Dear Unified Student Leaders,
Thank you for your recent letter regarding the conversation surrounding commencement stoles representing student organizations. We appreciate the numerous voices gathering together in one accord to express your grievances, and we deeply lament the concerns of the voices who felt they could not be named for fear of repercussions. The voices of students are important at Hope. We welcome hearing student suggestions and insights, and we will gladly engage questions and concerns.
Regarding the decision about the commencement stoles, the discussion was ongoing. A final decision had not yet been made and a “vote” had never occurred. We had only seen one model of a stole prototype with sewn on “patches” and the discussion for that prototype was not favorable. When the prototype samples designed by the student organizations were presented, the discussion for those stoles was very favorable and there was support for the students wearing them at commencement. We hope that this provides helpful clarification.
In response to the grievances expressed in the letter, we acknowledge the following:
- “Unity” does not equal “uniformity” and at Hope we genuinely seek to celebrate diversity as evidenced in our strategic plan, Hope for the World 2025, which states that “Hope College will be a community unified by its inspiring mission, strengthened by its diversity and committed to the flourishing of every individual as one created and loved by God.”
- We appreciate the depth of expression of identity the stoles represent. We lament the hardships that members of our community have endured at Hope College and we stand with you to name it. We are actively working to review our systems, policies, practices and curriculum through an antiracist lens and to make revisions that “affirm the dignity of all persons as bearers of God’s image” as stated in Hope’s Christian Aspirations.
- Inclusion is an active process that engages and values the voices that are most closely involved in the situation at hand. Yes, the process benefited greatly from the inclusion of the student voices, as has been demonstrated in the outcome.
We want you to know that you have been heard, and we will continue to listen. If at any point you do not feel you are being heard, please know that our doors are open to you. We have been thinking about some potential new opportunities for more consistent communication that we would like to discuss together with you because we do care to include you. This is your Hope College. You ARE Hope College. Together, we are Hope College.
President Scogin, Dr. Griffin, Dr. Trent-Brown, Dr. Frost