Dear Otis College Community,
On my first day as President at Otis, I want to acknowledge the pain felt within our Community spurred by the recent and tragic killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, among so many others. Personally, I feel a moral obligation to speak out against injustice. Black people in America are uniquely affected by systemic racism, racial profiling, and police brutality. We all need to work together to actively address structural inequality in our society, and in higher education. Black Lives Matter at Otis.
Witnessing the reaction, resulting protests, and collective grief over these deaths, I am reaching out to encourage our entire Otis Community to come together and reinforce our common ideals of truth, equality, and equity.
I am hoping Otis students will participate in a virtual forum on Friday facilitated by Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Nick Negrete, and Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Carol Branch. This open forum is for students to be able to openly share thoughts, feelings, and overall reactions to current events and the systems of violence that are impacting our communities. This forum for students will be framed in a way that fosters community and connection among each other, while also providing a validating and affirming space for voices to be acknowledged and heard. I will be attending the student forum to hear the thoughts and feelings that are affecting our students. Please look out for more detailed information this week that will include the time and Zoom information for this Student Community Open Forum.
For Otis faculty and staff, I will hold an open forum following the student forum on Friday to share thoughts and feelings about what’s happening in our city and how Otis can do more. The forum will provide a space to share reflections and hopes for the College for us to contemplate further action.
I admit that I have a lot to learn about Otis, but I am committing myself during my first week to an open dialogue with all members of the Otis Community on these issues, and all issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion for people of all backgrounds. I hear our community’s questions and hopes, and want to assure all of you that we will continue to collaborate on ways to bolster Otis’s support of artists, designers, and creative professionals of color as students and as alumni.
The conversations that are ahead of us may be difficult ones to have. They will require listening, growing, and self-evaluation. By working with student, faculty, and staff leaders within our community, I am confident that we can continue to build in the direction of a better, more equal future.
If you are a student in need of support right now, I encourage you to reach out to our Student Counseling Services by calling 310-846-5738 to make an appointment. Our counseling staff is available and conducting all counseling appointments virtually. Faculty and staff should utilize the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which provides confidential counseling services to employees and their families. You can reach Aetna at 888-238-6232 or www.mylifevalues.com to access this program.
During these very difficult times, it is important for all of us to practice empathy, listen to each other, create spaces for marginalized voices to be heard, and move ourselves toward the right side of justice.