Advancing Racial Justice:
Program Updates and Initiatives
July 23, 2020
Dear Santa Clara University Community,
At Santa Clara University’s Vigil for Racial Justice on June 2, the voices of Black students, alumni, staff, and faculty were at the center of our collective mourning, kinship, and call to action. The brutal murder of George Floyd, as well as the senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others before them, brought over eight hundred people to our online prayer vigil that day to affirm that Black lives matter. In a call-and-response part of the vigil, we as a community made a commitment -- vocally and emphatically -- that we will “do the work” of ending anti-Black racism and other forms of racial injustice.
In the weeks since then, amid the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, many in our community have come together to fight the pandemic of racism that envelops our country. Of course, the best place to begin that vital work is right here at home. This week, as the nation honors the late Congressman John Lewis, we are inspired anew by his message of hope, love, and determination to move forward to create a world of justice for all.
We write to give you the first of what will be regular progress updates on the antiracist work of our community, both institutionally and individually, structurally and “grass roots.” Since June, many of us have already embarked on this necessary, long overdue work. Others have been living the struggle for racial justice for a long time, and have been generous in sharing your wisdom and experiences; we owe you a special debt of gratitude. Having read your many comments, petitions and statements of solidarity, we thank you and invite you to continue to be in conversation with us.
With the at-times frustrating constraints of email, we strive not to catalogue all our actions in one static list, but to begin by sharing a summary of:
- Actions this summer emerging from dialogues with Black students, alumni, staff, and faculty;
- New initiatives and continuing commitments to ensure that progress is deep, structural, and long-lasting.
In our next update, we will focus on mapping objectives we have already brought to fruition from the original recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity and Inclusion (2016), the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion (2017), and the Campus Climate Team (2018-19), including the recent actions and initiatives outlined below. Progress at SCU in racial justice stands on the shoulders of many activists over generations, particularly the student Unity movements. In the next update, we will also provide more historical context about these changes. We cannot promote our progress without acknowledging the struggles, efforts, and sacrifices of our dedicated community leaders who raised our awareness and who sought justice through collective community action.
Actions This Summer:
In the immediate aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, we received an outpouring of questions and calls to action from the SCU community. Among these many requests, we received a petition from Igwebuike student leaders who sought to engage in dialogue with the Chief of the Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD), the Mayor of Santa Clara, and various SCU departments, in order to discuss anti-Black racism priority areas. Members of our administration, faculty and staff worked with student leaders to initiate and facilitate those important conversations. Throughout campus, a groundswell of antiracist allies have hosted events, conversations, and projects to continue to advance our learning and understanding of racial injustice. SCU alumni leaders were deeply engaged as well. Kathy Kale ’86, Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations and Melina Johnson ’01, M.A. ’03, President of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and Co-President of the Black Alumni Group, reached out to our alumni family, and committed to actionable steps to better serve all alumni, and specifically our Black community.
We have posted a list of our activities and priorities here. These efforts are just part of what we are working on, and will organically grow as we continue as a community to listen, learn, and act.
New Initiatives and Continuing Commitments:
Santa Clara University has committed additional resources to support the recruitment and retention of Black students, staff and faculty. New initiatives will address diversity, equity and inclusion in the classroom and curriculum, training and education, engagement opportunities, and community accountability. We have posted a partial list of our initiatives here. At the link, you can also find examples of our continuing commitments through the Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the materials on its website.
We are grateful for the heartfelt dialogues and reflections that have led us and will continue to lead us to transformation. To foster the beloved community of generous encounter to which we aspire, we need both incremental steps and bold actions. We need to listen and follow as well as speak and lead: with our hearts and souls as well as our minds. We need the hard work of each of us to recognize the persistent problem of racism, and to acknowledge that the labor of antiracist work has been disproportionately borne by people of color in our community and in society for far too long.
Perhaps most crucially, we need to stay hopeful. As noted scholar Ibram X. Kendi writes in his 2019 book How to Be an Antiracist (which the President’s Cabinet will read and discuss this summer):
“Once we lose hope, we are guaranteed to lose. But if we ignore the odds and fight to create an antiracist world, then we give humanity a chance to one day survive, a chance to live in communion, a chance to be forever free.”
Let such hope spark our imagination and fuel our labors.
We look forward to hearing from you and to continuing our work together toward a beloved community of generous encounter at Santa Clara University.
With gratitude and hope,
Margaret M. Russell, Associate Provost for Diversity & Inclusion
Lisa Kloppenberg, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Kevin F. O’Brien, S.J., President