Dear members of the DeLaSalle community,
We need to say more. We should have said it sooner. We need to confirm our commitment to you in a much better and broader way, and we receive your courageous feedback with humility. “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2
Systemic racism is real in this country, in the Twin Cities, and yes, on Nicollet Island. It has to stop. We have to be better in what we are doing and intentional in what we will do for future generations. African-Americans have been killed by police officers with impunity for hundreds of years. The killing of George Floyd, not five miles from our door, should not be forgiven and cannot be forgotten. Our African-American families, graduates, and supporters certainly deserve more from us. To be most clear, African-American students entrusted to our care must never feel unseen or isolated as they experience horrific trauma in their lives. Black lives matter. We must provide hope.
We have known this for a long time, and we have been resolved to serve our Lasallian mission, even as we acknowledge disappointment in our communication. As a high school, welcoming children at 14 and graduating adults four years later, our obligation is to prepare all young women and men for further education, for a lifetime of service, and to be people who are authentically committed to the message of the Gospels. We serve a higher percentage of students of color today (50%) than any other time in our history. With our core Lasallian values as a guidepost, we seek inclusivity and equal footing for all of our students, faculty, and staff, not just because it’s a goal, but rather because it’s right. Racism has no place at DeLaSalle.
We have taken this message and this mission directly to our donors and supporters because the cause is as just and as important as any time in our country’s history. Over the past decade, our donors have been more supportive than any era at DeLaSalle. With gratitude, we have doubled our financial aid resources, giving more families access to a DeLaSalle education than ever before. We have expanded programming in support of students, we have entered into racial equity work with our staff, and we have graduated women and men who are aware, smart, and oriented to service and justice in the world.
We need look no further than the news of the past few days to see evidence that our students, faculty and staff, and graduates — through their own initiative — are leading our community in justice. They have taken up the call to serve, and we couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishments. DeLaSalle students — mostly graduates of 2020 — organized and led a beautiful, peaceful, purposeful sit-in on the lawn at the State Capitol on Tuesday, which welcomed thousands to their message. Concurrently, Geno Crandall `14 is leading a fundraising effort to provide supplies and food for people in north Minneapolis, and Mary Claire Francois `19 is doing the same for the hundreds who visit the George Floyd memorial. These and so many more efforts are exemplary. Our graduates are agents of change and champions of justice; we believe they are doing what God calls all of us to do.
Of course there is so much more to be done. The work to come is always the goal. As we have been doing over the last two weeks with our current students and families, we will deepen our commitment to listen, adapt, and support. We already had scheduled planning meetings for the summer as a lead-in to ongoing racial equity work throughout the upcoming school year. We will be organizing focus groups to help us with that planning.
We reassure our Islander family — past, present, and future — that our commitment is unwavering and will be sustained into the future. In the coming weeks, we will be prioritizing listening sessions, centering the perspectives of African-American students, families, and staff. The insights gained will inform our next steps. We will be transparent; we will be inclusive and authentic in how we serve DeLaSalle and, in particular, our African-American students. To focus student experience is not only the right thing to do, but all of our strategic planning must continue to be relevant and responsive to those before us every day.
We are grateful for the many communications we have received — and they have, as they always do, come to us from multiple perspectives and lived experiences. We are lifelong learners too. We are re-committed to our partnership with all of you as we serve the students and families entrusted to our care.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts, forever!
Barry C. Lieske, AFSC
Dr. Bryan E. Bass