Dear Members of the Franklin Community,

We are fortunate to be an international university in the beautiful, stable, and safe confines of Ticino and Switzerland. As a community we are international, but no matter where we are, or where we are from, we have all been shaken by the murder of George Floyd and the recent events in the U.S. As an institution we must condemn what has happened, and we must speak out against the historical and institutional racism that is at the heart of these events.

I use the first person plural here because I am writing you not only as the President of Franklin but also as one member of this community, someone who cares deeply about our institutional values. We should begin with those values. Quite simply, without even needing to quote our mission and vision, we condemn racist, bigoted or violent speech or conduct of any kind. But just important as what we condemn is what we stand for: equality, social justice, civil discourse, tolerance, and respect for every single person on this planet. We are talking about our collective humanity, but it is easy to say that we stand for something, or even against something, but words alone are not enough. What are we going to do about it? What can we do about it? This is a time where leadership matters, and leadership is one of our educational values. We need to lead with love and grace, and to do so we must listen to each other, talk to each other, and most important, strive to understand each other.

As a liberal arts institution we must distrust easy answers or platitudes. We must think critically, and the first thing we should do as leaders is to examine ourselves, our own institution, Franklin. Are we living up to our values? There may not be comfortable answers here, but we need to examine ourselves first. ­­We are an institution committed to justice; we must confront our biases and commit ourselves to meaningful, lasting change. This coming year we will establish a Task Force on Equity made up of students, staff, faculty, and alumni to consider this question: are we living up to our values? We will also plan an extended conversation during the academic year about issues of inequity and social injustice. It will be a formal program that takes place outside the classroom, but we hope that some of this discussion will permeate the classroom as well. The makeup of the Task Force, its charge, and the general outline of the year-long program will be announced when classes start in August.

Now a word from me personally to our current students. I welcome your input. What I am proposing this year is that we listen to each other, and I want to hear from you. We need to do this together. At Franklin you have a voice. When you graduate from Franklin you will continue to have a voice. Use it and make us proud.

Sincerely,

Greg Warden