An Open Letter to St. John Fisher College President Gerard Rooney


Dear President Rooney,

          My name is George Payne. I am a graduate of St. John Fisher College (2004), a father of two, and a resident of the City of Rochester. Like so many members of the greater Rochester community, I was appalled and saddened when I heard about the two St. John Fisher students who vandalized the Frederick Douglass statue.

          Speaking as a Fisher alumnus, I am most concerned about what direction the College takes moving forward. It is my belief that private institutions of higher learning have a responsibility to at least try to undo unchecked white privilege. For a college to not try to at least address the inherent white privilege and racism that is a systemic disease of every incoming white student, is to fail to attempt to develop the whole student, not just their knowledge bank and ability to be employed. 

          According to my research, there are 30 people on the SJFC Board of Trustees. Only one is African American. 23 are white men. 

          According to College Factual, an organization that obtains their data from the Integrated Post-secondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the National Center for Education Statistics, St. John Fisher’s college faculty is 85.5% white. Just 5% of the faculty is African- American. 84% of the undergraduate student population is white. Only 3.8% of the students are African- American. (Please feel free to correct me if these statistics are not accurate.)

          As an alumnus, I expect to see SJFC to take dramatic action to increase diversity awareness and education on and off campus. I expect to see the College commit to increasing the number of minority Board members, and I expect that the College will make a public commitment to enrolling more students of color, hiring more faculty of color, and recruiting more administrators of color. I am aware of the current diversity programs offered by the school. My contention is that these programs are not enough. More can and should be done.

With all of that said, I sincerely valued your immediate and forceful condemnation of the vandalism itself. Your actions to date have provided a clear signal to the SJFC community that the status quo is not acceptable. 


George Cassidy Payne

SJFC 2004

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