Notes from the President

Christopher Gray, Ph.D.| Founding President, Erie County Community College 

This week, the nation remembered the legendary Martin Luther King Jr. and commemorated his birthday.  As we all learn during our childhood social studies class, his work during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was crucial to the pursuit of equality for all Americans.  And although Dr. King was lost to us almost fifty-five years ago, his legacy lives on.   

King’s legacy is one of service, inclusion, and diversity.  Each of these ideas finds a strong foothold here at EC3, and while it’s surely an imperfect comparison, I believe that we are continuing the work that King and other Civil Rights pioneers have begun. As a nation, we are still not there, though; we haven’t yet achieved the equality imagined by Dr. King in his “I Have a Dream” speech, but neither have we abandoned the fight.  While federal and state nondiscrimination statutes have been enacted, including the seminal Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which, of course, was aided in passage by the March on Washington in which Dr. King delivered that famous speech mentioned above — we unfortunately still see far too many stories of hate-based crimes, systemic inequality, and equity-based struggles in the news.  So we still have work to do. 

I’m proud to say that EC3 embraces and lives by the values espoused by King in his lifetime of service and pursuit of equality for all; moreover, we are still striving to do that work.  Our Policy Manual, the document that governs all students, faculty, and staff at EC3, has a section that has its genesis in the work of Dr. King: 

Section II.A.5:  Civil Rights 

Erie County Community College is committed to providing an educational and work environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. To ensure compliance with federal, state and Erie County civil rights laws, ordinances, and regulations, and to affirm its commitment to promoting the values of fairness, equity and respect in all aspects of the College, Erie County Community College will develop policies and procedures that provide a prompt, fair, and impartial process for those involved in an allegation of discrimination or harassment on the basis of protected class status, and for allegations of retaliation. 

Erie County Community College emphasizes the dignity of all members of its community and strives to balance the rights of the parties. 

If you’re a more cynical sort, you might point out that we are simply following the law.  After all, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal statute binding on all the separate states. And this is but one section of many in a policy manual that few people will ever read.  Yes, that’s all true, but our commitment runs so much deeper:  diversity is one of EC3’s core values.  In fact, it’s the first one.   

At its January meeting, the EC3 Board of Trustees will review and approve our institutional values, and I’m so proud of the way in which we are living Dr. King’s legacy.  The aforementioned first value, Diversity, states “EC3 promotes fair treatment, respect, and acceptance of all people and ideas.”  Yes.  Period.  This is unequivocal, and there’s no exception.  All are valued here.  This is as it should be. And, we absolutely will not settle for anything less. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. issued a clarion call to action sixty years ago.  While I’m saddened that we as a nation have not yet achieved the dream that he articulated that day, I’m nonetheless heartened by the fact that we haven’t stopped reaching higher.  And we won’t stop.