Dr. Maurice O’Sullivan, professor of English, wrote a provoking piece headlined “Professor questions Rollins’ multicultural efforts” for the February 18 issue of The Sandspur. This article inspired discussion of race, culture, and privilege across campus. I thank Dr. O’Sullivan for this opportunity to elevate conversation about the complexities of our liberal arts environment.
Dr. O’Sullivan suggests that hosting a debate on free speech – American Colleges and Universities should Prefer Freedom of Speech over Racially Sensitive Speech – as part of the 11th Annual Summit on Transforming Learning on March 17 is an act of cultural insensitivity. He argues that conversations about race are important, but we should also celebrate other cultural diversity in our community. Given the historical context provided by Dr. O’Sullivan in his essay regarding Irish culture, advocacy, and justice, I cannot think of a better day to host a program which focuses on advancing racial justice. The Summit is an opportunity to recognize intersecting social identities, cultures, histories, and experiences, as we create positive social change on our campus.
As Dr. O’Sullivan mentions, we have made progress as a society in the advancement of racial justice. I believe that it is possible to honor those who have contributed to this progress, while recognizing that we still have a long way to go. There are members of our community who regularly experience racism, marginalization, and isolation. To recognize the current need for discourse on racial justice does not diminish efforts of the past. If done well, it honors past accomplishments and builds upon the work of those who blazed the trail before us.
I encourage our community to advance racial justice with an understanding that this important work is always evolving and never fully complete. My hope is that the Summit on Transforming Learning will provide an opportunity to build upon our collective commitment to advance racial justice.
This article was a response to Dr. O’Sullivan’s February 18 article, “Professor questions Rollins’ multicultural efforts.”