University of Charleston

June 2, 2020


Dear UC Community,

The past two months have brought unprecedented change into our lives and our communities.  The COVID-19 pandemic has led to over 100,000 deaths in the United States and over 300,000 worldwide.  Millions of people have lost their jobs.  And as we know first-hand, thousands of colleges and universities have closed their campuses and shifted to online learning.

Fortunately, UC was poised to make these changes quickly and effectively.  Similarly, we have teams making great strides in preparing campus to reopen.  We are committed to campus-based living and learning this Fall, in addition to serving many of our students through distance education.  Our primary goals remain to ensure the health and safety of our community of students, faculty and staff, and to deliver the highest quality and best value learning experiences that we can.

As if a novel virus was not enough turbulence, recent events have also focused our attention on social injustices.  With the senseless death of George Floyd in Minnesota as the most recent example, protests for social change are occurring throughout the nation.  Many have been marked by violence that is further unsettling.

I know we are all reflecting on our world today, our roles in it, and how we can make it better.  As a member of the UC community, you know that a pillar of our mission is enlightened living.  We believe that it is our responsibility as teachers and learners to broaden our awareness and understanding of important societal issues with the intent to create positive change in the places where we live, study, and work.

In fact, this academic year we held professional development programs on diversity, equity and inclusion on both of our campuses and online.  We focused an entire day on these issues during our Enlightened Living Day on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.  Together we explored our biases, discussed alternative viewpoints, and learned that our differences make us who we are and who we aspire to become.  We are resolved to continue broadening these dialogues and deepening our understanding of racism and other justice inequities and the need for reforms.

We are a uniquely diverse community with members from around the country and around the world.  We appreciate and benefit from our diversity.  What we do here at UC needs to extend into the other communities of which we are a part.  I challenge us to talk with others about the people with whom we interact every day at UC, people from different walks of life and who possess different perspectives, and share how valuable that is for our own growth and enlightened world view.

Unfortunately, the leadership knowledge and skills we so adeptly impart on our students seem to be missing in those who we expect to bring us together as a nation and a world.  We need leaders who can unite people, not polarize them.  I encourage all of us to share in the responsibility this election season to identify and vote for those who can provide the leadership and vision society needs.  We owe it to one another to stand against hatred and racism and in solidarity for equity, justice, love, and hope.

In this era of social media, seemingly good intentions can quickly incite anger and distrust.  Has there ever been a time where we can express ourselves more easily yet need to choose our words more carefully?  We must constantly remember to think not only about what we want to say, but how others will hear us.  How will my words be interpreted?  What meaning will they carry?  How will they affect those who listen to and read them?  And am I listening with an open heart and open mind?  Am I more focused on defending my position than hearing other viewpoints that can inform my thinking?  Will my reactions reflect grace?  Invoking curiosity and insight should be our goals, not scoring points and stoking divisiveness.

Across the river from campus, a peaceful protest took place this past weekend at the Charleston state capitol.  Violent outbursts did not occur in similar events throughout West Virginia.  We have also been fortunate to have very low rates of positive virus tests and a slow spread of COVID-19 in the Mountain State.  I’d like to think these achievements and points of West Virginia pride are due to our thoughtfulness, openness to ideas, willingness to engage in dialogue, and desire to treat others with dignity and respect.

Clearly as a nation and as global citizens, we can do better in how we think about, talk about, and treat other human beings.  As Golden Eagles, we embrace our responsibility to be informed and engaged in making the world a better place.

I know each of us can play a role in making that happen through our actions and words.





Martin S. Roth