Dear Students, Faculty and Staff: I had hoped my first communication with the campus community would be to share positive news. Sadly though, I am writing with the most difficult news to share—the passing of one of our students. We…
June 2021: Progress on Campus Commitments
Dear Members of the Syracuse University Community:
As our community strives toward creating a more inclusive, equitable and welcoming campus, we are aware of the persistent challenges in the world that require attention and action to achieve justice and equity.
As recently reported in the news, the bodies of 215 children were found at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School; more than 700 unmarked graves were discovered at the former Marieval Indian Residential School; and 182 graves were located near the former St. Eugene’s Mission School—all three sites are located in Canada. This horrific discovery of the bodies and graves has forced a reckoning of our public consciousness on the tragic history of residential schools in Canada and the United States.
Although this appalling news has come to light in the broader public domain, many Indigenous North Americans have long known and suffered from the devastating impact of such residential boarding schools. The Syracuse University community is allied with Indigenous peoples in their grief, reflection and motivation to acknowledge these past wrongs. In unity with our Indigenous community members, please take time to learn more about this history on the The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition website, based out of Minnesota, and Canada’s National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
Our own work toward a more inclusive campus—through the development of a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) Strategic Plan—is a proactive measure in cultivating an environment that supports everyone. The draft plan complements the progress that has been made in recent months by so many members of our community. Please visit the Campus Commitments website to see all progress made to date. In the meantime, I call to your attention the following updates:
- An Indigenous healer has accepted a position at the Barnes Center, beginning in mid-July.
- Plans are being finalized to roll out additional training about anti-Semitism in collaboration with the Office of Student Living.
- The Thanksgiving address, which was presented by Tadodaho Sidney Hill, of the Onondaga Nation, Haudenosaunee Confederacy, during the May 2021 Commencement ceremonies, is now a permanent fixture of the Commencement and graduation ceremonies.
- An active cluster hire search is in progress with several excellent candidates for faculty positions in Native American and Indigenous studies.
- High school Haudenosaunee language courses count toward the three-year language requirement for admission. Academic Affairs and the College of Professional Studies will consider expanding course offerings in the Iroquois Linguistics for Language Learners program.
Beyond Campus Commitments, diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility efforts by colleagues across campus continue to make important connections and provide programming for our community. These include the following:
- Kaltura, the University’s video platform, will now show preferred names from MySlice. Users can add or edit preferred name settings by going into My Profile via the MySlice portal and select the View/Update Names link.
- The Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence hosted Zoom-based sessions, titled Brave Space Coffee Hour, throughout the semester in which faculty could practice techniques to facilitate potentially difficult conversations in classrooms.
- In the College of Law, a new Cultural Competency Curriculum will launch this fall and apply to all students beginning with the Class of 2024. The new curriculum consists of a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) primer module for orientation and JDinteractive residencies; a first-year law summer initiative to develop DEI themes and materials that will become part of courses taught throughout the curriculum; and a new graduation requirement for students beginning with the Class of 2024, which may be satisfied by selecting a cultural competency-related course.
- The Division of Business, Finance and Administrative Services (BFAS) Town Hall included a training exercise presented by Meredith Davis, associate vice president of student engagement, and LaShan Lovelace, director of diversity and inclusion in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Nearly 140 BFAS leaders completed the “BFAS Enacting Equity-Mindedness” session.
- The Our Time Has Come Leaders Program through the Office of Multicultural Advancement provides students professional development training, networking with alumni professionals and an opportunity to be part of a community of scholars from similar cultural backgrounds. Applications will open again this summer on the multicultural advancement website.
- The Disability External Review Committee has submitted its final report to Chancellor Kent Syverud, who has indicated his support for the implementation of the committee’s Phase Two recommendations beginning immediately.
This month, we celebrated Juneteenth as a campus through sharing of resources associated with the significance of that day. In June, we also observe, uplift and celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride Month. We recognize the important work of our colleagues in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Resource Center. The center supports our queer and trans campus members and seeks to create a campus inclusive of all students at the intersection of multiple identities.
In our greater Syracuse community, Syracuse University co-sponsored the virtual event “United We End Racism” this past weekend, organized by InterFaith Works. The event celebrates the work being done to eliminate racism and bring about justice.
The shared work we do is so crucial not only for our university but also for our greater world. Let us continue to challenge injustice, foster greater understanding and lead with compassion and humility.
Embracing our connectivity,
Keith A. Alford
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer