Anti-Black Racism News

Listening to the experiences of Black faculty, graduate students, and staff was a crucial step for the College’s executive dean, Rick Van Kooten, who hosted a listening session on June 10 and a second session on June 18 for a broader group of the academic community. Opportunities for undergraduate students to participate and be heard will be announced when classes resume in the fall.

Beyond listening, Van Kooten is committed to sustained action.

“I want to see our anti-racist work engender persistent changes in individual and collective behavior that lead to lasting transformation,” Van Kooten said in an e-mail to Black faculty, staff, and graduate students who spoke during the initial listening session. “I want you to know that, in my role as executive dean, I am committed to working across the College community to change the climate via concrete actions: to have you feel welcome in every room you enter, to have your voice heard in every conversation, and to have you seen and believed.”

As the work moves forward, two faculty members with extensive experience in understanding and combating racism will join Executive Dean Van Kooten and Assistant Dean Henne-Ochoa to help guide the process.

Beginning July 1, Professor Vivian Nun Halloran of English and American Studies assumed the role of associate dean for diversity and inclusion for the College. Professor Russell Scott Valentino of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures recently stepped down as associate dean for diversity and inclusion after two years, during which he oversaw the establishment of the College’s first Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Professor Amrita Chakrabarti Myers, the Ruth N. Halls Associate Professor of History and Gender Studies, has been appointed a fellow of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Both Halloran and Myers have studied and addressed anti-Black racism as scholars, teachers, and activists.

The College is also moving swiftly to offer courses that encourage students to learn and think more deeply about systemic racism. This August, incoming freshmen will have the opportunity to get a jumpstart on their academics by participating in a two-week pre-fall session. Courses featuring highly relevant topics will be offered, including several that focus on race: “COVID-19 & U.S. Inequality” and “Talking Race, Doing Anti-Racism.” More race-focused courses will be offered in two additional special sessions later this fall and in spring 2021.

“We have to say Black Lives Matter over and over and over again,” says Henne-Ochoa. “We must say it until Black lives do, in fact, matter. We are not there yet. We must address head on anti-Black racism and the systemic inequity that disproportionately claims the lives of Black men, women, and transpeople and their livelihoods.