendships with those killed. Every one of us should take this personally.
More recently, several Citadel football alumni provided another opportunity to reflect on the point of view of many young Black men when they shared stories with the Charleston Post & Courier about their experiences with racism. These stories are powerful and moving, and provide insight into how it feels to be treated poorly because of race.
I share these important examples as we can all agree we do not want such tragedies impacting future generations of Citadel family members—or anyone else. Racism negatively affects us all. As a college whose mission is to educate and develop principled leaders, The Citadel holds an important role in addressing and eliminating racism. We will discuss racism openly and take substantive actions to eliminate it.
Anger and sadness about incidents of racial injustice fuel more friction. Many in South Carolina debate the Heritage Act, restricting any changes to public monuments or structures dedicated in memory of historical figures or events. I hear from many of our Citadel family members on both sides of the issue. Almost everyone agrees we should not try to change our history, and should not fear it. We can use those unifying sentiments to move forward together.
We are not at liberty to unilaterally change the structures protected by the Heritage Act, and The Citadel is committed to always follow the law. We can research these historical figures and learn of decisions they made, actions they took, and the ramifications. Considerable work has already occurred as part of The Citadel’s participation in a project led by the University of Virginia called Universities Studying Slavery.
Last week I met with our faculty and committed to establishing a committee to further study historical figures for whom structures are named. We must understand the facts and the context surrounding their entire lives, to include their service to The Citadel and their communities. We will share our findings and openly discuss them. We will not hide or shy away from learning about and discussing our history—all of it.
In the same meeting, several faculty made suggestions for advancing matters of diversity, equity and inclusion. I tasked our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council to examine these ideas for further consideration. Many of our staff, cadets, and students also shared thoughts at other times. We will continue these conversations and develop more ideas.
We have excellent programming and expertise to facilitate such dialogue through our Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Center Citlisten sessions. We will expand the program to assure members of our campus community may openly discuss matters of diversity, equity and inclusion. This openness helps eliminate the lack of empathy and understanding we see in public discourse. We must be able to speak to one another.
As an institution we made progress, and will continue. A number of initiatives are built into our strategic plan, Our Mighty Citadel 2026, driving us to become a more inclusive campus community. Metrics in our plan will help hold ourselves and each other accountable.
We have an opportunity to do this right as an institution and as a Citadel family. As we advance inclusive excellence in our campus community, it will not always be easy, and it will not be perfect. We must address this issue with grace and empathy for each other, and in alignment with our core values of Honor, Duty and Respect.
This opportunity of ours must have our personal attention—every one of us.
Stay safe, Semper Fi, and Go Dogs!
Glenn M. Walters
General, USMC (Retired)