The current extraordinary situation in which the world finds itself in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by police officers in Minneapolis has generated a social movement demanding law enforcement reform across the United States, and a broader call to address the larger social problems of race and equity in America.
The crisis as it manifests itself locally on the Eastern Shore, and throughout the state of Maryland, underscores our continuing mission as a comprehensive community college. We are the college of first choice for our service region and must assure equity of access as well as equity for completion for all students who attend Chesapeake College—regardless of color, religion, nationality, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation. With the challenges presented by the pandemic in forcing the adoption of distance learning we must do everything in our power to mitigate the inequities in access to computer technology and internet access that affect much of our service region across all the communities we serve. We must provide for all people who come to Chesapeake the opportunity to reach their potential, accomplish their goals and become contributing members of our society. Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. voiced on many occasions that education is the key to lifting the individual from poverty to prosperity, and from ignorance to knowledge and understanding. We must do our best to facilitate individual success through short-term training, professional and skilled trades, and college and university-bound transfer education. We also must play the role of shining a light on the cultural, social, economic, and political realities of our day to provide that broadening engagement for all people who come to Chesapeake College to learn.
For our part, the College will engage in introspection regarding our role in providing equity and effecting meaningful change in our region in the coming weeks and months. We will recalibrate the aspects of our strategic plan that deal with diversity and equity in instruction and services, and will work with our community advisory committee on concrete steps we can take as a College to address inequities in our local African American communities and wherever else these issues exist. These topics will be addressed within departments as well as at the executive level in an upcoming leadership retreat. Input and action items will be shared with our Board of Trustees. I have been committed to diversity since my arrival in 2018. We must do more.
We are living in difficult times that challenge us every day. It pains me to say that there are no easy answers as we look to the future. But I do take comfort in my faith in America, in my hope for the future, and the sure knowledge I have of the gifted and dedicated staff and faculty with whom I work every day at Chesapeake College. We can solve many of these problems at our level, in our neighborhoods and our communities. I encourage all of you to get involved in making those differences every day — at home, in the civic organizations in which you serve, and both within and beyond your social circles. With the unwavering support of our Board of Trustees and amongst all of our faculty, staff, and students, we will make a difference.
Dr. Clifford Coppersmith is president of Chesapeake College.