To the Lafayette Community:
In the weeks since the murder of George Floyd galvanized the country and our own community, we on campus have been engaged in ongoing discussions about ways to combat racism at Lafayette. Those conversations have included calls to action from faculty and staff, from student government and fraternity and sorority leadership, among others, and several campuswide Zoom conversations among faculty, students, and staff. I have addressed the College community on these issues through memos issued on May 29, June 9, and July 6.
In my July 6 comments, I committed to making a response updating the community on recent actions we have taken and outlining specific steps that we will take toward creating a more inclusive community for all.
Many of the steps we have taken came in response to what we learned from two campus climate surveys, the most recent conducted in 2018, as well as the list of concerns compiled by students in 2016 and some important conversations that took place with students of color in 2019. Over the last several weeks, we have also learned about numerous experiences of bias and inequity from personal testimonies appearing on Instagram, and on Facebook in conjunction with a petition related to policing on campus.
Actions we have taken
In the academic program, a number of faculty who are members of underrepresented groups have been hired as part of the ongoing strategic hiring initiative for tenure-track faculty. Since 2016 the percentage of ALANA tenure-track faculty has increased from 12 percent to almost 18 percent. Most recently, a new tenure-track faculty line was approved in the Africana studies program. We are also pleased to announce that we have just hired a visiting faculty member in Africana studies until the tenure line is filled. Viet Trinh, who begins in January 2021, will teach courses on Race, Policing and Social Justice; The Black Freedom Struggle; and Race, Ethnicity, and Urban Life.
In addition, the common course of study, which requires all students to take courses that include multicultural and global learning outcomes, is currently undergoing a faculty review and revision process that offers the opportunity to add a requirement for all students to learn about race and racism.
We confirmed the College’s support for Black students’ need for expanded program space and support. A new Portlock Black Cultural Center, designed with student and alumni input to address programmatic needs, is slated to open in Fall 2021. Planning also continues for a multicultural center with a preliminary program developed for that building.
In response to requests for counseling staff to support an increasingly diverse student body, all full-time counselors who have joined the Counseling Center since 2016 have enhanced the diversity of the Counseling Center in regard to identity, training, and expertise, so as to better serve first-generation and international students, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and students of color.
In addition, Lafayette has welcomed a number of DACA students, has publicly expressed our strong support for the DACA program, and has participated in lobbying efforts at the national level. Last year, Lafayette joined 165 other colleges and universities in an amicus brief in support of the DACA program in the case before the U.S. Supreme Court that was favorably decided in June.
Our Affordability and Distinction through Growth initiative, launched in 2016, is succeeding in its goal to add socioeconomic diversity to our campus by growing the College’s financial aid budget by more than 30 percent, allowing us to admit more students without regard to their ability to pay. In addition to our partnerships with The Posse Foundation and Philadelphia Futures, Admissions has begun working with additional community-based organizations such as The Sutton Trust, Global Citizen Year, and Uplift Education to expand access to a Lafayette education. Within the Financial Aid Office, a counselor is charged with focusing on undocumented and DACA students as well as students from less socioeconomically privileged backgrounds.
Actions we will take
Below are next steps in our ongoing efforts to combat racism and promote inclusivity at Lafayette. We will plan to report on our continuing efforts on a regular basis.
(1) Community Commitment and Accountability
Recognizing the importance of complete community commitment to combating racism and inequity, we will require anti-bias and anti-racism training for all faculty and staff to be completed this academic year and biannually thereafter.
In addition, because commitment to combating racism will take different forms in different parts of the College, each division of the College will be required to develop and submit to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council a division-specific plan for additional ongoing training and education on racism including, specifically, anti-black racism.
(2) Concerns about Public Safety
In response to concerns expressed about the role and impact of Public Safety on campus we will partner with an external organization to conduct an external review of our current public safety practices that includes opportunity for community input and feedback.
In addition to the annual de-escalation training undertaken by all Public Safety officers, and the periodic anti-bias training offered in the past, we will require training in unconscious bias and Safe Zone training for all Public Safety officers in July 2020 and update that training annually.
Recognizing that many in the community have raised questions about the resources expended in this area, we will conduct an analysis of budgets and expenses associated with Public Safety, and provide a report by Sept. 30, to be repeated annually, regarding the Public Safety budget to the Faculty Committee on Student Life and to Student Government.
(3) Supporting the Work of Diversity and Inclusivity
Recognizing the importance of increasing the number of BIPOC (black, indigenous, or people of color) staff and administrators, Human Resources is providing anti-bias training for all administrative search committees, developing a plan for increasing staff diversity through an emphasis on building diverse applicant pools, and developing other diversity-focused recruitment and retention procedures that will be announced in September.
Having heard from a number of our faculty and staff of color about the significant invisible and unrecognized work they are called on to perform to support our black students, indigenous students, and students of color, we will develop by the end of the fall semester a formal program that recognizes and compensates faculty and staff who support our BIPOC students with this essential form of mentoring.
How can the community effect change?
Real change will require coordinated and collaborative work at every level. In addition to institutional actions, all of us as individuals can play a role in becoming more educated and holding ourselves and others accountable.
Many painful incidents involving racist or discriminatory behavior at Lafayette have been recounted on social media. We encourage current students who have concerns about specific incidents to share them through the Bias Response Team reporting process or other College offices. Anyone who wishes to file a complaint against a college employee for violations of our anti-discrimination policies should contact the dean of faculty (faculty) or Human Resources (staff). Anyone who wishes to file a complaint against a student for any violation of College policy should submit a OnePard report, noting that reports made on an anonymous basis may be difficult to formally investigate or adjudicate.
The work needed to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion must be ongoing, continual, and can only be successful if pursued through every group, channel, and organization on campus. Among the College leadership groups actively engaged in discussions in these areas are the Faculty Diversity Committee, Faculty Committee on Student Life, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, the Faculty Academic Policy Committee, the Office of Intercultural Development, and Administrative Council. I encourage you to be in touch with any of these groups to share your views about how they can best support these efforts. In addition, I know that many College offices, departments, and programs, and members of our faculty and staff, are working actively on programming and advocacy in making Lafayette more inclusive.
The energy and commitment of our students, alumni, faculty, staff, and extended community to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion at Lafayette are inspiring. I look forward to working together to create a climate and culture that is safe, supportive, and welcoming to all.
Alison R. Byerly, President