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Update on Clark’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

To Members of the Clark Community,

I am pleased to provide several updates pertaining to Clark’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Interim Leadership for Diversity Programs and Initiatives

Clark is fortunate that two members of our community, Jie Park, associate professor of Education and director of the Center for Gender, Race, and Area Studies; and Michael Vidal, Clark’s Director of Diversity and Inclusive Excellence since August 2019, will provide interim leadership for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and our DEI work more broadly while we conduct a search for a new chief officer of diversity and inclusion (CODI) to succeed Sheree Ohen. Professor Park will oversee continued forward momentum on our commitments to curricular review and change; while Mr. Vidal will advance the work of the #ClarkForward initiative, manage the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and continue his development and oversight of programs to foster inclusive excellence. Both will join me in promoting and supporting campus-wide conversations to inform priorities and new programs, assess progress, and ensure accountability.

We also are evaluating options for the ombudsperson role of the CODI. These responsibilities include meeting with students, staff, and faculty who have concerns and formal complaints against individuals and departments / organizations on campus, filed as a Bias Incident Report. We will soon announce how this important role will be addressed.

Appointment of Chair of CODI Search Committee

As I recently announced, I have begun formulating a search committee to lead a national and comprehensive search for Clark’s next CODI. I am delighted to share that Associate Provost and Dean of the Faculty Esther Jones has agreed to chair this search. Dean Jones, who is also associate professor of English and the E. Franklin Frazier Chair of African American Literature, Theory, and Culture, has deep familiarity with the issues that the new CODI must address and shares my strong sense of urgency about identifying a new leader to shape, direct, and advance the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Clark.

As we assemble the representatives of the student body, faculty, staff, administration, and alumni who will join Dean Jones on this search committee, I invite you again to share your ideas and perspectives about Clark’s mission in this area and the qualities of our future CODI leader.

In addition, Clark has hired Ponneh Varho of the search firm Isaacson, Miller to assist us in this search. Ms. Varho has recently supported Harvard University, Bates College, Smith College, Swarthmore College, and Wellesley College in similar searches.

Action on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives

As you know, this summer, the vice presidents, deans, other senior administrators, and I made a number of commitments to advance the University’s DEI goals, and promised to provide regular updates. We continue to prioritize these initiatives and will provide updates on a regular basis. As part of doing so, I am pleased to share with you this website that we will use to track these commitments and our progress on them. As the latest updates on this website indicate (including in greater detail than summarized below), recent actions toward building a more inclusive, just, and equitable Clark include:

  • The faculty’s establishing a comprehensive process to examine and diversify the curriculum, set anti-racist cultural and behavioral norms in the classroom, and strengthen academic success and persistence for historically underserved students.
  • New initiatives supporting faculty in designing diversity and inclusion courses that are intersectional and interdisciplinary and address issues of social and political significance.
  • Formalizing the partnership necessary to deliver the DEI module required of all incoming first-year students.
  • Moving forward with the search for a new Diversity Specialist in the Center for Counseling and Personal Growth.
  • 135 student leaders completing training on racial consciousness and action as part of our commitment to anti-racism.
  • Partnering with the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) to deliver anti-racism programs for academic, administrative, and staff leadership and the Faculty Steering Committee across the coming months.
  • A series of virtual academic events this fall semester on topics related to diversity and inclusion.

I also expect to be able to announce by the spring the allocation of significant new resources to propel related initiatives, following the necessary budget discussions across our governance process, including with faculty committees and the Board of Trustees.

Finally, Dean Jones and I will be co-chairing the University’s Diversity Action Committee (previously the President’s Diversity Advisory Committee). As a reminder, the charge of this group will be to coordinate University-wide efforts around DEI, including partnering not only with ODI but also with offices and organizations across campus, including faculty and administrative governance bodies. This committee will ensure we take meaningful action around our DEI goals, including in the curriculum, cultural life, campus social experience, student and personnel recruitment and retention, and more. Appointment of members to this committee is in progress, and when finalized will be posted on the DEI action plan website and included in my next update.

I greatly appreciate everything our faculty, staff, and students are doing to more fully support inclusive excellence at Clark.


David B. Fithian