This Spring’s Welcome Letter | Confessions of a Community College Dean


Prior to convocation each semester, I send out a “welcome to the new semester” letter to the campus. Sometimes they’re short and sweet; sometimes they’re utilitarian; occasionally they’re a bit wistful. This month called for a very different approach. The actual letter is below.

Welcome to the spring semester of 2021.

Folks who follow social media have probably seen some variation on this meme:

2020: I’m the worst year ever!

2021: Hold my beer.

Some of what we’ve seen in the last few days has been genuinely harrowing. And it isn’t over yet.

This is when Brookdale matters most.

The conflicts in Washington, and at state capitals across the country, have been around exclusion. More to the point, they’ve been around racism. They’ve been about status anxiety, power and a sense that some people just don’t matter as much as others.

As we’ve been seeing, ideas like those don’t lead anywhere good. They destroy people, whether by getting them killed or by warping their humanity.

Brookdale is all about inclusion. We take all applicants. We help students from all different backgrounds discover their talents and passions and get a jump on making a mark on the world. And we do it — on our best days — in a setting of mutual respect.

It’s easy to forget how special and fragile that is.

We have our challenges. COVID has made it harder for us to see each other in passing, and to have those hallway conversations that build community. It has hit our enrollment, and therefore our budget. It has hit members of the Brookdale family personally. Working at home, it’s easy to feel isolated, or squeezed by the demands of children who are also working at home. And we’re all only human, with the usual human failings and limitations.

But as a college, as an institution, we are a monument to inclusion, reason and respect. We take all comers and assume that all are capable of learning. We assume that all are entitled to our best work. And at our best, we model the practice of thoughtful conversation. We show people the respect implied in telling them the truth, and offer the hope implied in the lesson that things can, and will, get better.

I’ve never been prouder to work at a community college. Even if I’m doing it from my kitchen table.

The agenda for Convocation is below.

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