Jewell establishes Racial Reconciliation Commission


04/12/2021

In a special video message released today, William Jewell College announced the establishment of a Racial Reconciliation Commission to find and express both a historical and moral truth about the racial history of the institution.

Initial research regarding the slaveholding of the College’s founders and the influence of those founders on the early decades of the College has been compiled by Dr. Andy Pratt, dean emeritus of the Chapel, and Dr. Chris Wilkins, associate professor of history, as well as by Dr. Wilkins’ students. This research is not only regarded as pivotal to the Jewell community, but will provide insights into regional history, serving as a bridge to critical conversations around race.

Dr. Elizabeth MacLeod Walls, president, and Dr. Rodney Smith, vice president for access and engagement, have established a Racial Reconciliation Commission, with the aim of “guiding the communication of these findings to various audiences and to help shape Jewell’s next steps in an intentional way.”

The Commission includes broad representation across campus groups and organizations throughout Kansas City. The Commission is tasked with asking difficult questions and identifying broad communications opportunities for 1) sharing the research findings and 2) recommending actionable items for Jewell.

“William Jewell College has a deep passion for and commitment to the shared prosperity initiative throughout the Kansas City region, and our history is a critical piece of this conversation,” said Jewell President Dr. MacLeod Walls. “With the launch of purposeful, institution-wide inclusivity efforts more than two years ago,” she continued, “Jewell has made significant strides in welcoming diverse students and employees and in looking at all of our policies and practices—price and access in particular—through an equity lens.  We are eager to build upon this momentum with the launching of the Commission.” 

The work of the Commission will commence later this month and will include a report to the president with key findings and recommendations in the next academic year. The report will be published at jewell.edu/diversity and will become a key part of the Jewell story moving forward.

“The work of the Commission will explore Jewell’s racial history,” noted Dr. Rodney Smith. “The Commission will serve as the spear-heading body of this work, coming together to analyze the arc of time from William Jewell’s founding to today, and become the driving force in creating change for good. I’m encouraged by Jewell’s commitment to this research, and for asking critical questions and furthering conversations about race.”

Jewell’s research will be preserved and made available to the public at the Black Archives of Mid-America Kansas City, ensuring ongoing opportunities for public education and dialogue.

“We are pleased to support the efforts of William Jewell College and the Racial Reconciliation Commission,” said Dr. Carmaletta Williams, executive director of the Black Archives. “Their work is in alignment with the Archives’ mission to honor our community heritage and catalyze public awareness and will become an important part of our collection at the Archives.”