We Must Do More

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

First came — and still comes — the devastation of a pandemic, one that can strike anyone but disproportionally affects marginalized people and those in need.

Then came more senseless deaths, of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Ahmaud Arbery in South Georgia and George Floyd in Minnesota. These are but the latest examples of extreme, unwarranted, intolerable violence killing people of color.

We are outraged. We are hurt. We are grieving. We are exhausted. Few of us have lived through a world filled with this much heart-rending tragedy. The circumstances we are seeing are absolutely intolerable. We must do more.

We — all of us in the Central College community — are especially called to put an end to such violence, for three specific reasons in addition to our common humanity:

We are members of a community founded by those who fled persecution. The very name “Pella” means “City of Refuge.” The values of acceptance, justice, generosity, compassion and service to those in need are intrinsic to Central’s character since its founding and are essential to all that we do. We have a special place in our hearts for the persecuted and a fierce determination to see that justice is done and that violence and injustice are stopped.

We are a liberal arts institution that champions the free, open and civil exchange of ideas, without which a liberal education and responsible world citizenship cannot take place.

We are known for our warm, close, personal and supportive relationships, both within our community of students, faculty and staff and in our outreach to the world through study abroad, service and mission work. We stand together and we rally around those in need.

Our Welcome Statement calls us to concern and action. To social justice work. To political action. To community service. To reach out to those who most need our help, both within our community and in the world at large. I encourage all of us to re-read it carefully and reflect on who we are as an academic community.

We must all do our part to advance the kind of community that will represent Central’s deepest values. That’s especially important when a health pandemic lays bare age-old inequities and an epidemic of racism continues.

Our values are as old as the college. The way we act on those values to meet the unique challenge of the moment is up to us. For many months we have been planning to celebrate inclusivity on campus during the next academic year. We will feature speakers, lectures and activities to give diverse voices and ideas a platform. I am grateful to our campus leaders for their hard work and planning to celebrate diversity and promote acceptance of everyone.

As the world weeps, this work is more important than ever.


About the Author

Mark Putnam

I'm the lucky individual who carries the title, 21st president of Central College in Pella, Iowa. Passionate about higher education and the issues facing it and the world today, I hope to invoke an engaging conversation with all who are ready to dig in, make a difference and build for the future. Share your thoughts. I'm listening and interested.