We write concerning the 6/12/20 email to the Villanova community by David Tedjeske, Director of Public Safety. We appreciated the expression of outrage at the violence committed against George Floyd by armed, sworn police officers—the most recent episode in a long history of violence against Black people perpetrated by the very people whose duty it is to protect them.
While we acknowledge Public Safety’s steps to improve relationships with Villanova’s Black faculty, staff, and students, we are disappointed in what amounts to a listing of accomplishments by Director Tedjeske rather than an owning of actions that have resulted in Black community members feeling unwelcome and unsafe – their very belonging on this campus threatened. This should be a time for reflection, as Fr. Peter stated in his June 6, 2020 email, when we “look humbly” at ourselves, our “words, actions and inactions,” and seek “to better understand how these have negatively impacted others.” Fr. Peter’s point is both to acknowledge the ways we have fallen short and to commit to having the “difficult and uncomfortable conversations” we have avoided for too long.
We call on Director Tedjeske to take a step past his email and examine the differential impact Public Safety’s conduct has had upon our Black faculty, staff, and students: too many stories of demeaning treatment at campus events, or to unwarranted suspicion and interrogation by Public Safety officers simply for being Black in their own offices, classrooms, dorms, library, and other community spaces. We invite Director Tedjeske to dialogue about the tangible fear our colleagues and students feel as they consider the real possibility of becoming a victim of violence on their own campus at the hands of their armed guardians. We call on Director Tedjeske to revise the structures of oversight and accountability which have allowed cases of Public Safety’s mistreatment of Black community members to be explained away, ignored, or silenced altogether.
To have these much-needed conversations, we cannot hide behind platitudes; we must acknowledge the instances in which our ways of thinking and acting have done harm. Without this acknowledgement, it is too easy to pretend these harms did not occur, too easy to convince ourselves we have done enough. If we are to be a community committed to learning and growing together, seeking truth in love, then we must face our past failures, together.
We in the Department of Communication commit, minimally, to:
Reexamine our curriculum to offer more courses focused on Black identity and intersectional oppression and invite more BIPOC students into areas where they are not currently represented;
Engage in planning sessions with our students and alumni to understand and incorporate their needs in our departmental practices;
Expand our already concerted hiring practices to attract, promote and retain BIPOC faculty;
More actively recruit BIPOC students to find a home in Communication.
We urge Director Tedjeske to publicly acknowledge where Public Safety has fallen short of its responsibility to our Black community members and to outline a plan for immediate change.
The Communication Department
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