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Message from Emory President Claire E. Sterk on Feb. 20, 2019

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Dear Members of the Emory Community,

Recent events in the national news have generated a growing public interest in the presence of disturbing photos in college yearbooks. It greatly saddens me to report that an initial review of Emory University yearbooks has found photos that are inconsistent with our values.

As one of our nation’s great academic institutions, Emory must always stand for equality, inclusion, and respect. I find it difficult to comprehend the mindset of anyone who would engage in such activities. I hope that those individuals’ hearts have been touched, so that they now appreciate the magnitude of their mistakes. In the city of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the congressional district of Representative John Lewis, and on the campus where President Jimmy Carter has taught us all so much about love and compassion, there can be no room for hate and prejudice.

The offensive and racist images in our yearbooks cannot be erased any more than they can be forgotten. They are a permanent part of our record. Much as I despise what those images represent, I think it is important that Emory’s yearbooks continue to be accessible online. It is my fervent hope that they will serve as an indelible reminder to all current and future Emory students, faculty, and staff of the type of ignorance and hate we must passionately oppose.

Looking forward, I have already taken steps to initiate a university-wide Legacy Commission to assess how, throughout our history, we have experienced and depicted differences in our community—through our traditions, our publications, and other forms of communication. I will update you more on this plan before the end of the spring semester.

The poet Maya Angelou taught us that “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.” We come to Emory from all parts of the country and the world, representing the diversity and wonder of the human experience. If we are united in anything, it must be in our opposition to ignorance.


Claire E. Sterk

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