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Finlandia Commits to Provide a Safe Opening for All

June 9, 2020

Finlandia University President Philip Johnson addressed students in an email on June 5, regarding Finlandia’s safe open commitment as a university.

I want to reach out and let you know that Finlandia is planning and preparing for safe living and learning as we come together on campus this fall.  However, I now see such a commitment in a different and more urgent light.

A Safe Open

The health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff are our top priority. We are rigorously planning for a safe open in the face of Covid-19.  With only seven positive cases and no deaths here in Houghton County, our experience is unlike that of so many of you who live in harder hit communities.  We are mindful of this.  As you may anticipate, when we arrive on campus this fall, our life together will be different. Orientation and training will be in place as we learn how best to protect one another while observing wellness protocols in line with most-current guidelines.  We will encourage and hold each other accountable for behaviors and practices that may be unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and often inconvenient.  However, a safe open depends on all of us doing our part, and I am confident we can do this.

Opening Safe For All

What prompts me to reach out to you at this particular time is to say that Finlandia is committed to opening safe for all.  The systemic racism that contributed to the violent killing of George Floyd and other black Americans in the past weeks calls us to reaffirm Finlandia’s essential commitment to foster enduring positive change in how we think, act, and feel in matters of the self, others, and the wider world.  

Finlandia is small. We are multi-colored. We are from various faith traditions and no faith traditions.  We are rural and urban. We are gay and straight.  We are local.  We are from coast to coast and beyond.  The common calling of ELCA Lutheran higher education urges the practice of radical hospitality, of service to neighbor, of bold questioning, and to love one another as God has loved us.  We welcome all to learn from all so that all may flourish.   Finlandia’s spiritual and intellectual tradition calls us to embrace and value each story, in order to more fully understand and celebrate our differentness and work toward a more just and peaceful world. To this we aspire.  This is our shared vision.  You are welcome here.

Opening safe for all means thoughtfully and deliberately preparing for a year of honest talk, deeper reflection, and  sustained action.  This work may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable for many.  We will not all hold similar convictions or draw the same conclusions. Perhaps the riskiest work of all is the journey inward; exploring and naming one’s own  deeply seated motivations, assumptions, and fears.  Finlandia is committed to accompanying you in your daring self-examination as well as in your unique self-expression. In all of this, our community’s speech and action will be life-giving, not life-diminishing.

Over the coming weeks I will work and learn with you, our campus pastor, our equity and diversity committee, and other faculty and staff.  We will imagine meaningful ways to foster conversations, encourage reflection, and engage in constructive action that leads toward enduring positive change in how we think, act, and feel in such matters.  We will be doing this together because Finlandia believes opening safe for all matters as much as a safe open.

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