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Update Regarding Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts

To Members of the Clark Community,

On behalf of the entire administration, I have made a promise to you that we will become a more just, equitable, inclusive, and welcoming institution. This is an imperative for Clark.

Many of you — students, faculty, and staff — continue to raise your voices and hold us accountable for remaining focused, vigilant, and determined in this effort. We have heard from individuals and organizations, including the Black Student Union and our staff of color, through protests, correspondence, and conversation.

I am writing to you today to underscore, unequivocally, that it is our responsibility not only to listen and hear but also to understand, empathize, and act.

On, we strive to keep the community informed of what we have done, what we are doing, and the open items we are exploring further through our diversity, equity, and inclusion action plan. In addition, I have committed to you that I will provide thorough, quarterly updates — and I intend to keep that commitment. The latest update (September 23) is available here.

Much remains to do, but we have made progress. A few highlights:

I have formally dedicated $1 million to catalyze DEI activities and progress. The areas of investment will parallel the priority areas of our action plan and are responsive to concerns raised by our students, faculty, and staff around programming, training, student life/affinity space, and personnel. The Center for Gender, Race, and Area Studies (CGRAS), in partnership with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), will work to better understand how we teach, what we teach, the culture it creates in our classrooms, and the steps we can take to make the overall academic experience at Clark more engaging, more inclusive, and more relevant for our BIPOC students.

I acknowledge that we have been understaffed in crucial areas that support people of color. Recently, we have added, filled, or are in the process of filling key positions — the Assistant Dean for Equity and Student Success, within the Division of Student Affairs; a new mental health specialist in the Center for Counseling and Professional Growth dedicated to supporting students of color; and additional staff within Undergraduate Admissions to intensify efforts to recruit and retain a truly diverse student body. We also have two active searches underway to find the very best candidates for the Chief Officer of Diversity and Inclusion and the Director of Multicultural and First Generation Student Support.

I appreciate that in our community there are deep, impassioned feelings about policing as part of Clark’s overall safety and security operations. Yesterday, I announced the appointment of Sgt. Lauren Misale as the incoming chief of the Clark University Police Department (CUPD). She brings to the position an openness to developing a new model of campus policing and security. Under her leadership, we must — and we will — thoroughly reassess our current approach. This process will begin promptly and will involve substantial community engagement.

There are many other areas worthy of mention. Among them: anti-racism training, provided by the National Conference for Community and Justice, in which the entire administration will participate this November; and the soon-to-be-announced engagement of an independent, external University ombudsperson, which was specifically requested by staff.

My hope in reaching out today is to reaffirm our resolve and assure you that our success will be measured by bringing about demonstrable, sustainable change. I am confident we can become the community we aspire to be — a fully inclusive, just, and equitable Clark.


David Fithian