Oct. 28, 2021
Subject: Racial Justice and Equity Update
Following the murder of George Floyd, President Clark announced the formation of a Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice. As you may recall, this Task Force was charged with conducting a comprehensive review aimed at identifying elements of policy, practice, and culture that may serve to impede our efforts at fully realizing racial justice and equity at BSU. The 70 members of the Task Force and more than 1,000 campus participants were asked to listen deeply to what our students of color are saying, leave no stone unturned, honestly evaluate how we can do better, and thoughtfully develop actionable recommendations to make positive change. As we promised last June, I am writing to provide you with an update on the planning efforts underway to aid in the implementation of the recommendations presented by the Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice (TFRJ) and to offer a snapshot of key actions already taken.
Creation of New Board of Trustees Committee on Racial Justice and Equity
As announced by the Chair of the BSU Board of Trustees, Eugene J. Durgin, Jr., the Board recently approved the creation of a new Racial Justice and Equity Committee that will recommend priority measures and hold itself and the university accountable for making significant and measurable progress in advancing this important goal. Recognizing the scope of the task at hand, the committee will include representation from the chairs of six related Board Committees, the Student Trustee as well as four members of the President’s Cabinet. The President will also be an ex-officio member of the body. The work of the Committee will be informed by — and aligned with — two new campus committees and with Cabinet. It is important to note that the new Board committee and new campus committees were suggested by the Task Force co-chairs in their reflections (see p.59 of the report).
Creation of New Student Racial Justice and Equity Advisory Group
The first new campus committee will ensure that student voices, ideas and concerns continue to shape and influence BSU’s actions in the area of racial justice and equity. Students were critical to the formation and work of the Task Force and will be central to the implementation of its recommendations. Members of the Student Racial Justice and Equity Advisory Group will also serve on the broader Racial Justice and Equity Council (see below), reinforcing their role in this important work now and in the future. The precise structure and membership of the Advisory Group is currently being discussed with student leaders.
Creation of New Racial Justice and Equity Council
The second new campus committee — the Racial Justice and Equity Council — will feature representation from students, MSCA faculty/librarians, staff, administrators as well as alumni and community representatives. The Council will interact with the Student Advisory Group, Cabinet members and key campus units to improve campus climate and culture and continue the work of the Task Force. The Council will meet for the first time later this semester.
The President’s Cabinet
Over the past four months, the President’s Cabinet has closely examined each of the over 70 recommendations found in the Task Force Report. Those discussions have sought to establish divisional responsibility for the implementation of each recommendation. As might be expected, many recommendations require collaboration between two or more divisions and/or with organizations and entities beyond the university. These have also been identified to ensure the best possible implementation outcome. Finally, it is acknowledged that some recommendations will not have a definite end point, but will instead require constant attention and monitoring over time.
Together, the work of these four coordinated entities will be central to fulfilling the promise of the Task Force, while also suggesting additional actions aimed at creating a just and inclusive community at BSU.
Examples of Progress
The cabinet discussions have revealed that a great deal of progress has already been made on implementing many of the recommendations found in the Report. A comprehensive update will be communicated to the campus community in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I want to take a moment to highlight some examples here:
- The Division of Academic Affairs (AA) has funded a new Equity-Minded Fellow in the Office of Teaching and Learning (OTL). OTL also offers weekly programming dedicated to equity-minded work. The Center of the Advancement of Research and Scholarship (CARS) is in the process of developing a new racial equity grant (recommendations 1-1, 1-2, 1-3).
- AA has also taken a number of steps to enhance the support provided to the Institutional Review Board in accordance with its bylaws (recommendation 1-6).
- The Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management (SAEM) is exploring the TFRJ recommendation to create a permanent position (funding is already allocated) to work closely with both the Counseling Center and the BSU Police Department (recommendations 4-5, 5-4).
- SAEM secured an NCAA Strategic Alliance Matching Grant to hire a Manager of Diversity, Inclusion and Compliance (recommendations 2-14, 4-4, 4-6).
- SAEM has hired an admissions counselor to coordinate and better serve minority students (recommendations 2-8, 2-11, 2-14, 2-15, 4-6).
- The Division of Student Success and Diversity (SSD) is offering scaffolded training to students and employees intended to enhance participants’ racial justice and equity competencies (recommendations 3-5, 5-13).
- SSD and The Racial Equity and Justice Institute (REJI) offered teams from BSU training with Dr. Estela Bensimon (Center for Urban Education, University of Southern California) focused on racially equitable teaching and learning practices and on racially equitable student service provision (recommendations 3-5, 5-13, 4-1, 4-4).
- The Division of Outreach and Engagement is exploring the establishment of a Center for Research, Advocacy and Support as an addition to the Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice (recommendation 1-17).
- The Divisions of Human Resources and Talent Management (HRTM) and SSD, in collaboration with the Office of Equal Opportunity, are implementing mandatory workshops for staff hiring committees focused on racially equitable hiring practices. Topics addressed during this workshop include: disaggregated data focused on the level of diversity of staff as compared to the students served by BSU; characteristics of equity-minded departments; strategies and tools for incorporating racially equitable language into position postings and into the search process; an overview of implicit bias and strategies for addressing it. The workshop ends with participants having the opportunity to apply what was discussed to several case scenarios. A complementary workshop was designed for faculty/librarian searches prior to the pandemic (recommendations 2-7, 2-10).
- The BSU Police Department continues to enact racially just policing policies by implementing all of the recommendations contained in the ACLU-BSU Model Policy on Racially Just Policing , which the department played a vital role in developing. The department is also conducting a search for the new position of police-community liaison, with the goal of building on its work to create bridges between police and students of color on campus (recommendations 5-11, 5-3).
- The Division of Marketing and Communication (MarComm) will infuse racial justice/equity perspectives into the new undergraduate recruitment suite of print and digital materials, which will be developed over the next 10 months. MarComm will also be auditing its news stories from a racial justice vantage point (recommendations 4-11 and 5-9).
- The Division of Information Technology (IT), through the Information Technology Project Management Office (PMO) has been engaged to assist with project planning and overall coordination for the implementation of TFRJ recommendations (recommendations: all).
- IT and AA have partnered to co-sponsor the “Data Streams 2.0” project. A core focus of this project is to address the racial data and equity related recommendations in the TFRJ report including: supporting the Office of Institutional Research (IR), the Division of Human Resources and Talent Management (HRTM), and other employment entities around campus with generating, analyzing, and disseminating a richer, more comprehensive data set (both quantitative and qualitative) on race and diversity employment statistics (recommendation 2-1); and making data available to inform racial equity and justice oriented student-service provision (recommendation 4-7).
- IT, in collaboration with SSD, has established the Equity Risk Management Committee to inform the BSU’s overall Enterprise Risk Management strategy (recommendation 4-10).
- IT has been encouraging the use of professional development time to enable team members to increase their knowledge and awareness on a range of diversity, equity and inclusion topics (recommendation 1-2).
- IT is utilizing frameworks provided by the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California to perform equity minded document reviews and web scans for its IT Service Catalog, Knowledge Base, and Divisional website (recommendation 5-9).
Led by Sabrina Gentlewarrior, Vice President of Student Success and Diversity, the Racial Equity and Justice Institute (REJI), a voluntary collaboration of 30 New England campuses, recently released the Leading for Change Racial Equity and Justice Institute Practitioner Handbook featuring 26 chapters focused on racially equitable practices that are closing equity gaps on member campuses. Carlos Santiago, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and President Fred Clark share their thoughts about racially equitable leadership practices in the first chapter of the handbook. Additional chapters focus on racially equitable data practices, campus programming, student service provision, academic excellence and racially just policing. This free e-book can be accessed here .
As Chairman Durgin and President Clark have stated previously, the cause of racial justice and equity is the job of every division, department and person of this university. I look forward to working with all of you as we strive to realize the full potential of this great university for every member of our community.
Karim Ismaili, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President and Provost