Dear Colleagues: Let me start this “syllabus reminders” email with a thank you. What a year 2020 has been, and we are barely halfway through it. You migrated your classes online last spring with little advance notice. Those of you…
April 2020 Update: Progress on Campus Commitments
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
The emotional strain of COVID-19 has spared no one over the past days and weeks. We have all had to change the way we live our lives.
During a recent virtual webinar meeting of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, presenters emphasized the truth that this pandemic is not “equitable” in its impact. Many individuals across the country are now isolated in remote locations with limited broadband access. Some individuals are encountering ongoing xenophobia and racism, escalated by fear of viral spread and unacceptable finger pointing and blame. Others are facing daunting financial circumstances that did not exist at the start of 2020 or have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Even though most of our campus community is working remotely, many University services and programs have been strengthened to address new challenges. This is an extraordinary period for everyone. It is a critical time in which many of us are extending additional help to loved ones in our families and communities. We must also do our best to exercise self-care.
Though Syracuse University has been compelled to revamp ways of delivering our educational mission, and we have had to set aside some initiatives that are difficult to implement without a fully populated campus, we are continuing to deliver on our previous commitments and will not lose sight of our ultimate goals. Additionally, in the coming weeks, we will be adding the new commitments we made to Syracuse.edu/commitments so you can track the progress. It is in this spirit that the following updates from the last couple months are shared. This list is not exhaustive of all steps, programs and activities.
- University administrators are exploring a new platform to deliver ongoing professional development in diversity. Many of the in-person events planned for March and April were canceled due to the pandemic, yet some have been moved to online delivery.
- My College Roomie went live, as planned, on March 15. There are currently 303 active users.
- The Board of Trustees’ Special Committee on University Climate, Diversity and Inclusion met five times and was on campus for engagement with student groups, faculty and staff on Feb. 12 and 13.
- Members of the board-commissioned Independent Advisory Panel were on campus for engagements starting the week of Feb. 17 and again the week of March 9, including meetings with members of the leadership team and student protesters. Additionally, Damon Williams, a panel member on the Independent Advisory Panel and founder of the Center for Strategic Diversity Leadership & Social Innovation, was on campus for sessions with administrators and members of the Inclusive Leadership Assembly and the Council on Diversity and Inclusion.
- Due to COVID-19, the pulse survey of campus climate, planned for late February, has been postponed, with the goal of implementing the survey at a time when it can be most effective.
- The board’s Special Committee on University Climate, Diversity and Inclusion is currently redefining its timeline given the COVID-19 crisis in order to ensure appropriate campus stakeholder engagement.
- The Panhellenic Council hosted lecturer Rachel Cargle, who spoke to an audience of about 1,000 on unpacking white feminism on Feb. 26.
- Cameras were installed in Flint Hall for Phase 1 and 2, with the exception of elevator cameras. Phase 1 and 2 installation of cameras in Graham Dining Center was completed.
- A total of 75 recommendations from Marsh Risk Consulting, the firm hired to perform a security assessment of our campus, have been completed. Following the meeting with the Office of Campus, Planning, Design and Construction (CPDC), 12 areas of recommendations from the 2018 assessment were identified that warrant development of a standard or policy, as well as those that require further study.
- A meeting was held on March 5 with CPDC to identify security upgrades that are a priority. An assessment will get underway to identify costs.
- Another meeting of the Campus Commitments Communications Committee was held on Feb. 28, with about 30 campus community members in attendance. The session included a Q&A period, a general discussion of campus communications, and an ideation conversation about how the University could use Blackboard and MySlice to communicate with students about progress toward the commitments.
- From January to March, the Office of Multicultural Affairs facilitated six C.A.R.E. (Conversations About Race and Ethnicity) sessions for 50 participants and six C.A.R.E. Speaks sessions for 550 participants, including three FASA organizations, a residence hall and a public health class.
- Jelani Cobb, a staff writer for The New Yorker, an NPR commentator and the Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism at Columbia University, was on campus earlier this semester, as part of the University Lectures series, co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School. Cobb spoke on race, politics and the current state of journalism.
Our collective work matters, particularly how we can—together, although physically apart—continue to work on the challenges that confront us, our university and our communities. Please continue to stay safe and healthy during these unprecedented times.
Embracing our connectivity,
Keith A. Alford
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer