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Making Progress: February 2021 Racial Justice Update

Dear Students, Staff and Faculty,

Welcome to a new spring semester! May we cultivate a critical hope for more justice and more joy in the coming season.

One cause for joy within the equity and inclusion team is the addition of Loretta Ross as our first faculty fellow. As a team, we have built on the activism and efforts of generations of students, staff and faculty. Now, we continue to collaborate with people and units across the college on the action items that make up the strategic plan Toward Racial Justice. While there is still work to be done, we are energized by the progress we have made and inspired by the promise of its outcome.

Here are updates on selected items in each of the five areas of the plan.

  • Recruitment, Retention and Development: Since July we have hired four additional colleagues of color through the president’s target-of-opportunity program. We currently have 15 tenure-track searches underway, three of which have yielded new professors of color so far.

  • Learning: The Leaders for Equity-centered and Action-based Design (LEAD) Scholars Program launched at the beginning of interterm. Its first class of students will learn this year and then work in the LEAD Corps next year to support the college community in designing and facilitating social justice learning opportunities for clubs, organizations, teams and more. To institute a new course requirement focused on race, the provost has decided to form a study group to make a recommendation by the end of the semester.

  • Identity Affirmation: There are now nine active employee resource groups. Voluntary affinity groups exist for Black, Latinx, Asian American, multiracial, and international staff and faculty, among others. These groups have been resources for fellowship, mental and emotional well-being, and advocacy.

  • Operational Change: The vice president for finance and administration and I attended a webinar on how to diversify the college’s vendor pool to include more Black-owned businesses. We look forward to implementing what we learned.

  • Community Engagement: A new program for students, Smith Alliance for Justice and Equity (SAJE), will launch this spring. In the fall, students will work with community activists, including alums, using a community organizing lens. Contact the director of the Jandon Center for more information.

While we remain focused on making progress on racial justice and curating anti-racist resources, we are also working on other important inclusion efforts, recognizing that true liberation must be intersectional. These efforts include the following:

For our principles and the full list and status of the action items, visit our website. As always, this remains a living document, continually adapting to the needs of our community. We continue to welcome your input and suggestions.

We are on a path to true equity, inclusion and justice for everyone at Smith. Even in the midst of a pandemic, we are devoting resources—human and financial—to make progress on systemic change. Honored to be learning and working alongside you, I am

Sincerely yours,
Floyd Cheung, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion