On June 1, Hunter College President Jennifer Raab wrote the following message to the Hunter community:
Dear Hunter Community:
I wanted to reach out and connect to our Hunter College community during this time of anxiety and despair.
Without question, we are living through a time of unprecedented challenge, pain, and sacrifice. The horrific murder of George Floyd compels us to confront systemic racism through a new and urgent lens. We now find ourselves in a period of necessary self-examination as our nation comes to grips with the race-based inequality that has plagued America for centuries.
Many of us have also been profoundly impacted by a pandemic that afflicted many New Yorkers and required our students and faculty to complete the spring ’20 semester in quarantine and online—but with extraordinary resilience and success. The COVID-related economic catastrophe has left all too many families without work and without hope. Against this unsettling backdrop, we acknowledge all the students who completed their studies this semester under enormous stress made worse by social isolation. Among them are the thousands of graduates we sent forth last week in the hope they can help make this a better world. At the same time, our hearts go out to those who continue to suffer during this harrowing period. We assure you that your school remains here for you to make certain that our lived experiences might at least turn into what President Obama once called “teachable moments.”
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: “The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate”; not just “accumulated knowledge,” but also “the accumulated experience of social living.” Never have these goals seemed more relevant. I ask the Hunter community to join me in recommitting ourselves to offering “a complete education”—with more determination than ever and with a full understanding that we must adjust our focus to include the “accumulated” experience of the past three months.
A hundred and fifty years ago, college founder Thomas Hunter envisioned—indeed, insisted on creating—an institution of learning where black pupils would sit next to whites, Jews alongside gentiles, and with women enjoying full opportunity. In the decades since, Hunter College has endeavored to emulate—and exceed—this worthy objective, reaching out to students across society and inviting them to succeed here.
For generations, the motto of Hunter College has been “ mihi cura futuri —the care of the future is mine.” Together and individually, as deeply as we lament the inequities that have been laid bare in 2020 by disease, dislocation, and discrimination, we dedicate ourselves anew to caring for the future as a Hunter community.
We look forward to the day when we can again meet together on campus. Meanwhile, in the coming weeks and months, we will seek opportunities to connect virtually to discuss recent events and reflect on how we can deploy what we have experienced to enhance both our curriculum and our community.
As unspeakably tragic as this period has been for the Floyd family and the entire African-American community, it remains our hope that we can emerge from this tragedy more committed than ever to justice and opportunity—helping the Hunter community come together to make our learning environment more welcoming, inclusive, and sensitive than ever.
Jennifer J. Raab