Action Plan to Combat Racism
In October 2018, a freshman student was targeted with a hateful racial slur written on his residence hall door. Knowing that this was not the first time our campus had experienced this kind of hateful act, we set a plan in motion to send a clear signal that hate, bigotry and bias are not accepted at St. Thomas.
There was and is a tremendous amount of pain on campus because of past incidents, yet we have found a new determination to significantly and sustainably increase our efforts to become a more diverse community that openly welcomes and respects the dignity of all. We cancelled classes, asked all members of our community to attend a campus-wide meeting, and launched the Action Plan to Combat Racism.
The plan set forth priorities in four categories:
- Send a clear message about what we stand for so those who do not embrace our values do not want to be here.
- Better support and stand in solidarity with those who have been violated.
- Through reforms in how we recruit and retain students, faculty and staff, become a more diverse university.
- Teach, research, and live inclusive excellence.
The campus is working in many ways to implement the plan. From faculty development to hiring to admissions –many are working toward making our campus a more inclusive and welcoming place. Our deans are organizing teach-ins and forums to create opportunities for the campus to learn together. We implemented a new bias and hate crime reporting system. We are launching an intercultural center at the request of students to help them feel welcomed and supported. We are offering more training to students, faculty and staff, and finding new ways to encourage difficult conversations. Our Board of Trustees is discussing creating a Diversity Task Force of the Board. Senior leadership, including all members of the President’s Cabinet, will receive more ongoing training. We are creating a new academic center in our law school on race and justice. We are hiring a consultant to perform an external audit of our campus climate. And, we are significantly increasing resources in the area of inclusive excellence.
We know that we have a tremendous amount of work to do to create a more inclusive and welcoming campus community but I feel that we are on a solid path. I truly believe that if we don’t change, we will not thrive. We must be a university that attracts and welcomes all and that means doing the sometimes uncomfortable and oftentimes hard work of combatting racism. I am still awed by the positive energy that the community is bringing to this effort. Together we can bring out the best of St. Thomas and work toward fully living our convictions.