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Masters-level Black students at Columbia Seminary will have tuition, fees paid for

‘Repairing the Breach’ commitment part of ‘the sacred task of working together to create new realities at Columbia’

from Columbia Theological Seminary | Special to Presbyterian News Service

DECATUR, Georgia — Columbia Theological Seminary will cover the full cost of tuition and fees for all Black students who apply and are admitted to the seminary’s masters-level programs, the seminary announced Tuesday in a news release.

In addition, the seminary’s Board of Trustees, meeting in mid-June, voted unanimously to affirm a commitment statement titled “Repairing the Breach: Deepening Columbia’s Commitment to Black People and their Flourishing.”

“As we grieve the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks, we are reminded that being anti-racist requires more than performativity. Being anti-racist requires a commitment to interrogate historic systemic injustice and a determination to create new realities,” the commitment statement says. “Therefore, the Board of Columbia Seminary acknowledges and confesses, once again, that Columbia Theological Seminary came into being in the context of and participated in the subjugation and oppression of Black people.”

“Today, Columbia Seminary condemns the violent racist injustice that has been and continues to be perpetuated against Black people and their communities. Furthermore, we refuse to nurture white supremacy and all other mindsets that further the insidious impacts of systemic racism against Black people. We also commit to the sacred task of working together to create new realities at Columbia and in our world.”

Throughout the 2019 academic year, Columbia has wrestled with its history and participation in the enslavement and oppression of Black people. On Monday, June 15, 2020, the Board of Trustees met via Zoom to continue wrestling with Columbia’s history and future. The board meeting occurred in the midst of a national outcry for justice on behalf of the killings of Arbury, Taylor, Floyd, and Brooks. Within this context, the Board of Trustees voted to affirm the commitment statement.

The seminary is naming its signature residence hall Marcia Y. Riggs Hall (Riggs Commons) “in public recognition of her ground-breaking research, teaching, and dedication to this seminary that has often failed to fully appreciate and celebrate her contributions and those of other Black scholars.”

Dr. Marcia Y. Riggs

Riggs is the seminary’s J. Erskine Love Professor of Christian Ethics. She founded an applied ethics nonprofit center called Still Waters: A Center for Ethical Formation and Practices Inc.  Still Waters’ mission is to provide education in conflict transformation theory and practices, particularly focusing on the intersection of religion and violence.

The seminary’s commitment also includes the implementation of new policies to develop partnerships with others who are “actively working to combat police brutality and anti-Black racism.”

The commitment statement explicitly outlines steps Columbia is implementing to begin directly addressing the harm that slavery and its aftermath have done to Black people and communities. Columbia’s board, leadership, faculty, staff, and student body have collectively acknowledged that these new commitments represent one step toward dismantling systems of oppression, the news release stated.  Therefore, the Board also reaffirmed a commitment to long-term processes that work to disrupt global cycles of oppression and create new realities at Columbia and beyond.

Reflecting on this new commitment, Columbia’s President, Dr. Leanne Van Dyk, said, Columbia is more diverse than it has ever been. We work together and challenge one another to put our faith into action. Now is a time for us to move beyond conversations and toward concrete actions that decenter whiteness, center Black and brown people, and transform the structure of this seminary. We are committed to the long journey — and, we are committed to doing this tough work together.”

The full text of “Repairing the Breach,” as well as additional information about other Columbia commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion, can be found at

Columbia Theological Seminary’s exists to cultivate faithful leaders for God’s changing world. Columbia Seminary is a community of theological inquiry, leadership development, and formation for ministry in the service of the Church and the world. Columbia offers six masters and doctoral degree programs, and opportunities for continuing education through The Center for Lifelong Learning. In the fall of 2019, Columbia committed to the Transforming Community Conferencing (TCC) process with Dr. David Hooker. This process is designed to unearth Columbia’s deep narratives and invite the community to adopt and live into a new preferred narrative. More information about the TCC process is forthcoming. For more information, click here.

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