The following is a letter President Roy F. Heynderickx, Ph.D. sent to the Saint Martin's student community, and shared with faculty, staff and trustees, in response to the U.S. President's immigration executive order.
Today, we begin the second week of our spring semester. At the midpoint of our academic year, I wanted to share with you some words of reflection, on the challenges we discussed towards the end of last semester, and inspiration, for what we, as individuals and as a community, hope to achieve in the months ahead. As I began to write this letter, I thought back to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we celebrated just two weeks ago. In one of his addresses, Dr. King wrote: “All life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order imposing a 90-day ban on immigrant and nonimmigrant entry to the United States from seven nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The order also suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. This order has generated anxiety and concern for many of our international students and our greater community. Our Office of International Programs and Development is monitoring the evolving situation, and will provide information and support to the members of our community who may be affected.
At this time, I want to reaffirm our commitment to embracing a multitude of people and ideas in everything that we do at Saint Martin’s. I also want to share a link to the statement issued by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) over the weekend.
As a Catholic, Benedictine university, we strive to be an inclusive academic community committed to listening with the ear of the heart. Today, more than ever, we must help all students, and faculty and staff, of all backgrounds in the common effort to learn and grow. In our work at Saint Martin’s, both inside and outside the classroom, we must deepen our understanding of the world we live in. We must continue to nurture a positive, collaborative environment that contributes to the wellbeing and success of every member of our community.
We are a community of many religions, ethnicities, nationalities, documentation statuses, gender identities and orientations, and political affiliations. At Saint Martin’s, we cherish the dignity of every human being and we encourage an awareness of diverse viewpoints and an appreciation of all cultures.
Let me reiterate: Any behaviors that are counter to our Benedictine values of community and respect for others will not be tolerated and do not belong here at Saint Martin’s.
In our mission, we are called to make a positive difference both in our lives and the lives of others. The challenges our society currently faces suggest that our mission has never been more important, never been more necessary.
Saint Martin’s must be a model for positive change. I personally am committed to responding to concerns about diversity and exclusion shared by our students last semester, and understand that change must be embraced at the top. This coming March, myself, the Provost, the Cabinet, and the deans of our four colleges will be working with an outside consultant to take a hard look at how we, as this university’s leaders, grapple with diversity and unconscious bias. This spring and summer, we will work together to plan more trainings and workshops for all faculty and staff. We do this because as a Catholic institution, committed to being prepared to serve those most vulnerable, this is who we are and this is what we must do.
This semester we will also begin to carry forward ideas discussed last fall to create a more supportive environment for learning and engaging and to ensure the inclusiveness of the Saint Martin’s experience. Over the next few months, there will be lectures, brown bag talks and workshops focusing on topics of diversity, including race and gender issues. I hope each of you will find an opportunity to participate in the events and programs that will be scheduled this spring.
I feel fortunate to work for Saint Martin's, a university that strives to make our world more educated, more understanding, and more inclusive. And I want to thank each of you for choosing to be a part of our Saint Martin's community. Together, we share a great responsibility to help realize that vision. I look forward to working with you on this vision every day.
Roy F. Heynderickx, Ph.D.
Saint Martin's University