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Dear Members of the Santa Clara University Community,

I write to bring you this update on our collective efforts to advance racial justice and antiracism at Santa Clara. After a year in which grief and anxiety have marked the lives of so many of us, I am cheered to look back and see significant progress in this community from both leadership and grassroots actions. Puffery is commonplace these days, but my legal training always reminds me to have evidence before I make a claim. So I am grateful for the concrete ways in which people across our community are stepping up to advance racial justice; to learn to look at structures, systems and behaviors through an equity lens of antiracism; and to shoulder the load that for too long has fallen disproportionately on the BIPOC community.  We have much more to do, but we are forging this difficult and necessary path together, with hope and determination. I find this growth in solidarity joyous to accompany and to witness.

Much of this message outlines key highlights that are captured more fully on our Advancing Racial Justice (ARJ) Dashboard (see below). But first I am excited to touch briefly on two developing initiatives that dovetail with our racial justice goals: restorative justice; and assessment and accountability methods. 

Race and Restorative Justice   

In last week’s State of the University address, President O’Brien explained our commitment to expanding opportunities for restorative justice to help us communicate more honestly and effectively with one another.  His address ended with a brief conversation on restorative justice featuring Professor Justin Boren, Provost Lisa Kloppenberg, and me. Here is a link to this conversation:  Since then, we have heard from many who want to learn more and have created a spring quarter reading group focusing on foundational works: The Little Book of Restorative Justice by Howard Zehr; and The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice by Fania Davis. All are welcome; we will let you know specifics in the coming weeks. Fania Davis, a leader in race and restorative justice, is someone I have known and respected for decades; I am presently confirming her for a talk in the spring.  Her expertise in race and restorative justice focuses on its indigenous roots, the harms of racism, and the need for truth and accountability in fostering long-term healing and reconciliation.

Assessment and Accountability

Two divisions of the Office of the Provost -- the Office of Assessment and the Office for Diversity & Inclusion -- are exploring the use of evidence-based assessment tools to mark and map our progress in racial justice initiatives. Our goal is to examine each action beyond individual unit/department goals so that it is mapped as part of our overarching goal of becoming an anti-racist university. We will look at each action through the lens of an equity framework and encourage campus-wide conversations about goal-setting and outcomes.

Advancing Racial Justice (ARJ) Dashboard Updates

In November 2020, we unveiled the Advancing for Racial Justice (ARJ) dashboard, a new and easily accessible online tool for benchmarking our progress, identifying priorities and resources, and highlighting best practices on campus. It is a “living” document that tracks our measures planned, underway, or completed in five focus areas:

  • Teaching, Learning and Research
  • Leadership and Governance
  • Student Experience
  • Faculty / Staff Engagement
  • Alumni & Community Engagement

The breadth and depth of commitment involves many departments and units across campus as well as among our alumni/ae:

  • Thirty units and departments have reported over 500 actions, events, and initiatives.
  • Grass roots initiatives are flourishing in many focus areas. DEI education and training sessions operate as action items by stimulating and supporting concrete changes.
  • The Faculty Collaborative for Teaching Innovation has gathered an additional inventory from over 20 departments and their faculty on the incorporation of DEI into faculty teaching, research, and service, including student mentoring.

I encourage you to visit the dashboard periodically to refresh your memory about how far we have come, how much more we are committed to doing, and how important it is for all of us to contribute in some way to transforming our community into a culture of true diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. You are also welcome to submit your own update to the dashboard by completing the Racial Justice/Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiatives form.

In times of turmoil over the past year, learning something new has often re-centered me in our commitment to racial justice at SCU: a prayer, a poem, a song. Through a beloved Soto Zen Buddhist community of friends in Oakland, I learned the gesture of “gassho,” a Japanese word that means “palms of the hands placed together” to convey both greeting and gratitude. 

In gassho,


Margaret M. Russell
Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion
© 2022