Letter to La Salle Catholic College Prep
Letter to La Salle Catholic College Prep
Dear Mr. Andrew Kuffner:
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, major protests have broken out in numerous cities across the United States. Protesters are decrying the injustice of Floyd’s death along with the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others throughout our nation’s history. The American people are heartbroken and angry at the loss of another Black life at the hands of police. When protests against police brutality are met with even more police brutality, it is evident that we are facing not one, but two pandemics in our nation. Therefore, as alumni of La Salle we are collectively speaking up.
As members of the La Salle community, we, the undersigned, write to respectfully insist that La Salle form a permanent Advisory Board composed of faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and other stakeholders in the mission of racial justice. In our view, the first orders of business should be to:
- Craft a comprehensive curricula plan addressing the historic systemic racism of the United States and its reliance on police brutality;
- Release this plan to the La Salle community for comment and discussion; and
- Encourage peer schools to do the same.
We believe these actions would be tangible examples of La Salle’s mission to inspire students to find their voice as global citizens, put their faith into action, and lead exceptional lives of integrity, honoring the God-given dignity of all.
Conversations and education about systemic racism (i.e., the racist policies that have shaped and continue to shape this country) must not merely take place in private. Elite educational institutions like La Salle have a responsibility to examine the roles that privilege and bias play within their walls. We have the ability and responsibility to broaden our students’ understanding of the world; and if this responsibility is not taken seriously and acted upon, La Salle as an organization is passively siding with these racist structures.
You rightly take pride in grooming the next generation of leaders. If those leaders are to be empowered to fight for change, they must understand how far we are from achieving racial equity in the United States. As an organization of primarily white educators, La Salle must seize upon its privilege to broaden your students’ understanding of the world; and the institution must examine, revise, and expand curriculum as well as refocus your community service in a way that helps dismantle systemic racism.
We cherish our La Salle Prep education and the values we learned there. The fact that La Salle has always been a predominantly white institution was rarely, if ever, discussed during our time as students, except behind closed doors with only students of color which created an environment of faculty members ‘othering’ these students during school hours. The La Salle administration did not encourage us to examine our own roles in supporting structural racism or think about how the majority of the student body benefited from it.
The world has changed since the alumni among us were students. In the intervening years, the American populace has mourned the unjust killings of too many Black Americans, often after bearing witness to police brutality via videos circulated on social media. The phrase “white privilege” has entered the vernacular. More and more Americans have realized that the time for a serious reckoning with systemic racism is long overdue. There is no excuse for places like La Salle not to participate in that reckoning and take a leadership role in making positive change. That is the ultimate example of leading exceptional lives of integrity and service to humankind, as exemplified by the sayings, teachings and actions of Christ found within the gospels.
Accordingly, we believe it is necessary for La Salle to create a comprehensive plan for addressing these issues. We are starkly disappointed by La Salle’s lack of action or vocalization amid the protests and racial discussions. We note and appreciate your newsletter sent on June 4th, 2020, but more action should be taken, including a statement that Black Lives Matter to La Salle Prep. The newsletter states that faculty and staff will be “inviting students to participate in dialogue.” La Salle must ensure that these conversations are not optional, which could lead to students of color once again bearing the burden of having these difficult discussions while white students opt out. The school must undertake these discussions with a self-critical eye, with the goal of addressing how elite institutions like La Salle perpetuate racial inequality -- even if they do not intend to do so.
We also believe that La Salle should release this plan to its community -- including faculty, staff, alumni, and parents -- so that the community can hold La Salle accountable. We encourage you to formalize this engagement by forming an Advisory Board composed of faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and other stakeholders. Any plan to address these issues can only be made stronger by inviting as diverse a group as possible to comment on it, now and into the future.
Finally, La Salle must recognize its role as a community leader and encourage its peer schools to create their own plans for addressing these issues within their own walls. La Salle has a history of coordinating with peer schools, most recently regarding the decision to close the school in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As leaders, it would be irresponsible to take strong actions to protect public health while merely paying lip service to the mission of ending systemic racism.
We know firsthand the innumerable ways a La Salle education benefits every student who walks through the school’s doors. However, without serious action on the part of the school, La Salle is also doing its students and alumni a grave disservice and may be inflicting harm, particularly on students of color. Given that it is the beginning of summer, we feel that there is enough time to form an Advisory Board with a Diversity Consultant and begin developing changes to the curriculum to be implemented by the time students reconvene in the fall.
La Salle Alumni