Artistic Expression

Artistic Expression

Artistic Expression

A Statement by John Jay College President Karol Mason
January 19, 2018

Over the past few months, there has been much debate in the media and across our campus about who we are at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  Is it a police college?  Is it a social justice academy?  Is it a liberal arts college?  The answer is that John Jay is all of these things – and much more.  New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said it best, that John Jay is essentially the United Nations for justice issues.  We are and should be the place where all perspectives are represented and all views are presented. 

John Jay grew out of the social turmoil of the 1960s, when crime was on the rise, cities were erupting in protests and law enforcement practices came under greater scrutiny.  An idea emerged that police should be educated to better deal with the social and political issues of the time period.

We are living through a period of turmoil reminiscent of the sixties, and the principles that inspired the college’s founding remain as relevant, and as vital, today as they were then in 1964.  The advantage we have today is that John Jay has established itself as the safe place to wrestle with these difficult issues, difficult questions.  Questions such as:  What does justice look like?  What does it mean to live in a just society, and what is my role in creating one?   We are all fierce advocates for justice, whether we wear a police uniform or pursue careers in public service, social justice, the sciences, the arts or business.  At John Jay, we recognize that injustice in any form confines liberty, limits opportunity and restricts one’s ability to reach her or his full potential.

One of these charged issues is the centuries-old struggle to reconcile our republic’s avowed respect for human rights and the eternal imperative of national security.  That’s why we are simultaneously celebrating the heroism of our first responders on September 11, 2001, with the “Bravery and Sacrifices NYPD Heroes” exhibition in Memorial Hall and recognizing the artistic expression of military detainees with the “Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantanamo Bay” exhibition.  We can honor those who are willing to sacrifice their lives for the freedoms this country represents, while also challenging ourselves as a country to define together and live up to the ideals of justice. 

John Jay is and should be the place where we can vigorously discuss difficult issues, with respect for each other and our varying views and opinions.  We have the opportunity to listen to someone who may share a different point of view, exchange ideas, refine long-held notions, and discover new pathways to mutual understanding.  In the crucible of debate, our conception of justice takes form as solution.  We grow, and we move closer to realizing the ideals on which our country was created.  We are stronger as a nation, a more perfect union.