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Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice Update

Office of the President
Friday, June 12, 2020

Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice Update - A Message from President Clark

Dear campus community,

Last Friday, as part of a wider communication on racial justice, I announced the formation of a Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice. I indicated that I would be sharing details about the Task Force in the days ahead. Today, I am pleased to announce the names of the three chairs of the Task Force, each of whom, in their own unique way, has been deeply involved in issues of racial justice and equity: Mr. Davede Alexander, a member of BSU’s Board of Trustees; Dr. Mary K. Grant, Senior Administrative Fellow for Civics and Social Justice; and Dr. Carolyn Petrosino, professor emerita of Criminal Justice.

Mr. Davede Alexander has served on the Bridgewater State University Board of Trustees since 2014. Representing the university’s highest governing body, Mr. Alexander has the full support of Chairperson Eugene Durgin and his fellow trustees. In many ways, we regard Davede as the conscience of our Board by consistently and passionately holding BSU accountable to its highest standards and values. He is the founder and principal of Innovo Strategic Solutions, LLC, was awarded the distinguished Black Engineer of the Year Award for Diversity Leadership in Government and served as a Naval Officer during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. When I asked him to serve, he replied, “I have been waiting my entire life to do this kind of profoundly important and transformative work.”

Dr. Mary K. Grant joined BSU in January of this year as Senior Administrative Fellow for Civics and Social Justice, moved “by the opportunity to continue to work on issues of equity, social justice and civic engagement.” She leads the Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice, which will provide staffing and overall support to the Task Force and will lead the university in planning and implementing racial justice activities and initiatives tied to the 2020-2021 academic year. Dr. Grant previously served as President and CEO of The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate, positioning the Institute as a hub for civic engagement, participatory democracy and invigorating civil discourse. Mary also served as Chancellor of the University of North Carolina in Asheville, and as President of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA).

Dr. Carolyn Petrosino is professor emerita of Criminal Justice and was the Founding Chair of our Department of Criminal Justice at BSU. Prior to beginning her teaching career, she held various positions in the corrections system of the State of New Jersey. Her publications include journal articles and book chapters on such topics as racial justice, hate crimes, juvenile delinquency, sexual offenders and parole decision-making. She regularly taught a class at BSU on hate crimes, focusing on the nature of these crimes, the social harms they cause and the origins and resilience of hate ideology. She served on the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Advisory Council and has participated in a Congressional briefing on the state of hate crime research and public policy in the United States. Dr. Petrosino said she is “honored by the opportunity to participate in the tough work of truly listening, holding a mirror up to ourselves, learning and taking action to address the needs of communities of color.”

Next Steps

As we continue to assemble the Task Force by adding students, faculty, staff and alumni in the days ahead, we are also mindful that we must continue to listen to our campus community, be introspective about our individual efforts and the university’s efforts in advancing racial justice, gather recommendations from every corner of the university and develop an action agenda that we will then implement to make change. Although we have already begun this work, we need to once again engage our community in dialogue to help us shape and determine the full scope of what we will undertake this summer and throughout the next academic year. For that reason, a second Forum on Racial Justice is being planned for Tuesday, June 23rd at 5:00 pm. Details of the Forum will be available early next week.

Davede, Mary and Carolyn have all reminded me that the work of the Task Force will be tough, but nothing worth doing is ever easy. Carolyn also cautioned me that this important issue “is not a Black problem, it is an American problem.” She is, of course, absolutely right and it will take every member of our BSU community, no matter our race, ethnicity or identity, to make real change in eradicating the scourge of racism and the threat of implicit bias. The opportunity in front of all of us is to fulfill the mission and deliver on the promise of BSU by taking a hard look at who we are and how we approach that mission.

I want to thank Trustee Alexander, Dr. Grant and Dr. Petrosino for their willingness to lead BSU in this important work. In solidarity, let us begin by once again affirming that Black Lives Matter, by denouncing racism and bigotry in all their explicit and implicit manifestations, and by re-committing ourselves to bold action that put into practice our values of diversity, inclusion and equality for all.

Warmest regards,

Frederick W. Clark Jr., Esq.