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Letter to the Community

To the Clark Community:

We want to acknowledge the concerns surrounding matters of race, policing, and affordability at Clark amplified last night by our Black Student Union and the Clark University Student Council. These issues are critically important and therefore we wanted to respond quickly, especially given the events unfolding nationally.

Let us be clear. We strongly denounce the violence that erupted in our nation’s capital last week and the incontrovertible racial bigotry that was on display. The differential treatment by law enforcement of a riot carried out by a majority white mob storming the halls of the U.S. Capitol Building and peaceful protests for Black lives this past summer underscores the historic, systemic racism and white supremacy that persists today.

Here at Clark, we are making progress on the issues raised by BSU and the CUSC. And we are as determined as ever to keep at it, with student engagement critical to moving forward, and aided by an additional $1 million commitment which will help to catalyze our DEI efforts.

The issue of policing as raised by the BSU is a core matter we are working to address. Clark’s new Chief of Police Lauren Misale has already arranged for anti-bias policing training for every member of the department, including the Chief, this month. That is only the beginning of a process we committed to when we announced Chief Misale’s appointment at the end of October. We have also created a task force that will help lead a community-wide dialogue about policing practices here at Clark and prepare specific recommendations about changes to how we provide safety and security on our campus. An announcement about the task force and its charge has long been planned for next week.

Reiterating what I, David Fithian, have shared previously, any changes at Clark will not include the complete disarmament of our campus police. Doing so would render our campus unshielded and unsafe, especially at a time when institutions of government and higher learning may be targeted. However, we will learn from best practices and change our policing methods to better serve all members of our community. Already some of our practices have changed and we expect more to come from the work that the task force will take up over the next four months.

Accessibility and affordability are also important issues. Expanding opportunity remains a priority for Clark. So too does supporting our students and their families during financially challenging times. This is always true, but especially today with the havoc wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. For just this reason, we increased our financial aid budget for the current academic year by $2 million. Some additional information of our current efforts may be found here.

Lastly, we want and expect our students to be actively engaged participants in efforts to move our University forward. That is often best accomplished when students work closely with those most directly responsible for their academic and student life experiences. Dean of the College Betsy Huang, Dean of Students Francy Magee, and Dean of the Faculty Esther Jones, will be working to strengthen lines of communication and collaboration by reaching out and working with key student leaders.

We thank those students representing the BSU and CUSC and other members of our community for continuing to use their voices to bring about lasting change at Clark.

David Fithian ‘87, President
Davis Baird, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs