By President Dr. Tracy D. Hall
June 3, 2020
The coronavirus and its disproportionate impact on African Americans and the death of George Floyd at the knee of a Minnesota police officer have shone a glaring light, yet again, on the systemic and institutional inequities facing African Americans. Health disparities and police brutality are real. The statistics and the video serve as irrefutable evidence to these realities. In the case of Mr. Floyd, it seems as though the world has taken notice. Protests are occurring all over the globe as people of all races and creeds join together to say enough is enough.
At Southwest, we also must say enough is enough. Enough of business as usual. Enough of doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result. We have made great changes to our processes and procedures that have led to remarkable gains in our student Redesign, Reinvent and Reset work that began in 2016. However, we have only touched the surface. Retention and completion are not optimal and our campuses are not filled to capacity. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we can make monumental changes like never before. And we can. We must. Our community needs us to be better and to do more.
Like COVID-19, poverty is at pandemic proportions in Memphis and is impacting nearly every aspect of life. In his final manuscript in 1967, Dr. King asked the question: Where do we go from here: Chaos or community? In it, he analyzed the progress made by African Americans since the inception of the Civil Rights Movement 10 years prior. While he recounted the successes, he opined on the economic, education, joblessness, discrimination and poverty issues that remained. Now, 53 years later, we still are dealing with the same issues discussed in the book. 53 years later. Enough is indeed enough. There is much more that we can and must do to bring about positive change in our communities.
Southwest has always been the community’s college. We exist to help students from all zip codes and socio-economic levels. We accept everyone because we believe in the potential of everyone. As we reflect on our mission, vision and values, each of us has an obligation to commit to making Southwest and the communities we serve living, breathing opportunity zones.
We ask you to join us to Reimagine Southwest as we work like never before to:
- Increase social and economic mobility;
- Actively close the digital divide impacting our students;
- Blur the lines between the College and business and industry to better prepare our students for the workforce;
- Remove institutional and policy barriers that prevent students from reaching their goals;
- Participate in courageously uncomfortable conversations about social justice issues impacting our world; and,
- Become more efficient; effective, innovative and entrepreneurial in our work.
Together we can ensure that we are not obstacles to our students’ and community’s progress, that we provide safe spaces to learn and to grow, and that everyone has an opportunity to achieve their dreams, that everyone’s voice is heard, and that we all can breathe.
Dr. Tracy D. Hall, President
Dr. Kendricks D. Hooker, Vice-President, Academic Affairs
Jacqueline Faulkner, Vice-President, Student Affairs
Cynthia Graham, Vice-President, External Relations
Mike Neal, Vice-President, Finance and Administration