William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe sent the following message to the campus community Feb. 4, 2019. - Ed.
On Friday, like others in our community, I was appalled and saddened by the revelation of the racist image on Governor Ralph Northam's medical-school yearbook page. The behavior depicted in that photo is a painful reminder of the hate, divisiveness and racism that so many in this country have sought for generations to overcome.
That behavior has no place in civil society – not 35 years ago, not today. It stands in stark opposition to William & Mary's core values of equity and inclusion, which sustain our mission of learning, teaching, and research. Recognizing how much work remains to be done to advance these values, in support of our mission, these images must renew our sense of urgency. At William & Mary, the path forward requires sustained dialogues about what counts as respectful and appropriate behavior in a vibrantly diverse community, especially with regard to the legacy and persistence of racism in this country.
In my seven months as William & Mary’s president, Governor Northam has been a welcoming ambassador for the Commonwealth. He officiated at my swearing-in ceremony in July and was scheduled to participate in the upcoming Charter Day and inauguration ceremony. However, under the circumstances, it has become clear that the Governor’s presence would fundamentally disrupt the sense of campus unity we aspire to and hope for with this event. We have conferred with the governor’s office, and he will not be part of Friday’s program.
My thoughts are with the leaders of our Commonwealth as they seek the best path forward to rebuild trust. My focus, however, is on the William & Mary community: on reckoning with our own history with humility and dedication, and on joining you in the continuing work of ensuring our university community is welcoming and respectful of all.
Katherine A. Rowe
President, William & Mary