The following message was sent by email to students, faculty and staff on Nov. 10.
Dear Members of the Campus Community,
Part IV of our Dismantling Racism Town Hall series will be Thursday, Nov. 12, from 4:45-6:15 p.m. via Zoom. We invite students, faculty and staff, and alumni to join this session, titled “Dismantling Racism: Checking in Post-Election” and moderated by alumna Camille Jacobs ’91 (Communication Media), an educator and restorative justice thought leader.
To maximize use of our time in this session for listening and discussion, we are providing this update on the progress we have made together this fall as a campus community on several relevant initiatives. We shared several of these actions with you as part of our June 30 pledge to become an actively anti-racist and more inclusive institution.
The outcome of the U.S. presidential election holds promise for changed leadership and initiative at the federal level surrounding race, racism, diversity, equity and inclusion. More voters engaged in the democratic process than at any time in our history, and Kamala Harris has made history as the first Black person and first South Asian-American woman to hold the second-highest office in the nation. We also saw the power of organizing and advocacy across many states where BIPOC voices were represented in greater numbers than in recent history. Those are all signs of hope.
At the same time, many have not healed from what has happened, and the vote tallies reflect a still deeply divided nation. Those realities underscore both the challenge and the imperative for sustained fundamental change in our society and institutions. We recognize both the urgency to make progress on these important initiatives and the complexities that mean this is not an overnight task.
Bias Response and Support Network
Our new bias response and support network provides avenues for all members of our community to report experiences of bias or racism, seek support and redress when they have experienced bias, and provide education to community members about the impact of these incidents on others. The network also includes a response and support team, which serves as a resource toward prevention of and response to bias experiences.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Faculty Fellows Program
At the initiation of several faculty leaders and with the support of the Provost, this program has been initiated to broaden discussion and undertake actions “to develop curricula, practices, and programs that engage with dynamics of social inequality and racism in the US and abroad.” This year, 11 faculty and staff are pursuing 10 diverse projects dealing with curriculum and pedagogy, administrative materials and procedures, program development and other topics.
In addition to curricular and pedagogical projects undertaken by Faculty Fellows (noted above) a group of STEM faculty in several departments have been working to build more inclusive pedagogy and classroom environments. We heard from students and alumni in previous town halls about the imperative to develop and offer new courses and curriculum around race, racism and inequity. Discussions are underway in several faculty venues including faculty governance leadership about this goal.
Diversity & Inclusion Council
We have broadened the structure of our diversity and inclusion work by establishing working groups in each academic college or school that are coordinating with the college-wide Diversity & Inclusion Council. These groups aim to expand involvement, spur broader conversation and build or enlarge avenues for integrating or accelerating this work into the curriculum, departments and college or schools.
The College received feedback from the campus community to employ an alternative to calling the University Police Department (UPD) when students are experiencing a mental health crisis after business hours. As a result, we have established a new after-hours protocol for students with mental health issues, so that they can receive triage services by continuing to use the Psychological Counseling Center phone number without having to call UPD.
The University Police Department has stated its commitment to be an anti-racist law-enforcement organization. This includes UPD’s commitment to transparency, implicit bias and de-escalation trainings, review of policies and procedures to ensure they support an anti-racist culture, and ensuring that all officers are held accountable to these values.
SUNY-wide Action Plan
The College is eager to learn more and participate in the recently announced SUNY-wide action plan to increase diversity, equity and inclusion, and to combat racial inequity and division. Several goals of that plan align closely with our campus goals, including dismantling racial equity gaps; improving courses and curricula to increase literacy about race, equity, and related topics; better understanding campus climate; and diversifying leadership and governance.
While we are proud of the work the campus community has completed thus far to move these initiatives forward, College leaders recognize that we cannot rest on these achievements. We will continue to listen to our community and work on matters where, as a campus, we can move toward long-term and sustained change.
Donald P. Christian, President
Stephanie Blaisdell, Vice President for Student Affairs
Tanhena Pacheco Dunn, Associate Vice President for Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer
L. David Eaton, Vice President for Enrollment Management
Michele Halstead, Vice President for Administration & Finance
Barbara Lyman, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Erica Marks, Vice President for Development & Alumni Relations
Shelly Wright, Chief of Staff and Vice President for Communication