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A Request for a Partnership with Elizabethtown College

Over the past several years, Elizabethtown College has made concerted efforts to address the stagnant pattern of a largely homogeneous white campus with high attrition rates for students and faculty of color. Furthermore, college surveys and student experiences reveal local community bias against people of color and students of color often feel unwelcome off campus.

This past winter, several representatives of Etown College Diversity, Equity, and Belonging (DEB) team met with our church pastoral team to discuss a potential partnership between the college and our church community in the interest of collaborating on the task of making not only the college campus, but also the greater Elizabethtown Community, more welcoming to people of color. Our pastors then made a request for involvement to the Witness Commission and the Racial Justice Working Group. There was a strong sense that the partnership would be in line with the mission and goals of our church.

Elizabethtown College is a member of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), which serves as a catalyst and facilitator for innovations that improve educational quality and equity, and that supports the success of all students.

Among the AAC&U initiatives is the Institute of Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Centers across the USA, with the purpose of preparing the next generation of leaders to break down systemic racism and dismantle the belief in a hierarchy of human value.

Goals include:

  • create positive narrative change about race

  • promote racial healing activities on campuses and in the community

  • erase structural barriers to equal treatment and opportunity within the economic, legal, educational, and residential components of the community

The primary method of promoting the goals of the TRHT Campus Centers is to facilitate racial healing circles which can be done virtually or in person. The college staff will help to train facilitators to conduct the circle process on the Etown College campus. Our church is invited to participate in circles amongst ourselves and it is hoped that the circles will eventually include leaders in our community.

As I have been asked to serve as a liaison between Etown College and Etown CoB, I am meeting on a regular basis with the Etown College Diversity, Equity, and Belonging team. More information will follow and all church members are invited to participate in truth-telling to create transformative and anti-racist practices, programs, and policies in the interest of repairing harm.

Submitted by Gerry Baer, Racial Justice Working Group

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This is very welcome news. I'm especially glad to see an intentional analysis of the issues including feedback from people dealing specifically with living in Etown, plus a deeper attempt to search for a new path forward. Stagnent is a well chosen word :( That many people have felt unwelcome despite much of the community thinking racism isn't a big issue is so unfortunate. Continued waiting and wishing alone aren't likely to have a different outcome. I don't know if this approach will either, but it is definitely good to see the effort! Working in the public schools I notice some positive signs, but unfortunately other signs there are very disheartening.

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