June 8, 2020
Dear Members of the Connecticut College Community,
We are living through an extraordinary moment in history. The senseless killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of white police and vigilantes have compelled people in every corner of the United States and around the world to take a stand against racism, and to demand the same of all our institutions. We have been deeply moved in the past week by the eloquent words of so many leaders, including our own students, faculty, staff, alumnae and alumni, calling on us to support black lives on campus, in our community, and in the world.
This historic moment will not reward bystanders. It calls for action. Action is at the heart of our mission at Connecticut College: to educate students to put the liberal arts into action as citizens of a global society. And so, informed by conversations we have had with many of you in recent days, we are writing to let you know the set of concrete actions the College is committed to taking in the 2020-21 academic year to advance anti-racist education.
The work will be based on the broad goals of our 2019 Equity and Inclusion Action Plan, with ten commitments in three areas: campus safety and law enforcement; teaching and learning; and climate.
Anti-Racist Education in Campus Safety and Law Enforcement
- Responding to a growing national movement to transform the nature of policing, the College will review its own procedures for handling campus incidents in order to move the department of campus safety toward a more inclusive, community-oriented philosophy of intervention.
- In the same vein, the College will engage our campus safety officers in a set of conversations about implicit bias, racial profiling, and how to counteract them.
- New London Mayor Michael Passero ’79 will, in turn, establish a community task force to review the policies, procedures, and training in the New London Police Department related to de-escalation, racial bias, and use of force. Two representatives from Connecticut College—John McKnight, dean of institutional equity and inclusion, and Mary Savage, director of campus safety and emergency operations—will serve on the task force.
- We will also expand on the very successful series, Conversations on Race, launched last year in partnership with The Day and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, to explore racial bias in policing as well as other themes.
Anti-Racist Education in Teaching and Learning
- To address one of the first goals of our Equity and Inclusion Action Plan, we will require all members of the Connecticut College community to complete an online program that offers foundational training around questions of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This online instruction is meant to be just the first step in a much larger effort to promote advanced dialogue and understanding across difference.
- We will launch a new graduation requirement, starting with the Class of 2024, on Social Difference and Power, a requirement ratified by the faculty in spring 2019. We are grateful to Professors Deborah Eastman and Sufia Uddin for their leadership in developing this requirement and for the many faculty who will offer courses.
- Likewise, we will refocus the diversity portion of new student orientation, again starting with the Class of 2024, to include a more intentional focus on combating interpersonal racism within the campus community.
- And we will create a continually updated guide of opportunities and resources to promote anti-racist education. We have been inspired by the statements of support and solidarity by many departments, programs, and groups, which have included links to educational resources, for example: from our student leaders; from a group of faculty and staff allies; from the faculty in the Psychology Department; and from staff in Student Counseling Services. These educational resources will be compiled into a single comprehensive guide on the Office of Institutional Equity and Inclusion website for the campus community.
Anti-Racism and Campus Climate
- During the 2020-21 academic year, we will administer the planned-for campus climate survey by the national Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium, which COVID-19 forced us to postpone this spring. Data from the survey will be used to inform future plans.
- And we will work to amplify and enhance the College’s bias response protocol to incorporate restorative justice approaches in keeping with best practices nationally.
There are, of course, many additional courses, lectures, programs, and actions being planned for the coming year by our centers and departments that will address many of the same themes. You may learn more on this calendar.
We believe that all this work will advance, in a rigorous way, the goals and objectives articulated in our Equity and Inclusion Action Plan—a plan that has been built on a long history of activism at Connecticut College. A full report of our progress on the Action Plan will be published on the President’s website this month and updated during the year.
Finally, we want you to know that we have prioritized equity and inclusion in the College’s comprehensive fundraising campaign with a goal to raise at least $5 million to support capital projects and programming. Here, too, we have made progress. In 2018, a gift from a generous alumnus provided the seed funding for us to begin designing our strategy. Last year, a generous alumnus donated $500,000 to help us bring a second cohort of Posse scholars from New York City to join our scholars from Chicago. And another gift of $1 million from Agnes Gund ’60 allowed us to endow The Dialogue Project, a comprehensive social justice education program that is already making an impact.
We know the road to justice and equity is long, but we hope that, with these concrete actions, our community will move a bit closer to realizing the values we profess. The College is committed to using resources in the best possible way to continue advancing this important work with you. As always, we thank you for your support and look forward to the results of our collective commitment.
Katherine Bergeron, President
Victor Arcelus, Dean of Students
Jeff Cole, Dean of the Faculty
Pamela Dumas Serfes, Vice President for Communications
W. Lee Hisle, Vice President for Information Services
Rich Madonna, Vice President for Finance and Administration
John McKnight, Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion
Cheryl Miller, Vice President for Human Resources and Organizational Development
Jefferson Singer, Dean of the College
Andy Strickler, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid
Kim Verstandig, Vice President for Advancement