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Letter from President Butler

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by Bethel University

Bethel logo stacked for news

From Dr. Walter Butler
President, Bethel University

I am heartbroken by the racism and social injustice surrounding the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. I recognize the pain and grief that recent events have caused many members of our Bethel family. Each of these lives was an image-bearer of God.

As a Christ-centered institution, we continue to place our hope in our Lord Jesus, who hates injustice. Scripture teaches us that all human beings of all ethnicities, colors, and ages are worthy of honor and respect. Humans are the pinnacle of God’s creation, and each of us profoundly matter to Him. Bethel University pursues a biblical commitment to respect and love all people as equal image-bearers of Jesus Christ.

For myself, I have to remember that God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
- Genesis 1:26-28

I have heard from numerous Black Bethel faculty, staff, and students, including the Black Student Union, on this issue. I know you are hurting and aching from this racial injustice.

I am working hard — and commit to working harder — to have difficult conversations and to learn, educate, and work together on racial unity and equality on our campus.

Bethel has a diverse student body that enriches our community. We celebrate each student’s unique combination of culture, tradition, and talents, which is a valuable addition to our university. Through this, students are able to learn, grow, and better understand the world.

Let’s hold fast to our core values of accepting individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs and emphasizing human dignity and ethics that are consistent with the Christian tradition and to strive together to assure that those values do not waver or change.

Last week, I was asked by Cynthia Banza, Bethel University Black Student Union President, “When will it stop and how can we prevent these issues from happening in our own community?” Unfortunately, I do not know when it will stop. But this question has made me pause over the last week to think about how we, Bethel, can become part of the solution. My goal today isn’t merely to put out a statement that says Bethel opposes racism—It’s to ask you to join me in becoming part of the solution.

To sustain my commitment beyond today: a committee of diverse Bethel students, faculty, and staff members is working to develop the immediate and long-term steps that should be taken to make Bethel a place where students of all races and ethnic backgrounds can continue to thrive; hiring a Director of Diversity is a priority for the new school year; diversity training and job recruitment will increase; and campus events, in partnership with the Black Student Union and Student Government Association, will take place throughout the year to bring about more cultural awareness to students, faculty, staff, and the McKenzie community.

Together, we look to move Bethel forward as a community that embraces diversity and is a place where students, faculty, and staff have the environment to become the person they are meant to be.