Dear ICC Community,

 I hope that this email finds you all in safety and good health. Like you, I have been watching events unfold across the country over the past two weeks, and I know that many of you have been waiting to hear from ICC during this time. Even though we have been extremely focused on the consequences of the ongoing COVID-19 closure, the leadership team has taken time to reflect and discuss actions that ICC has taken and will take in the future. We realize that even though we are closed, our community still needs to hear from us. I hope this letter emphasizes ICC’s deep commitment to improving the racial and social injustices that plague America and the world.

 First of all, ICC stands firmly with the protests and on the side of justice. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police was horrifying. Even more horrifying is the pattern that it’s a part of, a pattern that has to stop. This is a true crossroads moment in American history, and I’m hopeful that we’ll choose the right path and that a tragedy like this never happens again. Everyone must be part of this, and that includes schools of all kinds.

 The food community is uniquely positioned to stand up to injustice, and ICC is ready to play its part. ICC has always had a beautifully diverse student body, but it’s clear now that just having a diverse student body isn’t nearly enough. It has become abundantly clear that nobody has really been doing enough, and that all schools must take a stand against inequality and injustice, and the way to do that is through action. When COVID-19 hit, ICC was just beginning to implement several new initiatives, including a serious focus on diversifying our extracurricular content and celebrating foods of many cultures through changes to our family meal curriculum. These changes came out of a series of productive meetings with students regarding suggestions to promote diversity and inclusion at ICC. Those conversations were eye-opening; diversity and inclusion have always been key tenets of the ICC culture. But in addition to our focus on delivering education, it became clear that we have an opportunity to further promote these tenets and make them ring louder and clearer in our hallways and kitchens. We need to ask ourselves an important question: What are we doing specifically, as a school that celebrates and promotes diversity, to ensure that we also have an inclusive community – one where everyone belongs? The events of the past few weeks have clarified this even further.

 Over 15 years as an employee of ICC, several as its president, I have been extremely proud of the school’s generous support of a number of scholarship programs that benefit students of color, most recently with the Made In New Orleans Foundation and the Aarón Sánchez Scholarship Fund. Our late founder Dorothy Hamilton believed in giving back to the community and helping people get their start, and we continue that work today. Thirty years ago, Dorothy was the first to donate a full scholarship to CCAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program); ICC has donated full scholarships to CCAP every year since and has celebrated the success of those recipients. ICC will always be an institution that values diversity and inclusion and one that protects its students from intolerance; it’s written into our catalog and it is a bedrock principle of our school. We know we can do better in certain areas, and we look forward to doing that work when we’re finally able to reopen. I look forward to seeing you all again in your chef whites very soon.

Erik Murnighan
President
International Culinary Center®

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