Move and Movement: Words and Actions in a Season of Change

+ Letter Three: the third in a series of responses prompted by African American students’ petitions for change at Fuller and the opportunity this presents to reset some of our highest goals as an institution. This letter was promised to be delivered by July 1 to outline action steps at Fuller that will move us toward those goals, first by addressing institutional aspirations and then by describing some of the steps we are taking to get there.

June 28, 2018

It has been six weeks since Fuller announced the decision to sell the Pasadena campus and move to Pomona: a major decision, a long time coming. Then, on its heels, a different moment also a long time coming: a protest during Baccalaureate, prompted by the concerns of Black students. This sequence at such a formative season of time has prompted many to wonder: What can we learn about the “who” and the “how” of Fuller as we are reconsidering the “where”?

At its founding, Fuller’s identity was shaped almost exclusively by administrators, students, alumni, faculty—and theologians—who were white, male, and eurocentric. Over time, as Fuller’s identity took more concrete form, change sometimes included tearing down old constructs when new ones were required. This is common for any institution with the longevity of Fuller, and many healthy disruptions have taken place in its 70 years of life.

Few would argue that “white” and “male” is varied enough to “equip men and women for the manifold ministries” of today’s multicultural American church—much less a global church rich with the diversity reflected on Fuller campuses today. With regular fervency Fuller reinforces an ethos that prizes multiculturalism, while understanding that visible presence of multiple ethnicities, including African Americans, is not the same as inclusion. It is this aspect of Fuller’s aspirational identity that is being challenged by Black students who feel welcomed to attend but do not feel supported by adequate representation of Black senior administrators or faculty (or of integrated curriculum)—resulting in marginalization and inequity and attrition of Black faculty and leadership over the last decade.

In order to continue to live into the mission to “form global leaders for kingdom vocations” among many groups of people, Fuller must also embrace the scholarship of many groups, avoiding, as it is said, the danger of a single story. Black student petitions assert that Fuller will be truly multicultural when its students, its Board of Trustees, its senior administration, its faculty—and its core curriculum—all tell a rich and multifaceted story of God.

Shaped by the ongoing dialogue between Fuller’s administration and concerned Black students, Fuller is making changes at all levels of influence and power that have promise for effecting long-term change. All of the specifics of all of their petitions have been discussed respectfully in myriad conversations across the various decision-making bodies on campus (e.g., Board of Trustees, President’s Council, Faculty Senate, Joint Faculty, divisional leaders, Diversity Council, etc.). Below is a report that represents what can be shared confidently by the promised date of July 1, but is by no means all the change that has—and will—take place.

Let it be said here that the commitment among these bodies is to make the changes necessary to live up to Fuller’s vision of inclusive multiculturalism. For the sake of encouragement to all whose interests are incorporated or implied here, it is worth noting that slow-moving change is not always a sign of resistance. There is fast change and there is slow change; we must work together—if even on opposing sides of the table at times—to have hope for both.

What follows is evidence of specific action in response to Black student concerns to move toward fully orbed inclusion and equity in all areas of diversity to which Fuller aspires. (Bold marks reference to Black student petition language, as requested.)

Past Letters

Letter One: Celebration and Lament Lead Us Toward Change
The first in a series of responses around African American students’ petitions for change at Fuller
June 15, 2018

Letter Two: What We Have Begun Is Yet Unfinished
President Labberton addresses his reactions to the protest at Baccalaureate in response to questions from other graduates and their guests.
June 22, 2018

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