Dear members of the Albright community,
To say that I’m dismayed and disappointed by the actions taken at the United Methodist Church General Conference 2019 in Saint Louis this past week would be an understatement. The decisions of the General Conference are distressing to many in our community, and the adoption of the Traditional Plan by General Conference flies in the face of Albright’s institutional values.
Indeed, when a larger governing body votes to accept a plan by a 54%-46% vote and rejects plans provided by councils that were formed to address and make recommendations to resolve the issue at hand — that is evidence of a church that is divided, certainly not united. In January, a large number of Methodist-affiliated schools, including Albright College, joined together to draft a statement to the Church.
This statement aligns with the two words on the Albright College seal, truth and justice, which affirm for us that the search for knowledge should not be separated from the search for wise and just solutions in human affairs and in the stewardship of the natural world. The combined pursuit of truth and justice means we honor, nurture and celebrate human diversity in all its forms and call into question whatever negates or endangers the dignity and worth of the human spirit. The actions of the United Methodist Church General Conference have negated the dignity and worth of the human spirit of our LGBTQ community members.
Albright has a long-standing, faith-based tradition. This tradition is core to the underpinnings of our values. The college is named in honor of Jacob Albright, whose followers established one of the predecessor denominations to the United Methodist Church. We also have a significant number of alumni among both the clergy and membership of the United Methodist Church.
At the same time, we recognize the importance and meaning of the words on our seal, and how our current faith-based affiliation with the Methodist Church does not align with those values. Indeed, when the Board of Trustees reaffirmed our affiliation with the United Methodist Church as part of our ten-year Senate review in spring 2018, the resolution was clear that this affiliation held as long as the church did not interfere with our institutional values.
The dialog begins now, so that we may better understand what being a faith-based institution in today’s world means. We will continue to observe the actions of the United Methodist Church. We will have conversations with the other Methodist-affiliated schools, most of whom are aligned with our own values. We will dialog within and among our own community to understand Albright’s ongoing identity as a faith-based institution, both from the church’s perspective, our local Conference’s perspective, as well as — and especially — those of alumni, students, employees and local Methodist pastors. This is critical work. How do we remain true to our values and our heritage? What is our next step? You will be hearing more about how to engage in these conversations.
For those in our community who follow God’s teaching, I offer these thoughts, quoting my good friend, Tom Frank of Wake Forest University in his Facebook post: “God has already … shown the way forward: following Jesus who gave his life in compassion and friendship with members of the human family outcast and oppressed by prejudice, fear and the drive for power.”
Many in our community are hurting. Reach out to each other. Support each other. Empathize with the pain that comes from an outside body negating one’s own personhood. Encourage each other to reach out for needed help and support. As a college, we will work together to determine our way forward. You will hear more about conversations and forums, so that the dialog may begin on our future.
Warmly and respectfully,
Dear faculty and staff Albrightians,
The weather sure has presented some challenges this semester. Thank you to our Weather Response Team for keeping community safety and proactive messaging a priority. Also, huge kudos to our hard-working colleagues in facilities who work into the wee hours to ensure that campus is safe for travel.
Albright College has had a lot to celebrate lately. Congratulations to men’s swimming for a MAC championship win and to so many swimmers who set personal, school and MAC records. Congratulations also to the men’s basketball team for clinching their spot in post-season competition! As our athletics colleagues say: Roar with us!
I also had the opportunity to attend the Domino Players production of America the Play, the Play about America this past Friday — what a wonderful experience! In this comedy, written by Albright’s own Professor Matt Fotis, the students explored what it means to be American and what it means to live the words embodied in the U.S. Constitution, “…in order to form a more perfect union…” My congratulations to all cast and crew — students, faculty, and staff — involved in this fine production!
And a heartfelt thank you to the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum for gifting Albright College their collection of artifacts, arts, papers, books and photographs documenting the history and culture of African Americans. We are so excited for the opportunities this gift provides. You can read more in today’s Reading Eagle!
Earlier this month, when our board of trustee members were on campus, I shared with them some updates to the Cabinet structure that I would also like to share with you. As you know, Chris Hanlon has been serving as interim assistant vice president of admission and financial aid since last summer. Though Chris has provided important leadership in this area, he has always had the intention of returning to his role as director of financial aid. Chris will make the transition back to his position in financial aid within a month or two. We will likely be appointing an interim vice president and a search for a permanent vice president will be conducted. Additionally, the newly named College Events, Camps and Conferences department, led by Lois Kubinak, is now reporting to Acting Provost Karen Campbell in Academic Affairs. This move from the Enrollment Management division will better enable this department to think broadly about college events and partner with the many staff and faculty involved in bringing events and conferences to our campus. Lois’s unit will still be responsible for bringing in some summer camps that are aligned with our academic mission and do not interfere with our primary college educational mission. Finally, the Athletics Division now permanently reports to the president, and the athletic directors serve as members of the President’s Cabinet, an important change that recognizes the value of our athletic programs and that over a third of our students are student-athletes.
I am enthusiastic about the amount of meaningful work that was done during Deep Dive phases 4/5. The Steering Team has received and evaluated all reports, and made recommendations for Phase 6 — accepting most of the team recommendations that were made, and moving them forward. SPS faculty and staff enjoyed an all-hands “planning the future of SPS” session last Friday, and the work proposed by that session will also be part of Phase 6. We are now putting together the Phase 6 teams. You can expect to hear more detail about the Phase 4/5 outcome before too long.
My deep appreciation to the many faculty and staff who serve on the Deep Dive Steering Team, Working Groups, and Teams — your work is valuable as we move Albright boldly into the future. If you haven’t been involved in the Deep Dive process and you wish to be, please reach out to me or to Kathy Cafoncelli in my office to learn about how you can contribute to Albright’s strategic planning process.
I hope that you had the opportunity to attend Jean Twenge’s public lecture on February 8. Dr. Twenge’s research on the iGen or Generation Z, which she presented to both the board of trustees and to a full house of Albrightians and community members in Memorial Chapel, was both fascinating and eye-opening. She left us with much to think about in terms of how we educate, support and engage with our students. Thank you to Dr. Sam Wesner and the Student and Campus Life team for coordinating the event, and to trustee and alumna Kathleen Grant, M.D. ’72 for funding Dr. Twenge’s visit.
I encourage each of you to take advantage of the campus opportunities this semester to continue our exploration of racial and social injustice, equity and inclusivity. The final Domino Players production, “Blackbird,” written by Scottish playwright David Harrower and directed by Alex Oleksij, tackles these timely topics. On Feb. 27, Georgetown University Professor Marcia Chatelain will present, Better Living through the Humanities, a discussion on the intersection between academic research in African American life, history and public scholarship. And on April 11, Darla Schumm will present her lecture: “Sinners, Saints, and Misfits: When Religious and Disability Studies Intersect,” which will give us an avenue for reorienting thinking about those who are differently abled. Don’t forget to check out the Experience calendar for additional events planned throughout the semester!
As always, take care of yourself and take care of your fellow Albrightians. On any given day, any member of our community might be dealing with a difficult issue, large or small. A word or a smile can make someone’s day, on a day when they might particularly need it. Be there for each other, and don’t hesitate to reach out to a fellow Albrightian for support. As a pride of Albright Lions, it is important that we work together and support each other during the good and the challenging times.
Thank you for everything you do for Albright and to support the success of our students every day. It’s a great day to be a Lion!