I write to express my deep respect for our students who revealed so openly and honestly the anti-Black racism that they have experienced in their time at the school, when speaking at our Black Lives Matter Town Hall on June 4th. Likewise, our Black faculty have also expressed feeling the cruel impact of similar racist behavior.
The Black Lives Matter protests, embraced by so many across the world, have highlighted racist practices in both law enforcement and civil society, and the devastating impact these have had on the Black community. Systematic change is needed equally within our school community to eliminate racism, bias and the divisive impact of white privilege. Accordingly concrete actions for transformational change will be enacted.
With the support from the Option Coordinators, and the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Committee, I announce today several actions that will set the school on a meaningful path, where every member of our Black community is accorded unconditional value and respect.
Our classes, labs, class materials, productions, assignments and group projects must provide equitable opportunities for our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students with the aim of creating an anti-racist community.
1) Support the immediate appointment of the advertised Assistant Dean for DE&I position in the College of Fine Arts.
2) Establish a semester-long Anti-Racism and Racial Justice course to be held in fall 2020 for the faculty, staff, and students of the SOD community. Led by professional specialists from outside the School to be identified by the DE&I committee, the course will include mandatory follow-up mixed population discussion groups, aimed at engaging in vital conversations. Beyond the fall semester, this course will evolve to become both a curricular requirement and ongoing training for all incoming students, faculty and guests.
3) Reschedule fall 2020 production to the spring of 2021. This will grant our community space to engage in a focused manner in anti-racist learning and to adjust to a new teaching and learning environment in the fall semester. Further, it will enable students, faculty, and staff to incorporate anti-racist learning in work on all planned shows moving forward.
4) Beginning in fall 2020, commit to the inclusion and support of the work of BIPOC artists and scholars in all class materials, projects and assignments, and in School publications, social media platforms and the annual season of productions. For fall 2020, Drama faculty will review their syllabi to include diverse perspectives and authors in course material including policies, communication about attendance, grading, and inclusion of a School-wide DE&I statement. Faculty members desiring support in these revisions will have access to School and University resources.
5) Commit to reviewing our student recruitment practices to dismantle all structures and obstacles that have hindered access for BIPOC candidates across options to apply and advance through the process. The school will provide increased resources for recruitment in order to achieve this outcome.
6) Prioritize diversity in hiring of staff, faculty, option guests, and guest artists. The school will provide bias and anti-racism training for search committees and look at open level ranking for appointments to attract a wider and more diverse pool of applicants for all positions. Guidelines for all guests will be developed or expanded to include explicit expectations about DE&I principles and shared values.
7) Promote and familiarize the school community with the university’s established bias reporting process to better investigate and respond to incidents of concern. The School will develop and publicize a robust, consistent strategy for responding to reported incidents with special attention to protecting individuals from retaliation.
8) Provide budgetary support for the School of Drama’s DE&I Committee to stage events, bring in guest speakers, access publications and materials, and promote activism.
9) Offer regularly scheduled open forum sessions and establish affinity groups/safe spaces for ongoing open communication, discussion, brainstorming, sharing, and uplifting all voices in our community.
The School of Drama’s DE&I Committee, in collaboration with the Head of the School and the new CFA Assistant Dean for DE&I, will oversee the timely delivery of these actions and review progress at regular intervals.
Best wishes, stay safe and look after one another.