Board Commitment to Combat Racism
July 2, 2020
Dear Members of the Trinity College Community,
During our annual strategic planning retreat on Monday and Tuesday, June 29 and 30, the Board of Trustees spent a considerable amount of time discussing racism and racial inequity at Trinity College, both past and present. On Monday, we had extensive conversation with President Joanne Berger-Sweeney and the senior staff of the college, and on Tuesday, we engaged in another long conversation with just President Berger-Sweeney.
These discussions were honest, carried a sense of urgency to change, and were mindful of our responsibility as fiduciaries of the college to listen, learn, speak, and take action. Most of us are facing the same issues within our own companies and organizations, and among friends and family. Individually, and as a group, we are seeing and understanding in greater depth the pervasive and systemic racism in our society, in our lives, and at the college. Those of us who are Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) members of the board certainly know racism all too well and have experienced it throughout our lives, including as students at Trinity. Others of us today are committing to the work of truly becoming anti-racists and resolving to combat racism and discrimination.
Trinity College has been a vital educational institution for almost 200 years, but during much of that time it was both predominantly white and predominantly male. Although much has improved over the past 50 years, especially with the admission of women and increasing numbers of Black, Brown, and international students and their full participation as faculty, staff, and senior administrators, so much more needs to be done. This requires the Board’s immediate and full attention.
To that end, in conjunction with the initiatives announced yesterday by President Berger-Sweeney, who has our unwavering and enthusiastic support in this work, we, the Board, decided unanimously to take several initial steps:
- We commit ourselves to engage and discuss issues of racism and bias with students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and internally as a board. We have already learned a great deal from listening to Black students and alumni, but we know we have much more to listen to and learn. We have been deeply moved by the pain and alienation of many Black students and alumni, and we have learned a great deal from the students of the Umoja Coalition. We apologize for the pain they have experienced while at Trinity and are even more committed to setting a tone that leads to policies and practices that treat all in our community with dignity and respect.
- We understand our duty and obligation for introspection, looking at the Board and the college structure and community in order to root out racism and sexism on campus and work diligently to build a community of trust.
- We understand as a board our duty to become anti-racist, to understand our unconscious biases, and to adopt best practices of diversity and inclusion, both on the board and through the college community, and to continuously view our actions and initiatives through this prism.
Specifically, we will immediately undertake the following initiatives as a board:
- The Governance Committee of the Board will begin immediately to identify more Black candidates for membership on the Board, especially focusing on Black women. We will also look for more candidates among the Latinx and LGBTQAI+ community. In addition, we will form a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee among the standing committees of the Board.
- In response to President Berger-Sweeney’s call to constituent leaders asking how to reduce racial inequities and promote racial justice within our community, as trustees we have appointed three representatives to create our action plan: Steven Elmendorf, Michael Gary, and Pamela McKoin. We look forward to robust conversations as that group begins and continues its work.
- Trustees have committed new gifts totaling $400,000 to renovate Umoja House and to fund a number of new initiatives of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion aimed at combating systemic racism at the college. We realize that this is just a beginning but this serves as a challenge for others to join us in this important work.
- We will develop an instrument to measure outcomes of all these initiatives and others developed by the college community, and we will be open in sharing our progress toward these goals.
- We are planning group education around the issues of anti-racism and inclusion as a board, at least annually.
This is a beginning. The first step is to express support and embrace those in our community who remind us that Black Lives Matter and that the work to change begins with examination of ourselves and the institutions and societies we inhabit. We commit ourselves to this journey, which is wholly consistent with the mission of Trinity College and all other institutions of higher learning that perceive themselves as a force for social good. Please join us in this effort.
The Trustees of Trinity College