From the Office of the President:
Dear Members of the Fordham Family,
I have previously referred to racism as “the second pandemic” from which our nation is suffering and sadly, this assessment is consistently borne out in the news media and in our daily lives. It is therefore critical that Fordham continue to move ahead to implement “Addressing Racism, Educating for Justice,” the action plan that the University’s leadership team developed and published over the summer, and which was the subject of the chief diversity officer’s annual report and my State of the University address near the start of the fall semester:
I am writing to you in these waning days of the fall semester to share with you an update on the progress that we have made so far in implementing the 34 initiatives that were outlined in the plan. (The members of our Diversity Leadership Team and I will reach out to you on a regular basis as we move into the spring semester and beyond to keep you abreast of additional developments in this mission-centric undertaking.)
Anti-Racism Training; Test-Optional Admissions; Racial Justice Network; Diversity-Focused Human Resources Policies, Programs, and Procedures:
To signal its deep commitment to the work of confronting racism and educating for justice, during the summer, the Board of Trustees created a new standing committee: the Mission and Social Justice Committee. In September, the Mission and Social Justice Committee laid the foundations for its work and identified a series of goals that would guide that work:
- Increasing the number of Black and other students of color at Fordham
- Ensuring that Black and other students of color know that they are welcome at Fordham
- Measuring the effectiveness of these actions
On 17 November, the Mission and Social Justice Committee of the Board of Trustees jointly met with the University’s diversity leadership team—Kay Turner, vice president for human resources; Rafael Zapata, chief diversity officer, special assistant to the president for diversity, and associate vice president for academic affairs; and Juan Carlos Matos, assistant vice president for student affairs for diversity and inclusion—who outlined the ways in which their areas of the University are implementing or planning to implement the following elements of our anti-racism plan:
1. Anti-racism training for all members of the Fordham community. Substantial progress has already been made in this area. For instance, the Board of Trustees, the members of the cabinet, and the deans as well as a number of administrative units have already undergone or begun this training with the help and guidance of experienced professional trainers. In addition, anti-racism sessions and training modules were included in the orientation programs for all entering students, and the Student Affairs staff underwent a mandatory, all-day training program focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Finally, the Office of Human Resources Management has worked with outside vendors and experts to develop and offer a series of training sessions and online tutorials on how to confront racism.
2. Admissions and Enrollment: As was promised in the action plan, the University has adopted a test-optional undergraduate admission policy. Moreover, the admission team has focused on ways to attract more Black and Latinx students to the University. Among other things, we have expanded the number of high schools in neighboring communities to which we commit to meet full need for their graduates admitted to the University, and our efforts will be further aided by a $250,000 addition to the scholarship fund established by the Fordham Jesuit Community targeted at recruiting students from the schools in the Cristo Rey network. This work includes Gabelli students tutoring and mentoring student in the honors program at Cardinal Hayes High School. Gabelli students are in the classroom with the Cardinal Hayes students, helping them with college-level assignments. The program, now in its third year, is a recruiting pipeline from Cardinal Hayes to Fordham. So far, their efforts are showing promising results: in the Early Action/Early Decision admission cycle, the number of Black students offered admission has increased by 34%, and the number of admission acceptances offered to Latinx students has increased by 22%. Finally, for the 12th year in a row, with the help of a grant from the Bloomberg Foundation and the assistance of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, Fordham hosted the only College Access Fair (held virtually) for Black and Latinx students in New York state, attracting 915 students this year.
3. The Creation and Nurturing of a Culture of Inclusion on Our Campuses: Since it is clear (as the Mission and Social Justice Committee noted in its first meeting) that it is not enough for us merely to strengthen our outreach to applicants, we must do all that we can to ensure that the students whom we bring to Fordham find a welcoming home for their hearts. Therefore, the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) has created a Racial Solidarity Network. In addition, OMA offered workshops exploring implicit bias and racism to over 800 students, including all RAs, commuter assistants, and orientation leaders. The Office of Human Resources Management has created diversity-focused recruitment, retention, and talent management practices for use by all of the schools and divisions of the University.
4. Student-Affirming Outreach Initiatives: In July 2020, a group of 48 deans, directors, administrative assistants, and other staff participated in a pilot student-outreach initiative to try to understand how the pandemic and this summer’s heightened awareness of racial injustice was affecting them. Out of the 175 returning students with whom administrators and staff had conversations, most students wanted to be connected to the Office of Career Services, class deans, advisers, and the libraries. Students spoke about wanting to be more active and integrated at the University. They also spoke of the benefits and drawbacks of the hybrid offerings. Some students also shared their sense of displacement associated with the abrupt return home due to the pandemic.
Prioritizing the Hiring of a More Diverse Faculty and Staff:
I am pleased to tell you that out of the 26 Arts and Sciences full-time tenure/tenure-track faculty hired this year, 50% are persons of color; and overall, 48% of the new full-time staff, administrators, tenure/tenure-track and non-tenure/tenure-track faculty hired since 1 July 2020 are persons of color: 53% are women; 14% are Latinx, and 17% are Black. Finally, in the area of Academic Affairs, I am happy to report that with a bequest that the University received recently from her estate, Fordham has created the Margaret Peil Distinguished Chair in African and African American Studies, the first of its kind at the University.
Moreover, in the area of Residential Life, almost 46% of the RAs at Rose Hill and almost 60% of the RAs at Lincoln Center are people of color.
- At Lincoln Center, 10.8% of RAs are Latinx and 18.9% are Black;
- At Rose Hill, 20.6% of RAs are Latinx and 9.2% are Black;
- At Rose Hill, 54.6% of the RAs are women; that percentage is slightly higher at Lincoln Center.
In addition, in the course of the fall semester, Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) offered support spaces and one-off workshops on a variety of topics, including: Coping with Imposter Syndrome; Drop-In Support Space for Armenian Students; What Does It Mean to Be Asian Now and How to Cope With It; Building Community for International Students; and Navigating Police Brutality and Racial Trauma. CPS also offered weekly support groups, including: Women of Color Healing and Empowerment Circle; LGBTQ+ Community Support Space; and Chinese International Students Drop-In Group.
Creating a More Richly Inclusive, Anti-Racist Curriculum:
This academic year, the Arts and Sciences faculty and deans are undertaking a systematic assessment of the current Core Curriculum and framing a proposal for its future revision. (The faculty-led Core Curriculum Task Force should begin this revision work in fall 2021.) Arts and Sciences’ current work is centered on responding to student requests to integrate anti-racism into the existing Core Curriculum. At the same time, individual programs and departments are beginning to respond to the call for teaching race across the curriculum by implementing interim revisions to their core (e.g., Art History, Theology) and major (e.g., English) course offerings.
Moreover, during Academic Orientation for the fall semester, Fordham College at Rose Hill and Fordham College at Lincoln Center made The Colossus of New York, by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead, the first Summer Read shared by the two colleges. The faculty of the two schools prepared students for their orientation sessions with programming throughout the summer, and followed the orientation experience with sessions that addressed a range of topics, including race, identity, and belonging, throughout the year.
Building Stronger Relationships with Our Neighbors:
The University is looking into ways to make our campuses more accessible and welcoming to the local communities once we are out of the pandemic and can contemplate having visitors on campus again. You may know that there have been a number of events open to the public before COVID-19 forced us to close off the campuses entirely, and the Center for Community Engaged Learning, student government, and our many service and cultural clubs have been at the forefront of our efforts to actively work with our neighbors on and off campus. In that vein, you may have noticed that the Fordham News weekly newsletter has begun listing off-campus community events in its calendar.
As I have said before, Fordham’s anti-racism action plan is an evolving one: although we cannot accomplish everything we would wish in any single academic year, Fordham is focused on this effort at every level, beginning with the Board of Trustees and the University’s senior leadership. I will continue to share updates with the University community as we have new initiatives and achievements to report.
Finally, I would like to offer my profound thanks to everyone in the Fordham family who has taken up this work and made possible the changes we have achieved to date. I am humbled by your dedication and effort, and grateful for all you do in the service of the University community.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J.