June 10, 2020
Dear Wildcat Community –
This past Sunday, I attended the student-organized Black Lives Matter rally on T-Hall lawn. I listened to seven brave and eloquent students share their stories and experiences at UNH and beyond. It was clear that we have a lot of work to do to address systemic racism in a way that facilitates their sense of belonging and well-being. While we have made some progress, there is still more work to be done.
Racism is a systemic and longstanding problem across America and in our institutions of higher education. While the killing of black citizens represents the worst outcome of racism, it also influences the everyday experience of our fellow citizens and neighbors in a profound and troubling way—as the student speakers made clear on Sunday. People across the country, around the world and here in New Hampshire are mobilizing and coming together in hopes that this can finally change. We are presented with a moment in our country’s history to create structural and institutional change. All institutions, especially anchor public institutions like UNH, have to be part of this change. We need to determine, methodically and efficiently, what are the most important steps we can take to be part of the solution. The President’s Leadership Council (PLC) will collectively be responsible for determining what actions we need to take and to oversee their implementation. We will ensure that there are both men and women of color on the PLC.
Our plan is in two parts. Part one: listen and learn. We will dedicate ourselves to learning about racism in American, its history, its impacts and how to become antiracist in our respective roles as students, faculty, staff and alumni. This will take place between now and August. We will learn by:
- Self-Education. Our colleagues at the library, Beauregard Center and the Center for Community, Equity and Diversity have compiled a list of resources for learning more about racial justice and equity that will help us all better understand and deal with the issues. We must ask ourselves how and why this is happening? What is the history that we may be unaware of? We will also review existing and recent plans going back several years to make sure we are not overlooking work that has already been done. This includes the report of the Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate, which reviewed the Campus Climate Survey and incorporates student demands from 2017.
- We will approach all relevant groups on campus and ask for their input.
- We are consulting with knowledgeable advisors to ensure that we have access to important expertise and experience.
- We are creating forums for students, faculty, staff and alumni to provide input. Forums are already planned in COLA, CHHS, COLSA, the Graduate School, the Law School and the Library. We will also accept input by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Being available. A member of the President’s Leadership Council will speak individually with any member of the community who wants to provide input. Just send an email to email@example.com to request a conversation.
- Acknowledging the good work that is already going on around campus. For example:
Part two: Take Action. In August, we will begin taking actions that will have the most impact based on what we have learned. We will engage external expertise to ensure that we are sufficiently bold and strategic in our actions. We will also monitor the impact of what we have done and take corrective action where necessary. We will share the work we have done and its impact with all of you.
One specific area we will explore, and have already spoken about with the faculty senate leadership, is our undergraduate curriculum and the Discovery program. How can we ensure that our graduates are exposed to the elements of U.S. history most important to understanding our current situation with regard to race?
We are asking for everyone's help and ideas and I have been heartened by how many people have already expressed their support and interest in working on these issues. We can do this together. We will not get everything right, but we will do our best. We will keep learning, and we will remain committed to ensuring that our black and brown students, faculty and staff are able to thrive at UNH.
James W. Dean Jr.