Office of the President
Monday, Sept. 28, 2020
Subject: Racial Justice, Inclusion and Equity - A Message from President Clark
Dear campus community,
The deeply troubling pattern of racial injustice and lack of accountability remains all too prevalent in the United States. We stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and millions of Americans in calling for greater racial equality and justice. Since words alone are not enough, it is time for the United States to act in addressing the pernicious effects of systemic racism in many aspects of contemporary life, including our criminal justice, economic and educational systems. At BSU, we are moving beyond just words by taking action on many fronts against racial injustice and in support of equity and inclusion. Here are a few updates for our campus community.
Lewis and Gaines Center for Inclusion and Equity (LGCIE - “Legacy”)
Last Thursday, the Bridgewater State University Board of Trustees approved the renaming of the Center for Multicultural Affairs to the Lewis and Gaines Center for Inclusion and Equity. This name change reflects our deep commitment to racial equity and our relentless determination to close achievement gaps. The change also formally recognizes the renewed mission of the Center for Multicultural Affairs and celebrates two of our most esteemed alumni.
Sarah Ann Lewis was Bridgewater State University’s first graduate of color. Coming from nearby Fall River, she was accepted into Bridgewater State Normal School in February 1867 and was awarded her diploma on January 26, 1869 – one year before Harvard conferred its first undergraduate degree to a Black student. Sarah went on to teach in the Fall River Public Schools.
When Paul Gaines (G’68) died in June, BSU lost a member of our community who did as much to advance racial justice on our campus as anyone in our history. He devoted decades of his life to advancing equality and equity for all and changed fundamentally and forever the entire culture of BSU. When he was appointed our first director of minority affairs in 1968, there were 11 students of color enrolled at Bridgewater. Paul laid the groundwork for making BSU the diverse institution it is today with 25 percent students of color.
The change from Multicultural Affairs to Inclusion and Equity better reflects the mission of the Center by underscoring the focus on student success and by ensuring that all students - one student at a time - have access to the resources and supports they need to persist, graduate and reach their highest potential.
Funds Raised in Support of Equity and Inclusion
BSU is committed to building a culture of inclusion and equity. Founded upon Horace Mann’s vision of education as the “great equalizer,” Bridgewater remains a community of individuals who care deeply about the success of every student. In keeping with these principles, Bridgewater promotes equity not only by providing increased access to an outstanding education, but also by educating the next generation of educational and civic leaders who will advance equity throughout their careers.
Over the past several months, BSU has raised $650,000 toward a goal of $1 million in new private philanthropic support for BSU students of color. I am deeply grateful to the many benefactors who have come forward to generously support our students. A portion of these funds will be used to finance new scholarships (Gaines Scholars) for students of color who are pursuing their degree in education and who also pledge to serve as a teacher in a Gateway City in Massachusetts. We recognize that there is strong and growing evidence that K-12 students of color perform better academically when they have teachers of color in front of their classrooms. We must produce more teachers of color who can then become the educational role models young students in our state so clearly need. As several of our BSU Afro-American Alumni Association members said recently about this important issue, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”
Dedication of Academic Year to Racial Justice
As I announced during the summer, the university is dedicating the entire 2020-21 academic year to the issue of racial justice. These efforts are well underway and will remain an area of focus. As Provost Ismaili reported last week, the Division of Academic Affairs is marshaling the expertise, passion and creativity of faculty in deepening understanding of the complex legacy of racism and colonialism and developing more just and inclusive curricula, pedagogies and programs.
BSU is also inaugurating a series of faculty and staff-led workshops and discussions, guest speakers, and anti-racist initiatives open to all members of the BSU community. Information about these events can be found on the Racial Justice Events Page of the Racial Justice at BSU website. The first such event, Teaching Race in the Wake of the Alleged Murder of George Floyd, will take place on Wednesday, September 30, from 1-2:30 p.m. I encourage you to participate in these events as we will all benefit by deepening our understanding of racial injustice and contributing to a more equitable university.
Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice
The Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice has met frequently and has just announced the formation of six subcommittees to advance the critically important work of the Task Force and the campus. The subcommittees have been organized to analyze and address the following areas: Curricula and Co-Curricula; BSU Workforce; Education, Training and Continued Learning Opportunities for Faculty, Staff and Students; Investing in and Supporting Students; Police and Public Safety; and Creating a Place for Ongoing Support, Problem Solving, Reporting, Resolution and Response.
There is simply no higher priority on our campus than building a more inclusive and equitable Bridgewater State University. I know and trust that all members of the BSU community will work with the subcommittees in securing the information that they need to undertake their important tasks. There will be ample opportunity for members of our campus community to share their perspective and expertise as we advance this work. Additional information about the Task Force, subcommittees and campus programs, resources and events on racial justice can be found here.
Racial equity is one of the most important issues of our time. How we as a campus and as a nation grapple with that issue will have enormous consequences for our future success. My commitment is to leave no stone unturned in fostering inclusion and equity at Bridgewater State University. If higher education is to truly become the “great equalizer -- the balance wheel of the social machinery,” it must equitably serve all people.
Frederick W. Clark Jr., Esq.