The following letter is written by Frances Parker Greenlee. Frances transferred to Eastern after her freshman year and has spent the last two years studying sociology, working in Philadelphia, and wrestling with questions about the intersection of Jesus and Justice. In the coming academic year she plans to take a gap year to dialogue and live in community with people who have experienced life differently than herself. She hopes to take those stories and experiences back to the classroom and Eastern community for her senior year. She hopes Dr. Duffett can do the same.
A letter to Dr. Duffett:
Why didn’t you ask me?
Why didn’t you shoot me a text, send out a Facebook message, write my family and I a letter, host an open event, anything, ANYTHING to ask the larger Eastern Community their thoughts, opinions, anxieties, joys, concerns about your decision to sign a letter that will be forever associated with Eastern University, a place I want to be proud to call my Alma Mater. I have come to love and own my voice, heart, and mind that has been delicately crafted by God, people, and Eastern. Why didn’t you care to hear what I had to say?
I’m sorry you’re so busy. I have had the utmost privilege to spend some time with you and your wife this past year. I enjoyed the RA welcome/get to know us party you graciously hosted at your house in the fall, I learned a lot from interviewing you at the end of the fall 2013 semester for a term paper, I was chosen (I cannot thank you and student development enough) to represent Eastern University this past year at Student Lobby Day and traveled with you to the state capitol, and I appreciated seeing you around campus occasionally, especially when the power went out. You’re doing a good job at being a university president. However, I am not sure that you are doing an equally good of a job seeing people for how valuable they are. Rather, I am wondering if you see people through a lens of how much they’re worth (monetarily that is). For the amount of time I have spent with you and talked with you, I am not sure you have ever looked me in the eyes and asked me anything you actually cared to listen to.
Against the advise of nearly every single person in my life, I’m taking a year off school for the duration of the 2014-15 year. I have only one year left until I am able to graduate but I am not feeling purposeful in the classroom. I feel disconnected with the communities my heart so desperately yearns to be in solidarity with. I am getting antsy and frankly, pretty bored of talking with people who agree with me, support me, and understand me because they have lived relatively similiar lives as I have. It’s been one of the hardest decisions I have ever made and I may come to regret it, but I cannot live with myself if I do not feel part of something that is much bigger than myself, if I am not representing those who I love and those I believe God loves.
I tell you this very personal information because I want to challenge you to go on this quest with me. Do not leave Eastern; rather spend this year (start right now!) listening to the community that I assume your heart longs to sing in harmony with. I know how important education, especially higher education is to you. Remind yourself every single day that it would not exist if students did not believe it is just as important as you believe it is. Talk less this year (even if means missing out on a few conversations with potential donors) and spend that time sitting down at the table of eqauilty where everyone present (making sure there is a few of each kind of person there is) fully knows that their voice is heard and valued as much as the person sitting down on either side of them. Encourage those who often feel (and are told) that their voice is meaningless to write letters to important people and be sure the conversation is well-rounded and everyone agrees on the proposed issue. Don’t do anything unless everyone gives you a thumbs up. Be courageous, fail boldly and admit when you’re scared. There will be people to pick you up when you fall but only if they’re right behind you because they’ve been with you all along.
You are in a position that not many other people will ever have the chance to be in. But this does not mean that people do not have things to say. All you need to do is ask.
We’re in this together,