COVID-19: Addressing Economic/Racial Disparities

   Diversity: Blog | Posted on April 21, 2020

Dear friends,

I hope this message finds you all doing well during these uncertain times. As has been said many times before, our current state of affairs driven by the COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy, but it is my prayer that we will continue to journey through it together.

I wanted to quickly update you on two important initiatives that our campus will take on over the next two weeks.

Social Consciousness Summit

We will be hosting our 8th Annual Summit on Social Consciousness on Thursday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m. This year’s summit will operate under the theme “COVID-19: Understanding and Breaking the Socio-Economic and Racial Disparities.” As more data has been accumulated about the effects of this disease, it has become clear, both in Michigan and across the country, that minority communities have been hit the hardest.

The Summit is co-sponsored by Spectrum Health Lakeland, the Andrews University Office for Diversity & Inclusion, our Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center, the Office of Research & Creative Scholarship, and the Office of the Provost. Since we are in many different locations this spring semester, our Summit will stream live from the Andrews University Facebook page and will be a part of our Andrews Speaks podcast series (co-curricular credit is available for students).

The issues we’ll cover in this Summit have also been a point of emphasis for the government’s pandemic response team. In Michigan, even though African Americans make up only 14 percent of the population, they account for 40 percent of the state’s coronavirus deaths to date. African Americans account for 67 percent of the deaths in Chicago and 70 percent of the deaths in Louisiana. In New York City, the U.S. epicenter of this pandemic, Latinos represent 34 percent and African Americans represent 28 percent of COVID-19 related deaths—both disproportionate to their percentage of the population.

During the Summit, we will seek to carefully explore some of the core reasons for these disparities and discuss what they reveal to us about the inequities that predated this pandemic; how the pandemic has worsened those inequities; and the policies we can advocate for to begin the process of addressing, even and especially in the heart of this pandemic, with its threats to our communities.

Please join us on April 23 and feel free to bring any questions or comments you have as we seek to create an interactive and productive dialogue during this significant Summit on Social Consciousness.

“BE COUNTED BERRIEN 2020” Census Count

This got somewhat lost in the shuffle of all the pandemic news, but throughout the month of April, the 2020 United States Census count has been happening all across the country. And even with shelter-in-place guidelines in effect, you can still make sure you are counted right from where you are! An accurate count is critical in order for Berrien County to receive our fair share of federal funds. You may not know that the Census count determines how much funding Berrien County will receive over the next 10 years for roads, school lunches, education, housing, transportation, Medicare, Medicaid and much more.

The county’s population also determines how many lawmakers represent us in Washington D.C.

You are counted as a resident in the county you were considered a permanent resident in as of April 1, 2020. For some of you, that is likely to have changed, so be sure to follow the census instructions in the county where you currently reside.

It is also important to note that you do not have to be a U.S. citizen in order to be counted in the Census. The Census counts every person living in the U.S. as of April 1, 2020, including non-citizens, legal residents and temporary or seasonal workers. Also, the information you share on the census is, by federal law, kept private and confidential and can only be used for statistical purposes. Regardless of where you are living right now, you can find all of the information you need to fill out the Census online, via mail or via phone here.

If you currently reside in Berrien County, as of April 1, the online “BE COUNTED BERRIEN 2020” frequently asked questions page can be found here.

I encourage you to make sure that you are counted! It will make a big difference in your community—wherever you live.

Thank you all for engaging in these important initiatives. If there is anything that our Diversity & Inclusion office can do for you during these challenging times, please contact us at for further assistance.

Grace and peace,

Michael Nixon, Vice President
Diversity & inclusion

   Michael Nixon