President's Remarks on Martin Luther King Jr. Day - January 16, 2022
Talking about Dr. King is a daunting and humbling task. While I learned about Dr. King in elementary and high school, I didn’t fully feel the power of his words until I, as a faculty member starting in 1998, began discussing his ideas with students in my community college English classes. While we often think of Dr. King as a brave leader and an amazing orator, I would like to share my personal perspective and focus on his incredible writing.
I believe that community college, in providing access to higher education, can help create the chance for a better life for many students. Students often shared the complicated details of their lives in the essays that they wrote for my English 101 classes. Hints of poverty, domestic abuse, substance abuse, incarceration and other challenges would often sneak into their paragraphs.
The classroom can be a powerful space, and I was fortunate enough to get hired full-time at Chandler-Gilbert Community College and at the same time shocked, to put it mildly, when I realized that the College had never offered African-American literature, despite being a minority-serving institution, meaning over 25% of the student population was not white. I guess I should not have been shocked given that I was in Arizona, a state whose voters repeatedly refused to approve a ballot proposal for MLK Day until 1992.
Along with getting involved in a number of civil rights groups serving the Phoenix area, I proposed to my department that it was time for the College to offer courses with more diverse literature. Having focused a good part of my graduate studies in the field of African American literature, I offered to teach an Introduction to African-American Literature course.
The class filled the first time it was offered. It was long overdue, and students were hungry for courses like this. Each semester I acknowledged my whiteness and explained my reasons for teaching the course. I shared with students that my lived experience was likely very different from each of theirs, but from an early age, I was moved by the words of black writers and that I hoped that by reading these works together, we could expand our understanding of the black experience and the context of that experience in America.
I would share how I was blown away by Toni Morrison’s use of language in The Bluest Eye in my first college literature class and how it began a lifetime commitment to reading her work.
I learned as much, if not more, from my students as they learned from me when I taught Introduction to African-American Literature. I remember one class when some of the black students spoke about their experience being under constant surveillance anytime they walked into a store at the mall; the white students indicated that they had little or no such experience feeling that way.
One of my favorite works to read with students was Martin Luther King, Jr’s, “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Before we even got to the words, the story of the letter’s origin knocked my students’ socks off. In April 12 of 1963, Dr. King and nearly 50 other protestors were arrested after leading a Good Friday demonstration designed to bring national attention to the brutal, racist treatment suffered by blacks in Birmingham, which at the time was one of the most segregated cities in America. For months, an organized boycott of the city’s white-owned businesses had failed to achieve any substantive results, which left Dr. King convinced they had no other options but more direct actions. They ignored a recently passed ordinance that prohibited public gathering without an official permit and were arrested.
This was Dr. King’s 13th arrest. Shortly after King’s imprisonment, a friend smuggled in a copy of a Birmingham newspaper that included an open letter written by eight local Christian and Jewish religious leaders who criticized both the demonstrations and King himself, whom they considered an outside agitator. Isolated in his cell, King began working on a response, without notes or research materials. Dr. King’s 7,000 word letter was an impassioned defense of his use of nonviolent, but direct actions, and was all the more impressive because it was handwritten on scraps of paper, mainly in the margins of that newspaper.
The letter itself is a wonder in so many ways. Dr. King never deviates from a respectful tone, calling his critics “men of good will” and their criticism “sincere.” Yet piece by piece, he dismantles their arguments and turns the criticism back upon them, as well as more moderate-minded white Americans, castigating them for sitting passively on the sidelines while he and others risked everything agitating for change. Showing a keen awareness of his audience, he namedrops very shrewdly, quoting everyone from St. Augustine and Socrates to Thomas Jefferson and even Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren.
He challenges “shallow understanding from people of good will.”
I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season."
And powerfully warns about consequences of inaction.
And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies--a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
Like a great work of dramatic literature, Dr. King’s letter even has a villain. Eugene
Bull Conner was Birmingham’s Commissioner of Public Safety in 1961 when the Freedom Riders came to
town. Connor encouraged the violence that met the Riders at the Birmingham Trailways
Bus station by promising local Klansmen that he would make sure some time would elapse
before the police arrived.
After a failed bid for Alabama governor, Connor returned to the spotlight in the spring of 1963 when the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition (SCLC) came to Birmingham. He authorized the local police to control thousands of nonviolent protesters, including children, with high-pressure fire hoses and police dogs.
As my students discovered for themselves the damning footage of Bull Conner on YouTube in all his racist glory, the power of the classroom was apparent.
On this point, Dr. King wrote
You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.
Dr. King’s plain-spoken yet elegant prose made sense to the students, even spoke to their lives. One semester when I was teaching the course, Arizona enacted the infamous “show us your papers” legislation, which required law enforcement officers to inquire about a suspect's immigration status if they had reason to believe they were in the US illegally, which some called the country’s most blatant racial profiling law at the time. And how can we think of Letter from Birmingham Jail today apart from the murder of George Floyd? Dr. King’s writing is still teaching us today.
Let me close in celebration of MLK Jr. day in his words, not mine, with one final quote:
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
President's Letter - November 30, 2022
In 1624 the English poet John Donne wrote, “[A]ny man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” Although it is the time of year when we are reflecting about all of the things for which we are grateful, it is hard not to feel diminished in light of the recent shootings over the past few weeks.
The deaths of the three football players at the University of Virginia in mid-November hit me particularly hard because UVa is my alma mater, and I had just witnessed those young men play in a game a few weeks prior to the shooting. It was painful to think about a place that I loved beset by such bloodshed. It was also a stark reminder that college campuses are not immune from gun violence.
Then last week, a gunman entered an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs and killed five people and injured 17 others. Although authorities have not shared a motive, the suspect is facing five counts of first-degree murder and bias-motivated or hate crimes. Given the College’s and my own commitment to support LGBTQ students through our work with the Pride Club and the Diversity Center, this latest attack hit very close to home and emphasizes the need to continue to strive for love and acceptance and fight against hate and bias.
And then there were two workplace shootings this week alone, at a farm in Oklahoma,
where four Chinese nationals were killed and at a Walmart in Virginia, where six employees
were killed. According to the website Gun Violence Archive (https://www.
Each of these incidents is unique and tragic, and the problem of gun violence in this country is rampant and complex. My purpose in writing is not to wade into the controversial political waters surrounding this issue. However, I fear that the regularity of these shootings might render us desensitized to the violence, resulting in paralysis or apathy.
Keeping our College community safe is a top priority. One action we will take at the College to protect our students and employees is to be prepared in the unlikely event of a campus shooter. To that end, the College will be conducting an Active Shooter Drill for all faculty and staff on January 20, 2023 at 10:00 am. This day, which is typically reserved for meetings and workshops to kick off the semester, will now be largely dedicated to this comprehensive exercise.
Additionally, please remember our Report a Concern mechanism if you have a non-emergency concern that someone may pose a risk based on their behavior or statements they have made. As always, for immediate danger: Call 911, the Public Safety Office at 962-9000, or use the emergency red phones when available. Acts or immediate threats of violence must be reported immediately.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or overstressed, please do reach out for assistance to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through the Clinical Associates of the Southern Tier, which provides employees and/or their dependents with up to five prepaid counseling sessions per academic year. Coverage for emergencies is available 24 hours/7 days per week and the EAP can be reached at 607-936-1771.
Let us hold empathy and compassion in our hearts as we support each other during these difficult times.
Response to Buffalo Shooting Tragedy - May 16, 2022
Although Saturday was a day of commencement celebration for our community, it was a day of terror and tragedy in Buffalo. We pray for those who were killed or injured, and our hearts go out to their families and friends. As an institution committed to the principles of diversity and respect for all lives, SUNY Corning Community College condemns this racially-motivated crime in the strongest possible terms and remains committed to creating an environment in which all people are safe. I have reached out to the presidents of Erie Community College and Niagara Community College on behalf of the College offering any help that we can provide.
Counseling help is available for SUNY CCC students and employees with the Student Assistance Program and Employee Assistance Programs through Clinical Associates of the Southern Tier: call 607-936-1771 for additional information or to schedule an appointment.
Dr. Bill Mullaney
President, SUNY Corning Community College
SUNY Corning Community College President, Dr. Bill Mullaney
partnered with Corning Inc. on February 2, 2022
to introduce this year’s celebration of Black History Month
Iwould like to thank the organizers of today’s event for inviting me here today, and I would like to thank Corning Inc. for being such a supportive partner of the College. Like Corning Inc., Corning Community College remains committed to values of diversity, equity and inclusion. However, the murder of George Floyd was a bit of a reckoning for us. For all of the good work we were doing, it quickly became clear that we needed to do better. In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, we committed to three actions:
- Conduct town hall sessions on social justice, anti-racism, and equity for all students, faculty and staff at the college
- Enhance cultural competency training for all employees
- Evaluate data to address disproportionate outcomes and identify issues of inequity and disparate treatment.
All three actions were transformative for the College, but I think it was the last action, the evaluation of data, that proved most significant. I invited all employees to a Lunch and Learn to begin to really dig into the data.
The College has always prided itself on its high graduation, one of the highest among the community colleges in New York and above the national average.
However, when we disaggregated the data by race, we realized that our black students were graduating at a rate of less than 50% than our white students. Employees were shocked, but there is a silver lining. That data point, as well as a few critical others, became an urgent call to action, resulting in the college’s first ever Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan, an effort led by our Chief Diversity Officer Connie Park and the result of months of work by dedicated faculty and staff across the College. The plan is a living testament of our commitment to equity and a promise to all students who enter our doors.
I will leave you today with some words written by the great African-American poet Langston Hughes [pictured]. Before I crossed over to college administration, I studied and taught literature for many years and teaching his poems, as well as other writers of the Harlem Renaissance to undergraduates was one of the true joys of my teaching career.
Yesterday was the 121st anniversary of Langston Hughes’ birth, so it is especially appropriate to honor him today.
This is his poem, “I Too”:
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.
Photo: Carl Van Vechten, 1936, Public Domain
Join CCC in Honoring our Veterans this Veterans Day
My dad passed away at the ripe old age of 95 in 2011. He grew up in the Bronx and was the youngest of eight children. He never went to College but he had a successful career at MetLife (although back then, it was called Metropolitan Life Insurance Company).
Before he joined the workforce, he served in the United States Army and was stationed for three years in the Philippines during World War II. Fortunately, he was never in harm’s way. He was extremely proud of his service to his country, and many of the values that he instilled in my sisters and me were, I think, directly related to his military service — specifically, integrity and hard work. These values have served us well in work and in life.
Today is Veterans Day, and it is a day to pay tribute to all American veterans—living and dead—but to especially give thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime. The College has a strong tradition of being a welcoming place for veterans and in helping them to continue their studies or pursue their careers. So, in addition to taking some time out of your day to reflect on the sacrifices of our veterans and to thank any veterans in your life for their service, please think about specific ways you can, as a member of the CCC community, do something tangible in your area to make the College an even more open-hearted and supportive place for our service men and women.
Dr. Bill Mullaney
President, SUNY Corning Community College
Join CCC in Honoring Women’s Equality Day 2021
One hundred and one years ago — August 26, 1920 — the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was certified, “granting women the right to vote.” In 1971, New York Representative Bella Abzug introduced a resolution to designate August 26 as Women's Equality Day.
The following year, President Richard M. Nixon issued Proclamation 4147, which designated August 26, 1972, as “Women's Rights Day” and was the first official proclamation of Women's Equality Day. In August 1973, Congress approved H.J. Res. 52, which stated that August 26 would be designated as Women's Equality Day.
However, it’s important to recognize that the 19th Amendment did not unequivocally guarantee the right to vote to all women: African-American, Native American, and other minority women were not guaranteed that right until 1965, when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act.
Women’s Equality Day reminds us of the strides women have made over the past 101 years, as well as the struggles many – especially women of color – continue to face, particularly in the professional world. SUNY Corning Community College has, and will continue to assist women of all races, diversities and ethnicities on their journeys toward prosperous futures. We are committed to looking for ways to support gender equality in all the diverse facets of the CCC community.
The list of women who have fought passionately for equal rights is long, and despite the many strides made, the battle rages on. CCC has been honored to be associated with the many remarkable female students, faculty, staff and friends who have helped make it the diverse, inclusive institution it is today. Notably, Colonel Eileen M. Collins, a CCC alum, who went on to become the first female commander of a space shuttle mission, STS-93, in July 1999, and Georgia Verdier, President of the NAACP Elmira-Corning, who graduated from CCC and went on to successful thirty-year career with the New York State Department of Mental Health.
In honor of Women’s Equality Day, I encourage you to take a moment today to recognize and thank the women in your life who inspire you to greatness. My personal list of these women is long indeed, including my mother who worked as a secretary for Meals on Wheels for more than 25 years while raising four children; all of the dedicated and talented women I have worked with at community colleges in Arizona, New Jersey and here in Corning; and my wife, Marianne, who amazes and inspires me every day.
Additionally, if you aren’t registered to vote, exercise your Constitutional rights, and register today.
“Since this historic achievement, our country has made great progress in building a freer and fairer society, and we continue striving to fully realize justice and equality for all. There is still more to do to secure the promise of our Nation for everyone, including ensuring that women have equal opportunities to participate in the classroom, the economy, the workplace, and our democracy.”
– President Barack Obama, 2015
Please join me, and the entire CCC community as we honor the diverse contributions of equality on Women’s Equality Day 2021. Thank you.
Dr. Bill Mullaney
President, SUNY Corning Community College
Follow Dr. Mullaney on Twitter
Pride. And Proud.
Please join me, and the SUNY Corning Community College family, in celebrating International Pride Month. Pride Month honors the Stonewall Uprising in New York City on June 28, 1969, when police stormed the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village, leading to six days of protests and clashes. This event is considered the catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States.
As the world emerges from the COVID pandemic, I can’t help but recall the 1980s and early 1990s when our country was experiencing the worst of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which continues to this day in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Scientific advances since then, such as development of antiretroviral drugs, have enabled people with access to treatment to live long and healthy lives with HIV, but I cannot forget the fear, loss and death that dominated that period. However, coming of age during that time also taught me a great deal about resilience, acceptance and love.
I am proud to work at a place where diversity is one of our core values – and it is this commitment to diversity that makes the College such a vibrant place to study and work. We celebrate and honor our diversity every day of the year, but in June, during International Pride Month, we strive to bring greater awareness to LGBTQIA+ rights and the power that is in all of us.
Pride recognizes the on-going fight for equality and justice that everyone deserves and offers us an opportunity to reflect on what all of us – this great diverse group of individuals – can do to create a welcoming and accessible environment for everyone. Diversity is strength, diversity is power. We all draw from each other’s uniqueness and that helps us to grow as a society.
At SUNY CCC – we’re Pride – and we’re Proud. Join the CCC community as we celebrate diversity, encourage inclusivity, and promote awareness on issues that affect the LGBTQIA+ community.
We are celebrating Juneteenth again, and just yesterday (June 15, 2021) the US Senate passed a bill that would make Juneteenth, or June 19, a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The bill leads to Juneteenth becoming the 12th federal holiday.
This year alone, there are a growing list of companies that have decided to make Juneteenth, which commemorates the ending of slavery in America, a paid company holiday, and I am proud to say that CCC is among these organizations.
I am encouraging everyone to use Juneteenth as a day for learning and reflection. Let’s take this opportunity to continue to learn and connect with our colleagues, family, and friends and reflect how we can strengthen our commitment to promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace while fostering social and racial justice.
This Pride Month, Stand Proud, Stand Loud. Be Heard, Make a Difference.
Thank you --
Dr. Bill Mullaney, President, SUNY Corning Community College
Pride Flag Raising
at SUNY Corning Community College -
June 10, 2021
Response to the Derek Chauvin Verdict - April 20, 2021
Yesterday, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on three counts in the murder of George Floyd last May. Justice prevailed and a process of reform now can become possible.
However, the verdict does not alter the fact that we, as a nation, must continue to endeavor to guarantee equal justice and liberty for all. It is up to every one of us to build our nation that lives up to its ideals.
We must commit more deeply to equity and inclusion, and to listening to one another, valuing every member of our community, recognizing our differences, and embracing one another because of those differences.
Like communities across the world, our College has been saddened and enraged by Mr. Floyd’s murder and by the violence inflicted upon people of color that occurs far too often.
I call upon our entire community to commit ourselves to justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion in everything we do. Our actions cannot restore the lives that have been lost, and they cannot ease the grieving families and friends. But, they can become a foundation for healing and for a more equitable future for us all.
I ask everyone to join me as we write the next chapter in America’s story where racism is rejected, equality is upheld, liberty is bestowed and where everyone is welcome, respected and cherished.
Dr. William Mullaney
President, SUNY Corning Community College
About Dr. Mullaney
Dr. William P. Mullaney assumed SUNY CCC's presidency on July 1, 2019, with the immediate goal of continuing the steadfast commitment to purpose that has propelled this institution for more than six decades. His belief that community colleges are an integral part of communities everywhere will guide his decisions as he believes the College's role -- to provide access to the type of knowledge and skills that have the power to enhance the quality of life and prepare employees who are on point and ready on day one to meet the workforce needs of the region -- is critical.
Mullaney comes to SUNY CCC from Bergen Community College where he worked with stakeholders to increase the rate of graduation by 7 percent over a three-year period. He collaborated with area high schools to open the College’s first early college programs, which allow students to earn a college degree or significant college credits while still in high school. Mullaney served as member of the Middle States Steering Committee, co-leader of a working group and final editor for the self-study report, which resulted in full accreditation and 48 exemplary commendations. In addition, he worked with the faculty to develop a number of new academic programs, including Paramedic Science, Fashion Design, and Sports Management, and helped to guide the development of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.
Mullaney earned his doctorate at Tulane University, a master’s degree from the University of California, San Diego, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia. He is a published author and frequently invited to present at conferences across the country. Mullaney’s research interests explore American Literature, with particular foci on John Steinbeck and Harriet Beecher Stowe. He and his wife, Marianne, have three children. In his spare time, Mullaney enjoys reading, watching movies, travelling, and hiking with his family.