Shortly after Robert “Robbie” Robinson became the University’s chief of public safety in October 1993, he had a “chance encounter” with James K. Duah-Agyeman, who was then the director of the Center for Academic Achievement in the Division of Student…
July 2020: Progress on Campus Commitments
Dear Members of the Syracuse University Community:
We are witnessing a pivotal moment of change for our country. There is an unprecedented acknowledgement of the devastating impact of anti-Blackness and systemic racism, and newborn hope that hearts and minds are changing with peaceful protests and fierce calls for action.
Our Black community and allies are demanding change—and rightfully so. We have seen our #NotAgainSU students, as well as Jewish, Indigenous and other students of color, describe their lived experiences at protests, on social media and via other platforms. Those stressful experiences—often shared anonymously—are a reminder that while we have made progress in recent years and months on our campus, we still have much more to do in addressing and eradicating racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination and hate.
We reject all acts of hate, but we can’t address each one with just words. What we can and must do is the collective work necessary to confront it every time. Any act of discrimination or harassment experienced on campus should be reported to the Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion and Resolution Services at firstname.lastname@example.org. Students, faculty and staff also may report incidents anonymously through the STOP BIAS portal.
Today, I am writing to share some of the latest updates to the commitments we made to our students, including those representing #NotAgainSU and our international, Jewish and Indigenous students. I recognize and appreciate all of our students for raising the issues that resulted in these Campus Commitments. These are issues that, now, the entire world is addressing:
- The Code of Student Conduct has been revised, based on your input, to state that violations of the code that are bias-motivated—including conduct motivated by racism—will be punished more severely. The University also revised the code to make clear when bystanders and accomplices can be held accountable. The code will be prepared and distributed for students to sign in the fall.
- Forty-six first-year students, including 14 international students, have been placed in a Multicultural Living Learning Community (MLLC) for the fall semester. The newly created Upperclass Multicultural Living Learning Community will be on the fifth and sixth floors of Ernie Davis Hall; 63 students total will live there this fall. The expanded First-Year MLLC in Lawrinson Hall has 27 students for the fall, and the one in Day Hall has 80 students.
- The draft anti-harassment policy was submitted to University Senate committees, the Chancellor’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion, and me for review. The Policy Committee will finalize the policy by mid-July.
- Pending the hiring of an assistant director of diversity in the Office of Student Living (OSL), the standing OSL committee structure and student engagement committee will help to plan for fall. The committee is currently reviewing all diversity, equity and inclusion goals, framework and expectations across campus.
- Since the spring, 10 counseling positions have been hired and/or offered to begin in time for the fall semester. These positions include, but are not limited to, assistant director, staff therapists, staff psychologist, and graduate and post-graduate positions. The new hires and offers represent a diverse array of backgrounds and identities. Counseling staff have also completed additional training sessions, including anti-racism training, racial disparity and COVID-19 training, and trauma-informed care related to race.
- The current demographics for fall 2020 resident advisors are 108 female and 76 male; 54.9 percent identify as students of color, 37.5 percent identify as white and 7.1 percent identify as international students.
- The Office of Community Engagement and the Office of Engagement Programs at Hendricks Chapel have developed a number of community volunteer opportunities.
- The first phase of the security camera installation process has started in first-floor lounges/public areas and elevators of all residence halls.
- Hendricks Chapel Dean Brian Konkol, Vice President for the Student Experience Robert Hradsky and I have a draft charge, structure and process of the Marginalized Identity Student Leadership Coalition. We will work with a group of students for review and input.
- Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has begun an independent review of our Department of Public Safety (DPS).
- Other current steps taken in regards to DPS include the formation of a Public Safety Citizen Review Board, composed of members of the Syracuse University community, and public posting of standard operating procedures for police conduct in the use of force.
- The Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted a virtual discussion with renowned politician, commentator and attorney Bakari Sellers. The conversation, with a University panel, centered around racial inequality, institutional racism and how the killing of Black Americans has led our country to this moment of significant change.
- The Division of Enrollment and the Student Experience, in partnership with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, hosted virtual support sessions, providing Black students and allies a space to process what they are feeling, as well as to support one another and discuss ways to be actively anti-racist.
- On Juneteenth, Friday, June 19, the day that commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States, students, faculty and staff were asked to take the day off to reflect, educate themselves and discuss with others the need for better understanding of the lived experiences of Black people and the need for change.
- Associate Provost and Professor of Law LaVonda N. Reed provided a list of resources to help members of the campus community learn more about the Black experience in America in a Syracuse University News story. Syracuse University Libraries’ Diversity and Inclusion Team has also developed a Research Guide on Resources for Racial Justice.
- The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, in collaboration with the Office of Human Resources, developed an intensive series for supervisors as they engage their staff members in conversations regarding inclusion and the nation’s current issues on race and racism. The series will be held this month. Additional sessions are being planned.
Additionally, we are committed to local social justice efforts, such as Interfaith Works’ 18th annual Duck Race to End Racism, held virtually on June 27. The University was again a presenting sponsor of the event. Ongoing partnerships with community change efforts to eradicate inequities must always remain a priority.
As we continue to work on creating a campus that is just, equitable and inclusive, decisive changes are in motion. We will embrace the difficult and necessary conversations that are so critical to creating understanding and driving action. Thank you for striving to make a positive difference.
Keith A. Alford
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer