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Drexel and the National Conversation on Race and Justice

December 19, 2014

To the Drexel Community:

Colleges and universities are communities that are fundamentally committed to inquiry, knowledge and open dialogue, and so it is entirely appropriate that campuses around the country have joined in the debate about the significance of recent tragic events in Ferguson and Staten Island.

The issues raised by these tragedies are deeply important to me as a citizen and as president of Drexel. I have the privilege to lead a university in the heart of an urban neighborhood, a university that has placed a high priority on both diversity and civic engagement. We have also committed to working with our neighbors to create a safer, more prosperous community for all residents. At the same time, I have oversight of a fully accredited and highly professional law enforcement body, the Drexel University Police Department, and our police force and our partner, the Philadelphia Police Department, will have ongoing contact with both our students and our neighbors.

The University has worked hard to open the lines of communication with our neighbors and to build genuine and respectful partnerships. I believe Drexel’s civic engagement initiatives — from partnerships with public schools to job training for residents, from the expansion of the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement to the founding of the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, and yes, including the creation of the Drexel Police Department — are contributing to a growing level of trust in our community. I also know that we have a long way to go, as a university and a nation, in addressing the underlying and historic tensions around race and class.

It is Drexel’s fundamental responsibility as a university — and particularly an urban university — to take on the difficult questions, to encourage our diverse community to speak openly and compassionately and to facilitate a constructive conversation about policing, law and the community. I have asked Interim Provost James Herbert and Vice Provost Lucy Kerman to work with me to develop a forum for that conversation in 2015. I encourage you to participate.

I am proud to lead an institution that cares deeply about justice in our city and in the nation.


John A. Fry