To examine structural and systemic racism, Truman recently conducted a town hall on racial injustice and inequity to provide an opportunity to gain a shared understanding of what must be done to accomplish institutional change. When asked what Truman should do immediately, members of the panel advocated for the importance of making a public statement.
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, an email was sent to all students, faculty and staff challenging the University to confront the racial injustice and inequity legacies of the past, acknowledge the realities of the present and do real work to achieve an equitable future. It was a call to action in line with rapper and activist Killer Mike’s call to “fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization.” It is clear that part of fortifying our own house is a collective public statement that was informed by the insights from the town hall:
At Truman, we embrace the power of community, value the diversity of perspectives, and espouse the importance of facing challenges and being uncomfortable as a part of growth. Racism, in all forms, is antithetical to community. With inequities, there are divisions, and these divisions prevent us from being the just, inclusive, equitable, and true community we want and need to be.
We acknowledge the fear, pain, prejudice, antagonism and subjugation that is ubiquitous in the Black experience and the historical legacy of segregation, marginalization, and inequitable access to economic opportunity, social mobility, and political power in all higher education institutions, including Truman.
The best way to condemn racism is to be anti-racist. We will actively and consciously work against the multidimensional aspects of racism. We will challenge the notion that racism is only conscious, deliberate, and explicit and shift our understanding to address unconscious, unintentional, and veiled racist actions.
It is our responsibility to uncover and disrupt systems that perpetuate injustice and inequity, and in doing so, reform all aspects of those systems that are anathema to the principles of racial equity including policies, pedagogy, and practices.
Real change will require collective, concerted, unrelenting efforts over an extended period of time. Our progress in achieving a just, inclusive, equitable, and true community will require personal and institutional self-reflection, humility, honesty and fully embracing the universal intrinsic worth of all human beings.
As important as these words are, words without action are performative allyship that do little to address the true matter at hand. As a liberal arts and sciences institution, it is in Truman’s core to be a force for change in the world. To that end, the University is focusing on six core areas: access and recruitment; student success, retention and integration; recruitment, hiring and development of employees; campus culture; curricular and co-curricular learning; and alumni community. The University has begun taking the first of many steps to make impactful and sustained progress in these six areas:
- With the hiring of a diversity and inclusion consultant with a powerful connection to Truman, the University takes a significant step forward in developing impactful short-term strategies and long-term goals to bring about greater diversity, inclusion and equity.
- Organizations like the Association of Black Collegians continue to advocate passionately for racial equity and justice. Recently, President Thomas had a very enlightening and productive conversation with the group about their experiences and the essential changes the University must make. Their continued partnership will ensure Truman maintains vigilance in inclusion and equity efforts and creating sustainable institutional change.
- Truman’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion recently hosted a virtual presentation on the foundations of social justice, with a special emphasis on racial justice. Participants found it to be a useful exercise in self-examination and systemic analysis.
- The Minority Ambassadors Program has moved under the direction of the Office of Admission and will be enhanced to more successfully meet its mission of recruiting minoritized students and hosting events that promote cultural awareness.
- The New Truman Student Experience will have an increased attention to diversity and inclusion across its three elements: Truman Week (activities scheduled before and during the beginning of classes), the Truman Symposium (a common speaker/activity series for new students), and the Self and Society Seminar (a small-group class required for all new students).
- Truman Week already includes multiple programs related to diversity and inclusion; they will be strengthened and improved this year. The Truman Symposium will focus one of its four modules on “Advancing Inclusion and Equity”. Students will have small group discussions about this module in their Self and Society Seminar. The Self and Society Seminar will also include an anti-racist reading list, and will have minimum standards for Intercultural Thinking, consistent with national standards.
- Faculty Governance is examining improvements to the Intercultural Perspective of the curriculum to make it more specifically connected to issues of race, class, and gender. It is also working with the Academic Professional Development Center to provide training for all faculty on issues such as how to handle difficult discussions, how to recognize conscious and unconscious biases, and how to be an anti-racist in the classroom.
- A group of University members will be tasked in the next few weeks to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for diversity and inclusion that includes metrics, measures, and initiatives that address the six core areas and builds upon the current Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence. This modified and updated strategic plan will provide measurable, accountable actions that will serve as a blueprint for how the University can maintain continuous progress. The plan will be completed by the end of the calendar year.
These are the most recent actions in what is an ongoing effort to address injustice and inclusion. In the spirit of transparency and accountability, all University messaging and actions related to confronting racial injustice and inequity and advancing inclusion will be posted on the Center for Diversity and Inclusion website. Check back often to review additional actions or to offer ideas.