The Sacred and the Sacrilegious

June 14, 2021

It’s been more than two decades since I last saw Fr. J. Donald Freeze, S.J., now deceased, at the Jesuit Retreat House in Faulkner, Maryland.  I was there with Trinity’s senior staff on a working retreat and did not expect to encounter the former provost of Georgetown University, someone I knew and admired at a distance when I was a lowly assistant dean at Georgetown Law Center.  But by the mid-1990’s, Fr. Freeze was supervising the retreat center and he greeted us warmly and made sure we had everything for a successful meeting.  He had been a popular figure on Georgetown’s campus, and had a magnetic charm that clearly carried into his work at the more remote Loyola House.

So it was with much sadness that I read an email from Georgetown’s president and trustees this week revealing that Fr. Freeze, who died in 2006, has been credibly accused of sexual misconduct by an alumnus of Georgetown; the incident allegedly occurred more than 30 years ago.  Georgetown is investigating the case and, meanwhile, stripped Fr. Freeze of his honorary degree.  And so, one more name joins the roll of thousands of credibly accused priests, leaving a trail of pain and betrayal and damage that the Church has yet to repair.

Before that news broke, I was debating whether to write about the small group of bishops who are trying to force the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to pass a declaration that is the equivalent of excommunication against President Biden and other Catholic politicians whose political decisions are at variance with Church teachings on the issue of abortion.  But the sad tale of Fr. Freeze came on the cusp of this week’s meeting of the USCCB and throws into sharp relief, once more, the plain fact that some bishops are ignoring the realities plaguing our Church while engaging in shockingly inappropriate political gambits.  The juxtaposition of these two dramatic story lines — the ongoing crisis of sexual abuse by priests v. the demands of some bishops to deny Holy Communion to certain Catholic politicians — exposes a crevasse in the heart of our Church that grows wider each day, to the sorrow of many of not most faithful Catholics including clergy, religious and lay persons.

Coincidentally, last week’s news also brought the extraordinary letter of Pope Francis to Cardinal Marx of Germany.  In a stunning act, Cardinal Marx had tendered his resignation as a statement of the “systemic failure” of the Church to deal with the abuse crisis.  Pope Francis rejected the resignation but agreed with Marx that the abuse crisis is a “catastrophe.”  The Pope went on:  “The whole church is in crisis because of the abuse affair…the church today cannot take a step forward without taking on this crisis….every bishop of the church must take it up and ask himself ‘What must I do in the face of this catastrophe?’”

I’ve written about this catastrophe before (see: Cardinal Sins, Clericalism’s Comeuppance, Letter to Pope and Bishops at the Clergy Sex Abuse Summit).

Some bishops are ignoring the real catastrophe while building a pile of kindling that, once ignited, could burn the whole house down.  As the Pope and Cardinal Marx both stated so eloquently in their own ways, the Catholic Church has yet to atone for the utterly appalling catastrophe of sexual abuse committed by priests abusing their power over children and adult victims alike.  Those crimes have wreaked significant collateral damage on the credibility of the hierarchy and willingness of Catholics to support Church leaders without question; the number of Catholics who have simply stopped attending Church grows greater each year. Many don’t “leave the Church” in some dramatic exit scene, but rather, they just stop showing up while still tending to their faith in more personal ways.

Meanwhile, as if to distract attention from that core mortal sin of the Church, some bishops are trying to wield their spiritual powers to condemn politicians for not carrying out their orders.  If they are successful in this misguided endeavor — observers doubt they will be successful, but the story line itself is so damaging — the Church will only continue to grow smaller as increasing numbers of Catholics abandon the organization (but not the faith).

The Magisterium is the moral teaching authority of the Church — and, yes, the moral authority of the bishops to teach about the grave sin of abortion is unassailable.  But the Magisterium is a teaching authority, not a license to engage in public shaming and condemnation, and worse, using a sacrament as a cudgel to score political points. The same bishops who want to deny the sacrament of Holy Communion to President Biden and other politicians seemed to have no problem with exgregious abuses against truth and human life of the previous administration; some of the same bishops had no qualms heaping praise and honors on former Attorney General William Barr, a Catholic whose taste for the death penalty toward the end of his tenure seemed insatiable.

Misusing spiritual authority to pursue a political end cheapens the moral teaching and spreads a kind of cynicism that becomes sticky, oozing across many facets of the relationship between the faithful at their Church.  The bishops would do well to spend their time together (not on zoom, but together in a real meeting) examining their own consciences in relation to the question of why so many Catholics today pay little or selective attention to the moral teachings of the Church.  Perhaps that reflection might illuminate the problem of the sticky cynicism that flows from the still-fresh wounds of the abuse crisis, a scandal that unfolds in endless shapes across decades, a “catastrophe” for which there has yet to be a genuine reckoning between Church leaders and the body of the faithful.

The bishops would also do well to reflect on the effectiveness of their pastoral example, the ways in which they have (or have not) walked in the shoes of the people, been first responders in the “field hospital” that Pope Francis so eloquently described as the Church of his vision when he first took the papacy.  “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. … And you have to start from the ground up.”

The field hospital is crowded and overflowing with human need.  The bishops should ask themselves how ardently they have called out the racism and racial injustices that stunt and and ruin and eradicate so many lives in our society.  Racial hatred, too, is a pro-life issue!  What have those same bishops done to confront one of the most devastating of all scourges against life in American society, the prevalence of gun violence that will not end? The bishops should ask themselves how many among them have actually welcomed and supported and helped undocumented persons — not just issued statements, but actually helped with advocacy and money and services.  The bishops should ask themselves what they are doing to raise up concerns about the present danger to human freedom and dignity in the efforts to suppress voting rights in the states — the tenet of Catholic social teaching about the responsibility to participate cannot be fulfilled if the rights of the people to vote are stifled  Those same Catholic social teachings, whose root principle is human life and dignity, demand care for God’s creation — what have the bishops done to advance a real environmental agenda even insofar as our own churches are concerned?

The question of how to reduce or eliminate abortion is surely one of our society’s serious moral challenges — but not the only one.  As with so many intractable social questions, reasonable people can have different tactical approaches to finding solutions.  Regardless of what the law says, the moral teaching remains the same: abortion is a grave moral evil and no one should choose abortion.  The bishops confuse the issue when they seek to impose on lawmakers the same spiritual penalty they impose on the person who commits the sin, itself.  By equating legislation with the sin, itself, the bishops have reduced their moral teaching authority to just one more political rant in the loud cacophony of American politics.

I grew up in the strictest of Catholic households and schools in Philadelphia, and yet, I was always taught about conscience and free will, and the strict privacy protected by the seal of confession.  Politicians have conscience and free will, and if they have sinned, they have the sacrament of confession.  It’s not up to any individual priest or bishop to stand before the congregation to declare that they know the state of any person’s soul, to condemn any person before the whole of the Church, to publicly deny participation in sacred sacraments because of the bishop’s a priori judgment about the state of a person’s soul — a person who has not confessed directly to that bishop.

Using what is sacred to carry on a political argument is truly sacrilegious.

Let us pray for the bishops as they gather once more this week, that they will find it in their hearts to do the kind of reflection on their work, their pastoral obligations, the needs of their people that will lead them away from this obsession with destructive political engagement.  We must pray that they find in themselves the humility and grace that characterized Cardinal Marx’s action to acknowledge the “systemic failure” of clergy sex abuse that remains a deep gash in the heart of the Church.  They must repair the damage, not inflict more.

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Voices of Trinity: May 2021 Graduates Share Their Stories!

May 11, 2021

Congratulations, graduates in the Class of 2021!  What a beautiful graduation week!  From the zoom commencement events to the “drive-by” diploma ceremony, we had a wonderful time celebrating our graduates in the Class of 2021.

We invited alumnae to send messages of congratulations and support, and they did not disappoint!  Here’s a video with their messages and some of the photos from our graduation events last week:

Below is my blog with the graduation stories of our most recent alumnae and alumni!

You did it!!!  You triumphed over the pandemic, over the insurrection, over the political messes and economic hardships and very tough assignments from professors who have your best interests always at the top of their concerns.  Congratulations to the great Blue Class of 2021!  You have earned your Trinity degrees through a great deal of hard work, intellectual rigor and true inspiration.  You now move on into the next phase of your lives as Trinity alumnae and alumni, ready to tackle some of the world’s great problems even as you solve some of the simpler needs in your places of work and at home.  We are proud of you!  These are your stories…

Tiffany Pone, CAS, B.A. in Health Services

Graduating from Trinity has made intangible DREAMS a REALITY! It all started in 2005, my freshman year in Houston, Texas. I was an 18 year old eager to become a nurse. Upon applying to school I found out I was pregnant with my son.I was all over the place emotionally — scared,  surprised and excited.  My family was disappointed but I was determined to be the best version of me not only for me but for my child. I became the most determined then I have ever been. Once I felt everyone counted me out, I returned home to Washington DC in 2006  and started medical assistant school in pursuit of what I thought would be a stepping stone for my nursing degree. Upon graduating from Medical assistant school, I applied to the University of the District of Columbia community college.  after 2 years in attendance they lost accreditation. At that time I was exhausted, I took a break. In 2014 I revisited this dream and applied to Radians college. After attending classes for 1 year, yet again the accreditation was revoked and the school closed.

In 2016 I decided to take another shot at a school by actually researching the school and their mission. As I stumbled across Trinity my mind, body and soul was in love. The history behind Trinity opened mental doors of opportunity for women such as myself from the start. I applied, got accepted and started classes. In the beginning it was challenging as my intention was to go to the nursing program, It was a day program. I was puzzled how would I be able to be a single mother and attend classes without a job. I was so determined I quit working and went to school full time. Unfortunately I did not get into the Nursing program. I was confused and frustrated  because my GPA was good. I was even on the dean’s list. However, I spoke with my advisor who informed me of the Health Services program. In the beginning I was skeptical. Upon taking my classes I realized I was right where I was supposed to be. Classes were intriguing, professors were amazing and I was thriving better than ever. I realized Health services was my passion the entire time and all the hurdles I experienced on this journey was to lead me to my destiny at Trinity. After being in and out of school for a total of 13 years, this degree is proof that no matter what life throws your way, you are capable and nothing can stand in your way of what is meant for you. It is not about when you finish, it is the fact that you finished!! NEVER give up on your dreams and aspirations.  I am so grateful to say I AM A TRINITY TIGER ALUM and I would not change that for anything.

Laraven Gaymon, CAS, BA in Criminal Justice

Let’s set the tone: I’m black, disabled, and a woman. All odds are constantly against me, but I refuse to not get even. I graduated high school with a 4.25 Gpa, I then got into Trinity the spring of 2016. I Started out pulling off average grades. However, I knew I could do better, I was dedicated to it. However, I loss my mother in 2017, my whole world came crashing down. My mother was pivotal in my life, I went right back to school after she passed and failed miserably. I cried daily and couldn’t focus at all, I wanted to throw in the towel, for the first time in my life I felt defeated.  Then, I loss my grandpa in 2019, I couldn’t win for losing. Something told me “you cannot give up, your mother never failed you, you’re wrong if you fail her.” Nevertheless, I persisted. I ended up being on the dean’s list multiple times. Now, I’m graduating with honors, my degree is in criminal justice, and I will go on to be a criminal profiler or criminologist. Also, I will be starting an internship next month. I recollect Prof. Vernon Scott  telling me “don’t play their game, create your own” and that’s exactly what I will do. I don’t have to adapt to society, I will force society to adapt to me. My labels don’t define me, I define myself. I remember being in multiple classes where professors let my voice be heard and they never tried to silence me, that made me a stronger speaker. That’s the beauty of attending Trinity, you’re free to be you and have opinions, even if they are unpopular. Also, our professors care about us as people, not just a student. They support you even when you’re no longer in their courses. I will make sure all types of justice is served. I will not be defeated, I will not be silenced. I will win. To all of my Trinity sisters, keep pushing. It is worth it, you have the final say in your life.

Stacy Gantz, NHP, Masters in Public Health

Graduating with my masters degree is a dream come true. When I first began college, I had no idea what I was interested in or what I wanted to do as a career. While completing my bachelors degree (Trinity ’17), I became sure that I wanted to work in the health field helping people as my mother did. Being involved in the health field is not only self rewarding but it is constantly a growing occupation where one can have experience in various settings and there is always an opportunity for growth and continuing education possibilities. Yet, I did not know which direction to go and when one door closes, another one opens! After being accepted into a fast paced physical therapy doctoral program immediately following my undergraduate studies and not performing as well as I expected to, I decided to take a break, slow down and consider all of my options. With familiar and faculty support, I decided to pursue my graduate degree and achieve the masters of public health degree.

When I initially came to Trinity for my undergrad degree, I had no idea how much the environment and faculty would make me grow into the woman I am today. I have had the best learning experiences, inside and outside of classes. I have built long term relationships with the faculty as well as my classmates who are truly my Trinity sisters. I am forever thankful and grateful for the amazing staff and support system that Trinity offers to their students, with a special shout-out to Dean Meechie, Dr. Mary Romanello and Dr. Nicole Betschman who contributed to my overall success within and outside of the class setting. My classmates were also a motivating force in my life who constantly stood by my side and we supported one another. I want to thank my family for being a motivating force in my life and I am proud to say that I am a Trinity alumna for life.

My future plans involve working within the District of Columbia government in the public health realm as well as coming back to Trinity in the fall to teach and guide others as an adjunct professor. I am also in the process of studying for my boards to take the physical therapy assistant certification state licensure exam after successfully completing the program and clinical rotation and have plans to work within the geriatric community as early as October, 2021. Going forward, I will move with grace while helping others and remembering “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you; plans to give you hope and a better future” Jeremiah 29:11.

Ja’Nay Covin, NHP, Master’s in Public Health

I am originally from Newark, New Jersey. I moved to Olney, MD when I was 3.  I began my college journey at Morgan State University in Baltimore, unsure of what I wanted to do with myself.  I felt out of place at such a huge school and so many students.  I stumbled upon Trinity and knew I wanted to attend because of the class size and the individualized curriculum.  I maintained my 4.0 GPA at MSU and transferred to Trinity my Sophomore year.

I knew I always wanted to do Nursing and was the quiet student, always observing and trying to learn as much as I could.  I had the support from my parents, Linda & John, my brothers, family and friends even when I did not believe in myself.  I was 2 semesters away from finishing the Nursing program, when one day that literally changed my life, my father passed away in February 2018.  I felt like giving up and I have to thank Dr. Richard Holland, Dr. Carrie O’Reilly & especially Dean Mary Romanello for helping me push forward and encouraging me to continue, even if it was not in nursing anymore.  I changed my major for the best and received my Bachelors of Arts in Health Services, concentration in Health Administration and Health & Wellness in December 2018, to understand how I can help my community with health promotion and prevention.  I walked across the stage with the support of my family and although my father was not physically with me, I walked across the stage with the support of my family and surrogate father Rev. Leonard P. Massie, Jr.

I took the semester off to focus on work and applied for the MPH program, again thank you Dean Romanello for assisting me.  I was accepted into the MPH program and there, I met some amazing individuals and professors who challenged me in more ways than I can think of.  I learned to use my voice and develop more confidence that I did not realize I had within me.  The moment I realized that Trinity was my second home was when I was asked by Dean Romanello to do a photoshoot to help promote the MPH program.  When I got there, I was told by the photographer that Dean Romanello was able to provide my entire story from undergrad until now.  At that moment, I realized that for me, Trinity was not just a place where I obtained degrees from, instead it was also a place where I created long-lasting, impactful relationships.

While here, “she was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued despite them”-Beau Taplin.  I discovered who I am today, resilient and “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become” -Carl Gustava Jung.

Peace and blessing to the new students.  Enjoy the journey and know that you can do it and you will make a difference.  Thank you Trinity for your love, support and all that you have done for me over the years.  I can truly say that I am #TrinityProud.

Lesly (Sam) Murillo, CAS, BA, Health Services

I immigrated to the United States when I was seven years old. Little did I know that the experience that would lie ahead would pave the way towards an up-and-downhill journey in navigating this country and its legislation as an undocumented immigrant. Growing up, my family and I faced many adversities and overcame multiple barriers throughout the years. I would say that the greatest challenge I faced was finding a college that would open its doors for me and allow me to continue my education.

I am a DACA recipient from a small town in Indiana called Jeffersonville, while I love my hometown it was evident to me that the love was not reciprocated. As a DACA recipient, the opportunities for me to further my education were inequitable to those that my peers were presented with. I applied to every school in Indiana and they all denied me in-state tuition because of my DACA status. I was left at a crossroads with a great disadvantage and I remember asking myself what I had done wrong. I was an honor roll student, graduated with a 4.5 GPA, was in school clubs and sports. I did everything that was required and was still being denied an opportunity which was all I ever asked for.

That is of course until I came upon thedream.us scholarship and that is how Trinity found me. I say that Trinity found me because I was on the verge of giving up, and right when I needed it Trinity opened its doors for me and took me in. It is still unbelievable to me that four years have gone by. I have built beautiful relationships here both personal and professional. I have become a better person, a better friend, a better student, it may be a cheesy slogan but Trinity is the place where you will discover your strength. I will forever cherish my time at Trinity and I hope that everyone takes the opportunity to grow and learn from this wonderful institution.

Lamarious Myers, BGS, M.A. in Strategic Communication and Public Relations

Communication is key. It’s what my parents, my co-workers, my partner, my friends constantly remind me of and as an SCPR Graduate they’re right!

Communicate changes playing fields, for an NFL quarterback it wins Super Bowls, to a politician it wins elections, in relationships it wins love.  I’ve always had a passion for communication. Curating platforms that advocate for a product, a service, a people. Where, when, how, communication is needed I’ve alway found myself galvanizing to expose for an experience, through the use of words and some visual to support, ha.

As I embark on the next phase of my life, with degree in hand, I continue to learn, soak up, surround myself with those in the field. Trinity Washington, thank you. To my professors, cohorts, mentors, I’m express my sincere gratitude for equipping me with the tools I sought  to becoming a stronger PR and comms professional.  Every group project showed me power in numbers, every powerpoint taught me visualization is vital, every guest speaker in Professor Watson’s class gave me purpose, every book ordered was another tool to add to my PR and comms toolbox.

I’m just getting started, one bike peddle at a time. DC is my backdrop and the world is my client. Dr King once said “life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?” My response, I’m increasing awareness for the greater good!

 

Courtney D. Cook, BGS, M.A. Strategic Communication and Public Relations

As a developing professional in communications and public affairs, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to pursue and complete a master’s degree in Strategic Communication and Public Relations at Trinity Washington University. My graduate school experience has been phenomenal. My journey at Trinity began in August of 2018, and now—three years later—I feel fortunate to successfully complete the program. At just the right time, after working several years to gain professional experience, I then decided to pursue the Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Public Relations to gain more knowledge and expertise in the communications industry. Now, as a Communications Specialist, I look forward to effectively applying the information while in my current role in the federal government. The master’s degree in Strategic Communications and Public Relations perfectly aligns with my skills, education, and experience. It also serves as a practical complement to my Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from the University of Maryland, College Park and professional certificate in digital marketing from Georgetown University.

Trinity’s motto, “Discover Your Strength,” characterizes my growth over the past three years in the graduate program. Throughout the years, I discovered my own strengths and resilience—which increased my faith to maximize my full potential. Completing the Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Public Relations at Trinity Washington University was a valuable experience—I appreciate earning this credential as I continue to apply the knowledge as a practitioner in the field of communications and public affairs.

Ingrid Mozqueda, NHP, Bachelor of Science in Nursing

My name is Ingrid Mozqueda Jaramillo and I am beyond thankful to The Dream.Us, outside scholarships and sponsors for supporting me throughout my career at Trinity. I was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and as a DACAmented student, my options were VERY limited.  I remember growing up and thinking to myself, “why do I look different and get treated differently than others in my class room?” I later realized that being undocumented would become a huge barrier that I would approach and I needed to maintain a strong mindset to overcome it. I have always been very outspoken and have advocated for my community through various organizations in North Carolina and I knew that Nursing was my calling. Growing up in an environment and witnessing the lack of health care in the immigrant community has allowed me to speak up and act as an advocate in this field. It is my hope that my nursing journey will lead me down a path of compassion, humility, and perseverance in these dark times of fear and chaos. I have learned to embrace my struggles by overcoming everything with God’s help and now it is my turn to give back to the world. I am beyond blessed to join Duke University Hospital as the next Trauma (BSN) Registered Nurse and let my journey continue on. ¡Gracias Mama Y Papa! Cuando me vean volar, recuerden que ustedes me pintaron mis alas. Si Se Pudo!

Photo below:  Ingrid with her sisters Jocelyn and Joanna:

Ikea Hicks, CAS, BA in Business Administration, Minor in International Affairs

Coming up, I never thought of going to college because it was not something that was introduced to me. It was never talked about in my home, my community, or amongst my circle of peers. It was my senior year of high school when my teacher who had taken a liking to me asked me if I was going to college. I could not answer her because college and its benefits were not something that I was familiar with.  I always knew that I loved fashion and beauty. Within these fields I wanted to establish financial stability as well as generational wealth for my kids and their children to come. I also knew that I wanted to be my own boss and travel the world. Right after this eye-opening conversation with my teacher I applied for the Art Institute of Arlington Virginia and got accepted. Something led me to Trinity and now I am the first of my generation to graduate from college in my family. I have a major in business administration and a minor in international affairs. I appreciate my experience at Trinity and the inspiring women around me that guided and allowed me to introduce something new to my family that we all can be proud of, which is academic achievement. With my education, encounters, and experience from college I will be a multi-business owner in the fashion, modeling, and beauty industries. While at Trinity I have went for my goals and walked in DCFashion Week, I was published in PUMP Magazine, and I was on WUSA9 news for fashion. One day you’ll see my name or face on a billboard. With the help of Trinity, I have become the best version of myself. Of course, throughout high school and college life as well as a selective few tried to discourage me, but I quickly learned that I am in control of my success and I can make anything happen. I claim everything that I want out of life and manifest it. I learn from my losses and come back even harder. These are skills that my experiences at Trinity have instilled in my way of thinking and I am forever grateful. I am extremely proud of my Trinity sisters as well as myself for rising to the occasion so gracefully and successfully.

Mariela Elizabeth Kinch Edwards (“Mari”), SPS, BA in Journalism and Media Studies

My journey to Trinity began in 1984 when I graduated from high school in Brooklyn, New York.  At the time, it was so important to me that I move on to “the college life” that I took 10 classes each quarter, eliminating my lunch hour, in order to graduate an entire year early from high school. I was filled with the hope of completing my undergraduate degree within the next four years. However, this fervent desire to obtain a degree would stand the test of time through the many twists and turns of adulting that would involve dropping out of Brooklyn College, as I started a family and relocated to the DMV area.

After attending Montgomery College and Western University, my journey would lead to Trinity Washington University. I was initially drawn to Trinity because it offered a weekend college option.  As such, in 2006, I proudly joined the student body of Trinity, and, from the very first class, during which a professor instructed us students to always “speak as if everyone (color, race, gender) is in the room,” I knew this would be the institution from which I would obtain my first degree.  Almost fifteen years later, I can finally and gleefully celebrate that I have earned the credits to obtain a degree in Journalism and Media Studies.

Gratefully, the pandemic of 2019-2021 did not hinder my progress despite all of the added challenges presented as a result, which is largely due to the faculty of Trinity and their stellar commitment to ensuring the academic success of each student, as well as the dedication to finding progressive ways in which to do so. To that end, I am eternally grateful for the faculty, my Trinity family. I am also grateful for my children and thank them for the sacrifices time-wise, as I studied for many hours at a time; my extended family and friends, for the prayers; my sister, Betty, for the words of encouragement; and my mate, Lee, for the years of immense support in all manners of speaking, all of which enabled me to achieve this long-standing goal. 37 years later, and the timing could not be more perfect.  To my fellow graduates, I say:  everything in due time, as you progress forward in life and careers; hold on to the vision, and give thanks for that which you wish to achieve.  Congratulations Class of 2021!  We did it!  Please continue to believe in yourself and your dreams!

Anthony Barbiero, NHP, Master’s in Public Health

My name is Anthony Barberio, graduating with a Masters of Public Health Degree from the school of Nursing and Health Professions. Before coming to Trinity, I took a gap year after I got my undergraduate degree from Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where I was a mediocre student. I was in Houston, Texas working as an Americorps member where I helped with the relief effort for Hurricane Harvey. I was applying to schools all over the country throughout that year to see if I could continue my education but it was rejection letter after rejection letter. Until one day just after my term with the Americorps had ended, I was just laying on my couch/bed in my studio apartment in Houston when I got a text from my father who called the admissions office at Trinity before they sent out the official acceptance emails, telling me that I had been accepted. In that moment, a switch flipped in my mind, and I told myself I would not let myself ruin this opportunity. Since coming to Trinity I had gotten all A’s and only received one B in my last semester. I have gained great relationships with my professors and fellow classmates. The environment at Trinity is filled with support from everywhere, enrollment services, faculty, and staff. Dean McGuire was even kind enough to do an interview with me for my class with Dr. Watson. My time here at Trinity will never be forgotten and I will always view it as a monumental point in my life and in my career path. I am currently enrolled to be in Catholic University’s accelerated Masters of Science in Business program in the fall to make myself more marketable, and I would not have been selected for that program, had it not been for the help Trinity gave me upon my arrival. Thank you so much to everybody at Trinity!

Sherrell Murphy, SPS, BS in Accounting

My journey at Trinity began in 2016 when I enrolled in school on my son’s one year death anniversary. Now, here I am five years later getting ready to walk across the stage. Although it has been a long journey, I promised myself to stay committed and consistent through out this entire process.

Over the past five years I have been faced with many obstacles. While in my last semester of school it seemed like my personal life was under attacked and everything was against me. There is no need to go into details, but just know that I am so thankful to God for seeing me through this process and making it to the finish line. I now get to celebrate this huge accomplishment with my close family and friends and most of all my children.

Venus Brevard SPS, AA General Studies

I started my journey at Trinity at THEARC in late 2017. After taking a break from my academics for 30 years, making excuses as to why I could not pursue higher education, and working in a social service field for 14 years, I felt that it was time to invest in myself and earn my degree. I was afraid, yet determined to pursue my goal. During my collegiate career at Trinity at THEARC I met many wonderful peers that were very supportive of me, and set the bar high. The past two years have not been easy. I worked a full-time and part-time job in order to pay for school, and participated in virtual classes during the pandemic. My ability to persevere throughout challenging times stems from my passion in becoming a social worker. In 2020, I had two weeks left in the semester when I suffered a great loss, my best friend, my mom. I was ready to quit but I kept hearing my mother’s voice say “You got this, you can do it, and I am so very proud of you”. Having my mother with me in spirit helped me get through my last semester. At that point I knew there was no giving up. I would like to thank my family and friends, especially my two daughters. I would also like to thank the Trinity family, professors, and give a special thank you to my advisor, Christina Lynch. I was accepted into the bachelor’s program at Trinity Washington University, and I am looking forward to walking across the stage in May 2023 with my BA in Human Relations!

Shawron D. Leslie, SPS, BS in Accounting

My name is Shawron Leslie and I am a 51-year-old Trinity graduate to be. This journey at Trinity began for me when I made the decision to return to college after 23 years in 2015. Previously I had attended Norfolk State and Howard University for Architecture between 1989 to 1992 but due to being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called sarcoidosis which attacked my lungs and eyesight even at one point causing me to become temporarily blind, I had to take a health break from school. After over a year of oral and topical steroid treatment for my lungs and eyes, the disease went into remission and still is today. I still have scarring in my lungs and eyes. After getting back healthy, I decided not to go back to school but to get two jobs to pay back student loans which took me 9 years to payoff. I had my son in 2000 and he became my reason and focus. My profession at the time my son arrived was music related, but in 2003 I made a career move from music to corporate American with Freddie Mac where I have been for 18 years now. I decided to go back to school in 2015 because I had always been the type that was taught to not start anything and not complete it. Having tuition reimbursement at my job also helped with the decision to go back. I also wanted to be a motivation and a role model for my son to attend college one day because he had just started high school at the time. I am now graduating after 6 years nonstop at Trinity with a 3.6+ gpa. My son is now attending college in Santa Barbara. Trinity will always hold a special place in my heart because not only did I finish what I started but I found my fiancée who also attends Trinity as a Psychology Major. I guess Life really does start after 50 (LOL).

Yoseline Rodriguez, CAS, BA in Health Services, Minors in Political Science and Business

My name is Yoseline Rodriguez, I am a Sr. Ann Kendrick Scholar coming from Apopka Florida. I am the 2021 Blue Class President and I am planning to graduate this May with a major in Health Services and a double minor in political science and business.

When I graduate, I plan to go back to Florida. I was offered a job opportunity at the Hope Community Center where I was a Cunneen fellow last summer. I will be their service-learning director in their college immersion program.

At the beginning of the Covid pandemic last year, I, unfortunately, had a close family member pass away after being in contact with Covid. My professors at Trinity were able to help me accommodate my studies during such a hard time. I was also doing my fellowship with Sister Ann Howard (Director of Campus Ministry) at the time and she allowed me to talk about my situation and helped me spiritually and mentally.

I was also able to get financial aid on behalf of my school during the pandemic. Since my family is undocumented, we did not qualify for any financial help including stimulus checks, so trying to pay bills was hard during the pandemic. My parents are front-line workers at a packaging company in Florida so the financial help I received from Trinity helped me help my family make some ends meet. If I went to another school, I would not think that I would be comfortable talking about my situation.

Coming from the South, I was not used to a space that allowed me to share my story of being an undocumented Latinx woman. Trinity has provided a space that allowed me to grow in all aspects of my life. All staff and professors are committed to genuinely helping students, which I know future students will appreciate.

Taundaleah Stewart, SPS, BA in Human Relations

I will be the first person in my family to graduate with a college degree. Though I had many obstacles but I didn’t let them stop me. I wanted to show my 3 kids that though obstacles may come never let them stop you from getting to you goal. I always tell my kids to run your own race because life is a marathon not a sprint.

Marquita Foster, SPS, BS, Business Administration

I began my journey at Trinity fifteen years ago in the spring of 2006. I transferred from Prince Georges Community College to attend Trinity at the THEARC which was perfect because it was near my home. Location and flexibility were important for me as student, and a single mother raising three children. I needed to be close to home, and in environment that offered more flexibility. During, my tenure at Trinity l endured some hardships which caused me to take several breaks, but I never gave up. In, 2008 my dad passed suddenly, and I took a break for 2 years to regroup. I juggled raising three children with no help or support, worked fulltime, and attended class in the evenings or weekends. Although, I experienced hardships and took breaks while attending Trinity my goal was to obtain my bachelor’s degree no matter what or how long it took. I never placed a time limit on myself, and I just pressed forward. Spring, 2016 I graduated from Trinity THEARC with my Associates of Arts Degree/ General Studies, and moved on to main campus in Fall, 2016. Throughout, my journey at Trinity I have met some amazing friends and associates. The faculty and staff members are outstanding and have helped make my educational journey one that will last a lifetime. I am grateful to Trinity Washington University for establishing THEARC to give residents east of the river a more equitable, and much needed opportunity to further our education. I will be the first in my immediate family to receive a degree in higher education, and so excited to be graduating May 2021 with my degree in Business Administration. This year I launched a business titled” The Write Move Consulting Group”.  I’m excited to say that I was accepted into Trinity’s MBA program for Fall, 2021. Thank you, Trinity, for all that you’ve done for me. I am forever grateful.

Gizelle Taylor-Daniels, SPS, BA in Health Services and LaDonya McClure, SPS, BA in Health Services

Hello!! My name is Gizelle Taylor-Daniels. My senior year experience as a student has been a melancholy feeling. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered our mindset in all aspects of life. From socially distanced public outings to virtual work experiences, many people are confused about what to do next. College students have taken on virtual learning in a mission to further their knowledge and positioned themselves for future opportunities. However, it is possible that these opportunities that we are working so hard for may dwindle while virtual learning leaves a questionable imprint on higher education.

At the beginning of this school year, I was as excited as anyone else to be a college senior. The idea of two more semesters of hard work, overnight study sessions, and career planning seemed great, considering in May I would be set for that next step in life. I have heard so many of my classmates express how frustrated and devastated they were that they were not having the college experience they always imagined. Unfortunately, we are all grieving the loss of our pre-COVID realities, and the “new normal” has been anything but normal. My old assumptions no longer fit my current circumstances and accepting this was no small task.

Trinity Washington University Faculty and Staff worked very hard and diligently. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust higher education into uncharted waters and with challenges impacting all facets. While all employees have had to adjust how they live and work, faculty members have experienced significant disruption. Faculty members were forced to fundamentally reevaluate the way they would deliver value to every student while ensuring that faculty and staff have the resources and support, they needed to perform their jobs safely and effectively. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for the commitment and dedication through the pandemic.

Trinity Washington University, has had no shortage of amazing professors who shared their knowledge and passion with their students, ultimately inspiring each of us through the challenging storms. Trinity’s professors have such a profound influence through inspiring lectures, professional advice, or through their sense humor. The professors were all compassionate and emphatic to our emotions, and struggles, the pandemic had taken loved ones, jobs, and our sense of security. That very compassion and empathy has allowed me and every other student to be resilient through the pandemic. Academic continuity was ensured to every student during the pandemic, while keeping the community as safe as possible.

I would like to thank my partner in success LaDonya McClure for seeing what I could not see in myself at the time. LaDonya and I came as a package, and we are graduating as a package. Our goal was to attend college together, take the same classes together, and complete the program within 4 years together. Together we will graduate on Friday May 21, 2021!!! Despite the pandemic LaDonya and I enjoyed the Health Services Program. The professors were all awesome, class lectures, group projects, and of course the many papers were great experiences. Having a support system is golden, LaDonya and I held each other accountable. It was imperative that we accomplished A’s and B’s we are the examples for our family and more importantly our grandchildren. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to every professor that we have encountered during our journey at Trinity Washington University. May God continue to BLESS you all for your gifting, wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

Lashon Clark, CAS, BA Sociology

As I reflect on my last four years at Trinity, I am stunned by my success and the support provided by the faculty. My road to college was an unconventional one,  but through the grace of god, ambition, work ethic, mentors, and others, I succeeded. I am proud of myself!

 

David A. Rowe, SPS, BA, Human Relations

I am 59-year-old African American male. I served four plus years in the US Army. Currently, I am a 2021 class graduate of Trinity University.  I was using drugs for 20 years and one day. I realized that something needed to change. I made a decision to leave Newark, NJ in 2001, but on the final night of being in the city of Newark, NJ, I was assaulted, robbed, and ended up in the city hospital with a fractured jaw. I needed to have my jaw wired. From the information given to me by the police, they found me lying on a sidewalk unconscious. The police found an ex-girlfriend’s information in my wallet and contacted her. Being the loving person that she is, she showed up at the hospital to support me.  Once I was released, she took me to her house.  This event only confirmed my decision to relocate to the State of Maryland to be with family, who had moved there in the mid-80’s.  That was exactly what I did.

The next morning, she called my brother in Maryland.  She took me to the train station where I took an Amtrak heading out of town for good.  To this very day, I do not remember, who it was, or how many it was that attacked me.  After being in several treatment facilities and becoming homeless in New Jersey, I knew this was not how my parents raised me and if they saw the state, I was in, it would break their hearts.

Upon moving to Maryland, with nothing but the clothes on my back and a broken spirit, I had a plan of what I wanted to do to re-invent myself and change my life. When I arrived at my brother’s house, I felt relieved from the lifestyle of using drugs. I was so burnt out, I slept on my brother’s couch, in his living room, for seven consecutive days. The only time I awakened from my sleep was when his wife made sure I had food to eat. Truth be told, those 7 days were a detox.

On the 8th day, I asked my brother to take me to the Veteran’s Medical Center and I signed into the SARP outpatient program, (Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program) and I started serving God. From there I was educated on drug addiction, how to remain abstinent and become the person God created me to be. I started attending a 12-step program and was attending meetings daily.  I allowed others in the recovery process to show me how to live without drugs, and it was the best decision I have ever made up for my life.

From there, I worked at the hospital through Compensation Work Therapy. I started building up days of sobriety, meeting true friends, and reconnecting with family. I established a bank account and started providing for myself and living like a normal person. I had people in my life who were truly my friends, and I could now say I was living.  My family was proud of me, I became a father for the first time in my life to a beautiful daughter. I was a good dad, and everything was going well.  After multiple years of sobriety, I relapsed and I immediately went back to SARP, told my counselor what happened, and started relapse aftercare for six weeks.

By this time, my daughter was just a year old. I told one of my sisters about my relapse and I remember the conversation we had on April 27, 2004.  She said, “David, you cannot be selfish anymore, you have someone who is depending on you.”  This resonated in my soul, and I started crying. I made the commitment going forward, that I cannot revert to using drugs again, and I have not.

I remember my counselor in the SARP program having me write down my goals, and I do not remember all of them.  I remember the last of my goals, and they were, to get my real estate license and get a college degree.  I now, work as a Federal Government employee, a Medical Support Assistant, at the very same hospital I received substance abuse treatment. I have a Certification as Peer Specialist, I have my real estate license, and I am a graduate of Trinity University’s Class of 2021.  I have 17 years of sobriety!

Wandimu Dalkero, SPS, BA Health Services

“Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Amen!” Psalm 150: 1 &2

First of all, I would like to extend a deep gratitude for your generous support I received from my great school-Trinity Washington University all through my school years. My sincere thanks to all Trinity professors who are the reason for this event. Also, I am writing today to thank Christ House’s inpatient care unite staff, especially, Mary Jordan-clinical director of the center for all the support that they have extended to me during my time as a student at Trinity Washington University.  Thank You!

My name is Wondimu S. Dalkero, I was born and raised in Ethiopia. I was brought up by a family who had a strong belief in education. Unfortunately, my parents were not able to read and write single words in English. As a society, we did not have much opportunity to get a good education.  However, education has been an important part of my life. My connection with health care services was based on my experience with Mother Theresa’s sisters. They are a religious community of the Roman Catholic Church. They are my role model in health care services, In my diocese, they have a mission to serve the poor especially in the Health Care sector. I had an internship opportunity in one of the service centers where Mother Theresa’s sisters run. They inspired and formed my life to live for others. I  have learned unconditional love and care for the poorest of the poor. After I finish my internship, I decided to go to medical school, and when I finish come back to the mission and serve the poor. Unfortunately, my dream never happened, because, I left my country for South Africa as a refugee. In Nov 2010, I arrived in the U.S, and in 2018 I became an American Citizen. In America, we got so many opportunities and that opportunity gave me the chance to go back to school and to finish the unfinished business of the past dream- which was serving as a health care professional among the underprivileged community.

In 2012, I was been admitted to Trinity Washington University as SPS for the pre-nursing program. I put all my energy into my education. Even if various forms of challenges stand in my way, but I never gave up. I made a change on my major which was BSN and now BA in Health & Wellness Life was not smooth here because of so many ups down moments in my life. As an immigrant, I have experienced so many challenges. Challenges related to immigration status, family issues, homelessness, and unemployment, but all these never stop me from achieving my dream. I have a lot on the plate. My graduation will be the beginning of the bigger dream in my life.

Leima Holmes, SPS, BA in Health Services

I began my journey at UDC as an 18-year-old. At the age of 19 I became pregnant and decided to stop attending classes. When my daughter got a little older and I was able to place her in school. I went to Strayer University for my second attempt to earn my degree. Life was very difficult for me at that time so once again, I stopped taking classes. I started a career at the Washington Hospital Center where I was a receptionist who eventually succeeded to a medical assistant. I kept speaking on returning to school to obtain my degree. I had a coworker name Colleen and a manager name Shelia who constantly encouraged me to return to school over and over.

So, one day I chose to do just that; my coworker Tray had a inside connect which allowed me to get accepted asap. I told myself that I was going to follow through with it the third time around and there will be no quitting. The long days and nights of many papers and math drove me crazy, but I never gave up.

As I come to the end of the road of receiving my Bachelor of Arts in Health Services, I am so PROUD of myself for finally accomplishing my goal. I am in my 40’s and never thought I would achieve this. Anything you put your mind to you can achieve. IT’S NEVER TO LATE!!! Next stop, Masters and Doctorate degree. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS LIMITATIONS!!

 

Schiieyenne Parker-Bowser, CAS, BA in Criminal Justice

My college story started in 2004 when I entered into Southeastern University where I started my studies Criminal Justice as 17-year-old young women. At this time, I was the third person in my family to attend a University, after my oldest sister and my mother. I had such a hard time at first when I entered college and it became more difficult over the many years, yet at the end I have achieved my 1st goal.

My 1st semester in college I found out I was pregnant with my oldest daughter Dachota at the age of 18. I continued school until I delivered as went back as soon as my 6 weeks was up because I was very determined to achieve what I wanted. In 2008, I became pregnant with my second child a boy, his name is Malachi, and I was as persistent as I was with my daughter and I went to school up until the day before he was born. It’s funny because at the time Professor Ted Zalewski was my Criminal Justice Professor as well, and he told me to go home since I had already completed my credits for his class and my son was to be born the next day. I remember telling him that I was bored at home with nothing to do and I just wanted to come to school. I had my son the next afternoon.

In July 2009, Southeastern university closed down and all I could remember thinking was how was I going to finish my studies to get my BA in Criminal Justice. Over the many years afterwards I became a mother of 3 more beautiful babies named MaLéaha, Trenton and Awhtumn. I had a lot of conflict with myself during those years along with hard depression, domestic violence and court cases. When I finally had enough of not seeing a happier and better future for myself and children, I knew that I had to go back to school and enhance my education for myself and my children. So, by this time in the game it was 2019, I was ready and so excited to go back to school.

As I thought I was ready to finish God had other plans for my life. I did start school not knowing how I was going to finish because of financial issues, and I was frustrated and terrified. I remember leaving the day I finally came to Trinity and had my orientation and got my student ID, when I left, I sat in my car and cried the entire way home because I did not know what I was going to do to finish the little time I had to complete school.

I started officially at Trinity Washington University in January of 2019 and three months later I became pregnant with my sixth child. His name is Lyíam and I was so scared and devastated that I did not know what to do because I had just started school and pregnant again. No matter the precautions I took I wanted to end school and say forget it, but I knew I did not want that to be a part of my chapter in a book that keeps growing for my life.  At the end of my journey at Trinity Washington University, COVID became more intense, and I was even more scared being pregnant and trying to complete school. I ended up testing positive for COVID a week before giving birth to my 8lb baby boy and still continued to push through and focus on my classes to get my degree.

I want the moral of my story here to be that without the right and positive support from my family, my children Dachota, Malachi, MaLéaha, Trenton, Awhtumn and 5-month-old baby Lyíam (who by the way attended classes with me), my mother Jean Parker, Sara Pratt for all of her support along with my aunt Vanessa Lucas and my son’s father Robert P., along with my family and friends I would not have been able to push through and focus on getting my BA in Criminal Justice. I also want to thank all of my Professors who were there for me and knew the struggles toward the end and would not let me give up. I could not be prouder of myself than I am at this moment. Thank you all.

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History = HERstory = OURstory

April 29, 2021

(screenshot from NBC News)

“Madam Speaker. Madam Vice President… No president has ever said those words from this podium; no president has ever said those words. And it’s about time.”

The President of the United States got it exactly right.  It’s about time!  When President Joe Biden began his address to the joint session of Congress last night by recognizing the historic significance of the two women sharing the dais with him, he acknowledged another important step on the slow but inevitable path forward in our national struggle for gender and racial equality.  Vice President Kamala Harris is the first woman, first person of African American and Asian identity to be the vice president of the United States.  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is the first and still only woman to be elected Speaker of the House (and elected four times at that!).  Vice President Harris and Speaker Pelosi are now first and second in the line of presidential succession, something we hope is never necessary but an important fact nonetheless.

We have never before seen two women of power sitting behind the president during a joint session of Congress.  For almost all of U.S. history — except for the prior years when Speaker Pelosi also sat there — the faces behind the president were always white men.  We saw history before our very eyes last night, and could truly say with a great deal of satisfaction that history is also HERstory — and OUR story, too!  The fact that Speaker Pelosi is a Trinity alumna, Class of 1962, is a well known fact that gives us immense pride in the way she reflects our long institutional commitment to advancing women in leadership and public service.  Vice President Harris is a graduate of Howard University, our neighbors in D.C., and, like Trinity, a special mission institution.  Howard as the nation’s leading HBCU, and Trinity as a women’s college, share the commitment to advancing education and leadership for persons who have been historically marginalized in the hallways and podiums of power.

A comment on Twitter noted that the two most powerful women in the country graduated from great universities in a city that continues to be treated like a colony — so true!  The District of Columbia universities have educated these and other outstanding leaders for our nation, and yet, our city continues to be denied the most fundamental rights to representation in Congress and full self-determination of our own local laws and policies  The presence of Howard and Trinity alumnae on the dais last night must also reinforce the urgent demand for statehood for the District of Columbia!

Trinity students were very excited to see our Trinity sister Speaker Pelosi on the dais.  Mercy Ogutu and Michelle Vasquez both spoke of their respect for the Speaker and Vice President:

Michele Vasquez:  “As a first-generation college student, I am thrilled by the opportunity to see two great women leaders representing our country. I am inspired by their courage and ability to persist despite the circumstances that we may face. They are only a reminder of how much women’s leadership is needed!”

Mercy Ogutu:  “I am inspired by both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris’ effort to work hard towards inclusion for minorities and women’s rights. Learning about their progression of work, has demonstrated their effort to make sure all people know that there is a seat at the table. I believe leadership is a choice, not a position. Both Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Harris, continue to work and create inclusive change for community development, inspiring young leaders to be the change today and tomorrow.”

Some comments on Twitter and elsewhere last night suggested that the presence of Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Harris behind President Biden was really no big deal, that it was still a man giving the big speech and women appearing in subordinate roles.  Well, yes, that is one interpretation, and we certainly agree that the presence of the two women in positions of power does not mean we have arrived at our final destination.  But social change is hard, it takes a very long time, and it’s never quite done.

OUR story will not be finished in our lifetimes, and perhaps never.  We celebrate the successes along the way, and we need to recognize the moments of achievement as incentive to keep pressing onward.  Even when the glorious day comes when a woman is standing at the lectern giving the big speech, we will not be done.  True gender, racial and social equality for all persons is a continuous challenge, a process across generations that must keep lifting people in places we have yet to touch.  We women who have made it to positions of influence, authority power must never forget the millions of women who still suffer discrimination, poverty, violence and marginalization, unable to realize their full potential because of ingrained prejudices and both official and unofficial policies that repress and discourage opportunities.  That’s why we persist at Trinity as a university still devoted to advancing women’s education and leadership.  And from that original mission we have come to a deep understanding and commitment to racial equity and justice as well, because the conditions that limit and oppress women are even more egregious and harmful for persons of different races and ethnicities

We congratulate our sisters on the dais for making progress!  We look forward to writing the next chapters in OUR story!

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Accountability and Justice

April 21, 2021

(photo credit)

Today, a Minnesota jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of all three counts of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.  But Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison called this verdict precisely: “I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step toward justice.”

Even as cheers, tears, high fives and hugs burst forth in expressions of relief and satisfaction around the country, the bitter reality of the Chauvin case is that George Floyd remains deceased, his family bereft of his presence so unjustly.  In the same way, the litany of the dead and their bereaved families is long and anguishing: the most recent victims of police violence  Adam Toledo, Daunte Wright, joining the seemingly endless list of names that includes Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Botham Jean, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner and dozens of others Black men and women killed by police in circumstances that should never have required deadly force.

Today’s verdict should never have been necessary, because George Floyd should still be alive.  While there is certainly some degree of satisfaction in the realization that Derek Chauvin will receive appropriate and just retribution for his terrible crime, in fact, Attorney General Ellison is correct in saying that this verdict is not “justice” in the best sense of the word.  Accountability in one case, yes, but not justice in the sense of restoring a truly moral balance in the power that police wield with their charge to keep the peace and protect the people.  No single verdict can restore justice for the Black and Brown communities so devastated by official violence and real oppression.

If not justice, then what?  Ellison again is correct in saying that today’s verdict is a “first step” toward justice.  But true justice will not come unless and until this nation makes a genuine and sustained commitment to eradicating racial hatred, to achieving moral balance in law enforcement culture and tactics, to repudiating once and for all the corrupt and corrosive politics of nativism and white supremacy and ethnic discrimination and racial hatred that the recently departed presidential administration practiced with wanton enthusiasm heedless of the wreckage they left behind.  True justice will not come unless and until we are willing to accept the true meaning of the phrase “Black Lives Matter” not as a political slogan but as a moral commitment to work for racial justice and social equity for all people.

Where do we begin?  The fact that this nation survived a violent insurrection and attempt to overthrow the government on January 6 is a step in the right direction — that incident is not unrelated to the violence of Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck.  The former administration gave aid and comfort to a violent view of race and power, encouraging police and military with authoritarian rhetoric that encouraged so many macho displays of violence against people of color and those who would be their allies in this struggle.

It’s no secret that the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6 included numerous persons with military and police training who found inspiration in the former president’s nativist rhetoric.  The former president first tried to stay in power with rhetoric that hinted at a fantastic hellscape of racial violence (his repeated appeals to “suburban housewives,” his insinuations of the collapse of civilization if “low income people” moved into certain neighborhoods) if Joe Biden won the election.  Then, when Biden actually won, the former president reverted to the ultimate lie, claiming that the election was a fraud, calling for the mob to go to the Capitol to “take back our country” as if all of the 80 million people who voted for Biden were not part of the country, including millions of Black voters who made the critical difference in Georgia and other states where the margins were razor thin.

The threat of official violence did not end with President Biden’s inauguration on January 20 any more than today’s Chauvin verdict restores racial justice against our disgraceful national history of police brutality.  Around this nation we are witnessing egregious efforts among states to enact new voting restrictions that would constrain the voting rights of persons of color most particularly, thus setting up the real specter of a national return to the nightmare of 2016-2020 in future elections.  The clear racial motivations behind the voter suppression movement cannot be overstated.

At the same time as parts of the political universe continue to engage in despicable racial manipulations, the United States continues in the grip of an epidemic more treacherous than coronavirus — the epidemic of gun violence that haunts and traumatizes communities and families across all social strata.  Citizen-on-citizen gun violence runs parallel to the epidemic of police violence — law enforcement officers are part of the communities, grow up in the families often plagued by violence, and develop their dispositions toward other people long before they join the long blue line.  In too many places, America is, sadly, a violent nation that also harbors deep racial animosities; no one should be surprised that police personnel sometimes reflect the characteristics of their communities.

How do we achieve true justice?  Some people call for a solution with the phrase “Defund the Police,” but this seems socially naive and impractical.  Instead, I believe we need a whole new method for selecting and training police, combined with entirely new ideas about how they can protect and serve their communities without resorting to exactly the kind of violence from which they should be protecting the citizens they serve.  We need police who are deeply steeped in the practices and purposes of anti-racism, who know how to defuse tense situations with non-violent tactics, who do not respond to provocation by reaching for their guns (or confusing their guns and tasers when under pressure) or using their knees to restrain suspects with neck-holds.

It’s not up to the police to do this kind of reform — at least not by themselves.  We need the political willpower to elect public leaders — mayors, councilmembers, governors, members of Congress, presidents — who can manage the police effectively, who make clear their expectations for policing that is honest, just, nonviolent and anti-racist to its core.  We need to call out those politicians who use inflammatory rhetoric too often in praise of bad acts by law enforcement as somehow necessary while failing to condemn those acts as abuses of power.

We need to restore the real definition of “justice” — not “an eye for an eye” but rather, a form of living and decision-making that puts the needs and rights of others first, that works in service to human life and dignity regardless of a person’s color, ethnicity, economic condition or status in the community.  Our secular religion, which is respect for our Democracy, is rooted in the belief that every person has “unalienable” rights that the state must protect, and the first word in the famous phrase from the Declaration of Independence is “life” — “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

We must do more to confront and root out the racial injustices that pervade so much of American life.  Here at Trinity, we are proud to be a Predominantly Black/Hispanic Serving Institution, and we have launched an initiative known as Trinity DARE: Driving Actions for Racial Equity.  We believe that the most effective way to create social change is to make sure that our Black and Latina graduates have opportunities to become leaders in a wide range of professions, forging pathways in places where persons of color have been excluded or under-represented for far too long.   Yes, this kind of initiative may seem like a long way from that Minnesota street where George Floyd lost his life, or the street in Ferguson or the apartment in Louisville or a park in Cleveland.  But we believe strongly that the kind of social change that will achieve true justice must come in the transformation of many places through widening pipelines for participation and leadership.

America has been working on this idea about justice for more than 230 years — and we still don’t get it right, but that’s not a reason to abandon the effort, but instead, to raise up our efforts with ever more determination to break through the barriers to get closer to success.

Let’s remember these words of Amanda Gorman in her beautiful January 20 Inauguration Poem “The Hill We Climb”

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken,
but simply unfinished.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true,
that even as we grieved, we grew,
that even as we hurt, we hoped,
that even as we tired, we tried,
that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat,
but because we will never again sow division.

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April 2021 Community Survey Results

April 12, 2021

We took a survey of the Trinity campus community in early April 2021.  These are the results of the survey:

Q2: Is the Spring 2021 semester the same, better or worse than you expected?

The results are in the graphic at the top of this blog.  Some of the representative comments:

STUDENT COMMENTS:

This semester I have honestly felt like I’m dragging myself to get to the finish line. Theres time that i have felt overwhelmed with so many assignments to do. I also miss being on campus and interacting with other people.

While there are some communication issues sometimes trying to find office hours with some professors, I think having classes online as a commuter student has been really helpful because I’ve been able to organize myself better and have a better sleep schedule in order to focus on my classes and assignments.

Last semester was very stressful and I thought that it was because I was getting closer to the end of my program so I thought it was going to be the same this semester but the professors have done a great job on breaking the assignments up where it doesn’t overwhelm their students.

I have been working nonstop this entire semester with no break. This easter “break” that was only Thursday and Friday, weekends don’t count, did nothing. Professors have lost understanding. The world might be returning back to “normal” but things are not normal and they should not be. The virus is still out there and the effects are still the same if not more. Please adjust the calendar for spring 2022 to include more breaks

Professors are giving a lot of work..

Professor is flexible and class is engaging.

FACULTY COMMENTS:

Students are engaged with me and their classmates. I used the chat box, break out rooms, and “reactions” more effectively this semester.

With the experience of last spring, then summer and fall, I was able to re-organize my classes in a way that both the students and i could cover the course objectives, without overdoing the workload. I had an advantage in that almost all of my classes were already 8-week hybrid classes, so it was just a matter of carefully defining what clearly needed to be discussed in a group setting. The administrative functions were easier to transfer to remote work once we mastered Zoom and were able to connect with our office computers.

Spring is always a more challenging semester. And students are definitely burned out. Having a bit less fun in class than usual, and very much feeling the lack of spring break!

Things are going very well. My students are doing great. I have a higher percentage of students attending weekly live zoom sessions and doing well in my classes.

Students have slowly but surely come to accept the ZOOM environment as an acutal learning environment and not only a “stop-gap” medium.

I teach two in-person classes which are going exceptionally well. Those unable to come to campus dropped out early in the semester, so the students who continue with the course are extremely motivated, conscientious and hardworking. Attendance and achievement are excellent. For my two fully virtual classes, engagement is sometimes a challenge. Students prefer to keep their cameras off, and some are reluctant to share. Many of the students have reported feeling extremely stressed, anxious, and/or overwhelmed.

The students seem to be having a more difficult time this semester, particularly first year students.

The semester has been as I expected but I am ready to get back on campus to be able to really engage with students.

STAFF COMMENTS:

I am getting more organized with working from home and work and I love the hybrid. I am much less stressed with the hybrid model for working from home and at the office I really do not like having to wear masks and would like to wait til we don’t need them before having to wear it during class or all day in the office
I expected to go well and it appears to be going that way. I see more students in or around the building wearing masks. I am glad to see them out and I am also glad that they are protecting themselves because it makes me feel protected.
Fewer problems and issues emerging than in the fall – we seem to be hitting a stride.

Q3:  Vaccine Status

Question #3 asked a number of items of personal information, including vaccine status.  Below is the overall response on vaccine status which is not particularly surprising — 67% of faculty report that they are already vaccinated, and 58% of staff, but perhaps reflecting younger ages and the way the vaccine has rolled out, only 30% of students so far are vaccinated, with 36% planning on getting it before fall.  Of some concern are the 14% of students who way

So we took a closer look at the student responses by academic unit:
We will be working with each student population to address concerns about the vaccine and to encourage getting it before the start of the fall semester.

Q3:  Finances, Family Responsibilities, Impact of Covid-19

Question 3 also asks for personal information about financial concerns, family duties and the impact of Covid-19 on families and friends.  Students are very concerned about finances, and also have many family duties.  And an astonishing 30% of students report that they have had a close family member or friend die of Covid-19.

We are very concerned about the conditions of all members of our campus community and their families, and we know that the toll of the pandemic has been very heavy for many.  As we plan to move into a period for reopening the campus in the fall, we are also very aware of the need for more financial support for students, and more emotional and mental health support more broadly.  We are considering ways to deliver more services among all who need support.

For students, we do continue to have our Emergency Assistance Grants and also we have new funding for Covid-relief grants to students in extreme need.   We have extended some of the latter support to students in great need while we have been awaiting additional clarifications from the federal government about the distribution of the funds, and we will provide more information when we have it.

Q4: Expectations for Returning to Campus

We asked about the expectations of students, faculty and staff for returning to campus in the fall.  Agreement is very high for wearing masks, keeping 6-foot distances, keeping classes under 25 persons, continuing flexibility for staff and using zoom for many meetings to reduce in-person time and travel.

The big area of disagreement is about requiring the vaccine.  In all cohorts — students, faculty, staff — there is no majority in favor of requiring the vaccine.  The most pronounced agreement is among faculty where 48% believe we should require it, compared to only 30% of students and 35% of staff.

As of now, in April 2021, we are reluctant to impose a campus-wide requirement on the vaccine.  Instead, we prefer for everyone to get it on a voluntary basis, and we will help those who are reluctant to work through that hesitancy.

We may need to require the vaccine for certain circumstances, e.g., participation in athletics or clinicals for nurses and others in healthcare settings.  As of now, we are also not sure about DC requirements going forward, so some of this may change as the summer unfolds.

Q5:  Evaluations of Campus Services and Related Topics

We asked for simple evaluations of various services and experiences during the pandemic semesters.  The differences between faculty (53 responses)and student (137 responses) responses are notable in a few areas, see graphs below:
We are evaluating these responses in order to improve services in the areas of weakness or dissatisfaction, and improving upon those that are strong but can always improve.  We are also optimistic that easing of the pandemic restrictions will improve experiences with residence life and dining services which have necessarily been constrained this year.

Q6: What changes should we keep that we made during the pandemic?

Interesting results!  Who knew just one year ago that we could all agree on the desirability of digital signatures?  The chart above reflects the top four choices of students, faculty and staff on the list of changes we made during the pandemic that the majority think we should keep going forward.  Online office hours also rate very high among both faculty and students, as well as asynchronous teaching and learning.  No surprise here, the staff like flexible work days!

Students want parking fees eliminated, and yes, we will not require parking fees in Fall 2021 though we do ask all students to register their cars for safety reasons.

Not getting much love on the survey?  Restrictions on campus visitors.  Yes, we know this is a pain, but during Covid-19 we found it to be necessary.  We will be evaluating this policy as we look toward the fall.  Much depends on both the city’s rules for density and also whether our campus can be safe through widespread practices for safety including getting vaccinated!!

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