Message from Interim President Henking About Dismantling Systemic Racism

Message from Interim President Henking About Dismantling Systemic Racism

June 15, 2020

Dear Salem Community,

Systemic racism must be dismantled. This is crucial for Salem and for us all.

Speaking up is a first step, but as I said in my earlier communications, statements are not enough. The realities of systemic racism require us to move beyond the affirmation that #BlackLivesMatter toward effective and tactical action. I am grateful to those of you who have challenged, suggested, demanded, and responded with actions. I know that some of you have been working to move Salem forward for some time. And, I know—we know—there is more to be done.

The actions we take recognize that some in our community experience the realities of overt racism and its nuanced expressions deep in their bones; and others of us must commit and recommit to learning and listening.

Here are some actions we take as we move forward together.

  • Taking Time: Salem Academy and College will recognize June 19, 2020 as a day on which we step away from campus work and engage in reflection and education. (For employees, the day off will not be counted against personal time off.)

As we take time, I ask that we each use this time for education and that you join me in committing to the following experience:

Why? Education matters. And it never ends.

For those who are not clear why the specific date for this day of reflection matters, this in-depth history of Juneteenth is another place to educate oneself: “What Is Juneteenth?” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,

  • Employing Expertise: This summer, we will engage an expert on race, diversity, and inclusion to work alongside us as we leverage change. I hope to introduce her in my next letter. Together with a small task force, that expert will help us launch a search for the person to fill our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion position that is rooted in a clear and strategic understanding of this position’s role and functions.

In addition, our external expert will help ensure targeted anti-racism training for key areas on campus. That expert will also identify additional changes that we can make across this summer and into the fall.

  • Developing Resources: Our colleagues at Gramley Library have taken on the task of developing a set of resources for us—including those so effectively shared by the College Student Government Association and the Academy Black Student Union. This resource list includes the opportunity to crowdsource materials for our community. We are also working to acquire additional resources specifically focused on anti-racism education. Here is the link:

I am reviewing additional concerns raised by some of you regarding racial justice in relation to our student organizations and the roles and practices of our honor councils.

I will be writing regularly to keep us all up to date on these and other specific action steps we are taking this summer. We know we need to be rigorously persistent in combatting systemic racism on our campus. Salem Academy and College is committed to engaging our entire institution in working to dismantle racism in our institution and our nation. As always, I welcome your comments, suggestions, and questions.


Susan Henking signature

Susan Henking
Interim President