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Research Survey Controversy – An Update from President Clark and Provost Ismaili

April 9, 2021

Subject: Research Survey Controversy – An Update from President Clark and Provost Ismaili


Dear campus community,

We write today to provide a further update on the steps that have been taken to address the controversy stemming from a racially charged vignette contained in an Institutional Review Board (IRB)-approved and faculty-guided student research survey that distressed so many in our campus community last month.

Following an active and thorough review of this issue, we believe that the most constructive path forward is to identify and implement tangible changes that will prevent harm from occurring in the future, while also recognizing that as an institution of higher education, we must take this as an opportunity to learn together and strive for continuous improvement in all that we do.
With this goal in mind, we wish to inform you of the following:

  • The Office of the Provost has recently issued a call for new IRB members to fill vacancies and supplement the current members of the Board, noting that applications are especially welcome from faculty researchers who will “enhance the racial and ethnic diversity of the Board.”
  • The Office of the Provost will oversee the filling of all IRB membership categories, including a community member and members with special expertise on matters related to risks of certain research subject populations.
  • In the coming weeks, the Office of the Provost will be adding a Vice Chair to the leadership of the IRB chosen from among the sitting members of the Board.
  • In response to an external review undertaken in fall 2020, the Office of the Provost will be exploring models to administratively support the IRB.
  • In collaboration with the IRB, we will assess and implement additional professional development opportunities and training modules to support the Board, with a focus on leading practices in higher education.

We realize that there is also a need to offer support to all researchers – faculty, staff and students – on socially sensitive research.  We look forward to receiving forthcoming recommendations from the Racial Justice Task Force, which will help guide our efforts and build on the many supports and resources that are already in place at the university.

In closing, we wish to acknowledge the many members of our community who described the pain caused by this episode in individual meetings with us and in other venues over the past month.  BSU is a community that strives to activate the values of diversity, equity and inclusion in all that we do.  However, we also know that we must strive for continuous improvement each and every day.

Warmest regards,

Frederick W. Clark Jr., Esq.
President, Bridgewater State University

Karim Ismaili, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs