June 18, 2020
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
During the last two weeks, several members of the Trinity community wrote letters condemning violence against people of color in the United States, particularly violence perpetrated by those we pay to serve and protect us. Many of us also voiced support for Black Lives Matter and acknowledged that systemic racism and white supremacy permeate our society and organizations in which we all participate, including Trinity College.
There is widespread outrage and collective agreement both here at Trinity and around the world that passive approaches to challenging systemic oppression are not acceptable. Systemic racism did not arise overnight, and it will not be purged without a long and sustained effort. The burden of change must be shared by all of us; we recognize that as people of color, we feel that we have carried this weight alone for far too long. As leaders, we acknowledge the pain caused by addressing injustice incrementally, but it makes the steps we have taken no less important.
We have made progress in creating a more inclusive community at Trinity—changes in the racial composition of the student body, the senior administration, alumni groups, and the Board of Trustees are visible signals of some of the progress we have made. Our Campaign for Community, campus programming around racial inequities, a comprehensive nondiscrimination policy, the integration of equity and inclusion practices throughout the faculty search process, and the creation of an incident response team are other signs of our efforts to combat racism, but our work has only just begun.
We know we cannot move an institution without the collective will of its different constituencies. We must share responsibility and be willing to engage in difficult conversations, and we must act both collectively and individually. We all must contribute to create the community that we wish to be.
To create change here on campus and in the broader Trinity community, we ask for your help to begin a multistep process to address systemic racism and to exercise your own agency in reducing its influence. Here are the next steps that we propose:
- Begin with a process of reflection. Tomorrow, June 19, 2020, Juneteenth, will be a President’s Discretionary Day, when college business will be suspended. Join us in a day of reflection on racial injustice and your role in reducing it. Consider materials from this reading list or this list of recommended resources to broaden your perspectives on systemic racism. We invite you to send reflections or pictures of your Juneteenth activities to email@example.com.
- Consider joining your constituent group’s efforts in developing a specific action plan. Yesterday, we met with leaders of several constituent groups on campus to ask for their help to engage in creating constituent-specific action plans to reduce systemic racism at Trinity. The following leaders participated in this conversation: Joanne Berger-Sweeney, president; Anita Davis, vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion; Eric Estes ’91, president of the Trinity College Alumni Association (TCAA); Nancy Fleming, chair of the Non-Exempt Staff Council; Giovanni Jones ’21, co-convener of the Student Government Association (SGA); Felicia McDevitt ’21, co-convener of the SGA; Pamela McKoin P’15, member of the Board of Trustees; Mark Stater, faculty secretary; David Tatem, chair of the Exempt Staff Council; and Cornie Thornburgh ’80, chair of the Board of Trustees.
These leaders committed to organizing members of their constituencies to develop a draft action plan by the fall with short-, medium-, and long-term suggestions to promote racial equity at Trinity.
- Join the Town Hall in August (date to be determined) to hear the results of our campus climate survey from spring 2019 and an analysis of our current racial climate.
- Volunteer for the multi-constituency Task Force on Campus Climate, which will begin its focus on the racial climate on campus. A community-wide invitation to this task force will be issued next week.
As we recognize the progress that Trinity College has made in recent years to address systemic racism, we all agree that we can and must do more. We are calling on all members of the Trinity community to help in this important work.
Joanne Berger-Sweeney and Anita Davis