As we approach the end of 2020, Adler University President Raymond E. Crossman, Ph.D., addresses some of the long-standing oppression, disparities, and inequities exposed and exacerbated over the last year. Expressing gratitude for the commitment and perseverance of the Adler community, Dr. Crossman calls on students, faculty, and staff to take a restorative break and to “meet 2021 together with the dedication and resolve of Adlerians.”
Our break will be a much-needed time for rest and rejuvenation. We are all hopeful as vaccines are on the way – marking the beginning of the end of the pandemic – yet I write to you knowing that difficulty and fatigue from 2020 still weighs heavily on our community and the world.
Over the past 40 weeks, our lives have changed in innumerable ways, and in recent weeks, we’ve seen rising infections and death. As of today, over 300,000 people in the United States and over 13,000 people in Canada have lost their lives to COVID-19.
You all know well, as social justice advocates and practitioners, that the pandemic is revealing long-standing inequity and oppression in our countries. It’s an overused phrase that “this virus doesn’t discriminate,” but its effects certainly do along familiar lines, with disproportionate impact for marginalized communities – such as Black and Brown people, people in our prisons and detention centers, undocumented people, and the economically-vulnerable health, service, and essential workers who are keeping our countries functioning.
Many grim examples have escaped wider examination. I’ll name two.
In Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a sharp increase in the number of fatal opioid overdoses as a result of the border closure and limited access to services for drug users. British Columbia alone saw more than 175 fatal overdose each month in May, June, July, and August, and it is now estimated that 5 people die each day of opioid complications in the province – more than the daily death rate from the pandemic.
In Chicago, deaths this year from opioid overdoses will be the highest on record. In addition, violence – which has long been a symptom of inequities in housing, education, income, health, and employment – is surpassing prior records. The number of homicides in Chicago has increased by more than 50 percent from a year ago – at 740 deaths as of today, which exceeds sad milestones not seen since the peak years of 2016 and 1998. Black people, who comprise about 29 percent of the population, account for 75 percent of the victims of homicide.
This is difficult to bear as a community dedicated to social justice, and I know that many of you are exhausted.
We’ve all faced changes and challenges in nearly every part of our lives. From learning, teaching, and working remotely in unforeseen ways; to virtual learning or the risks of in-person learning for our children, friends, and loved ones; to experiencing unemployment, homelessness, illness, and other disparate effects of the pandemic; to escalating hate speech, violence, and so many other forms of racism; to inability to access our normal ways and routines to cope and care for one another; to enduring the rhetoric and consequences of ineffective government in the U.S.; to experiencing depression and anxiety more widespread than measured previously – the list is long of ways I’ve seen the members of our university community directly affected over the past year.
For me, the beautiful humanizing force that has dignified these terrible times is the heroes inside Adler University. You’ve persevered through fatigue and difficulty, and you have continued your essential work, relationships, and growth – both inside and outside the University – with grace, care, and honor. I am grateful that you continued to pull together with gemeinschaftsgefϋehl – investment in one other’s wellness and health – as you navigated the interrelated challenges of 2020. You – the students, faculty, and staff of Adler – are heroes to me.
As you begin your break, I ask you to find ways to rest and take care of yourself, your family, friends, and each other. This break is an opportunity for restoration, as well as for reflection about who we want to be as individuals and as a university in a world that has been awakened by 2020. We’ll meet 2021 together with the dedication and resolve of Adlerians.