Dear Members of the Fordham Family,
Below you will find the annual report of the Chief Diversity Officer. You will find here that the University is moving forward on multiple fronts in pursuit of greater diversity, equity, and inclusion. That said, it is not everything we can do, nor is it everything we intend to do. This work—dismantling racism, especially structural racism—is neither linear nor ever finished. This is why I refer to the action plan for confronting racism and educating for justice as iterative and ongoing.
I want to speak directly to the Black people and other people of color in the Fordham community. I know this has been a difficult year for you in many ways. The killing of Black people by police, the disproportionate harm that communities of color have suffered during the pandemic, and the upswelling of racism across the country have burdened you uniquely. I know this, as does every member of the Board of Trustees, every member of the administration, and every member of the faculty and staff. While no single institution is capable of curing these social ills, I promise you that Fordham is committed to doing its part to combat racism and anti-Blackness.
We will not be able to address every issue before us in the 2020-2021 school year: there is simply too much to accomplish in a single academic year. But we will devote all the resources we can—both in funding and staff time—to this very important work.
I hope you will take heart at the progress laid out in the annual report from the Chief Diversity Officer, and trust that we are committed to doing more, always.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J.
To the Members of the University Community:
This has been a year like no other. It is with great humility that I share with you an overview of the work of our office during the past academic year while providing a vision and preliminary update regarding the critical work to come.
The work of any office concerned with diversity, equity, and inclusion is, at its core, focused on the identification and disruption of patterns of exclusion and marginalization, and the norms, systems, and structures that produce and perpetuate them. This work also involves identifying and promoting new and existing norms, policies, and practices that foster justice, success, and belonging, consistent with our mission and most deeply held values. This is what we have striven to do since my arrival as Fordham’s inaugural Special Assistant to the President, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Chief Diversity Officer in January 2018.
Building on the work of the previous three semesters, last year we made important strides in a number of strategic DEI areas:
Students and Student/Community Programs
- We supported a range of outstanding events and programs organized by and for students and student organizations, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Center for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL), the Fordham Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), and numerous academic departments.
- In January 2020, with the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Center for Community Engaged Learning, we launched Martin Luther King, Jr. Week, featuring events on the theme: The Radical King.
- We launched a prototype version of a non-credit first-year experience course, New York is My Campus, at both the Lincoln Center and Rose Hill campuses.
- We continued to build a strong partnership with #TheBronxIsReading and the Bronx Book Festival.
Faculty and Staff Diversity
- Forty Five percent of all new tenured and tenure-track hires this year are persons of color, with particular success in the Arts & Sciences and the Graduate School of Education. This is the result of our continuing work in conducting active, engaged faculty searches, working closely with academic departments, and partnering with a range of disciplinary- and area-specific organizations.
- We continued to collaborate with Human Resources to build a more robust infrastructure for administrative search and selection processes, and to partner with colleagues from Mission Integration and Planning to conduct diversity and mission-focused search committee training.
- The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council finalized the Fordham DEI Strategic Framework to inform DEI planning across the university.
- The Office of Admissions hired their inaugural Associate Director of Diversity Initiatives, Mary Balingit, who joined Fordham in early March 2020.
Faculty Development and Pedagogy
- We continued to work closely with Dr. Anne Fernald, Professor and Special Advisor to the Provost for Faculty Development, in hosting inclusive pedagogy workshops, including one at the beginning of the academic year on Anti-Racist Pedagogy and Practice.
- Graduate students are creating and participating in anti-racist pedagogy workshops.
- There are currently 421 Fordham faculty, graduate students, post-docs, and administrators who have taken advantage of our institutional membership in the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, providing access to a range of faculty development resources. We also supported an additional 18 Fordham faculty to participate in the Faculty Success Program, bringing the total number of participants to 45 since Spring 2018. Learn about member resources.
- In May, Fordham adopted a Test-Optional Admissions Policy for undergraduate students starting with the Fall 2021 entering class.
- More recently, Fordham announced the adoption of a Chosen Name Policy.
AND THEN CAME COVID-19
In early March, the COVID-19 pandemic had an abrupt and devastating impact on our institution, city, and region. We suffered the loss of countless family and friends, as well as frayed bonds with our loved ones that make us truly human – all in order to beat back this dreadful disease. The pandemic shed light on what is both beautiful and deeply troubling about our human relations. On the one hand, there was profound compassion, courage, and collective action to care for one another in a time of crisis. On the other was xenophobia directed against Asians and Asian Americans, and the disease’s disproportionate impact on already vulnerable populations: the aged, people of color, the poor, the lonely, essential workers, caretakers, persons with disabilities, and those with already compromised immune systems.
THE MURDER OF GEORGE FLOYD
On May 25, our country was further rocked by the video recorded murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of Minneapolis Police, sparking nation-wide protests against contemporary and historic police and vigilante violence against Black people in the United States. As difficult as 2020 has been, the events of the year have allowed more and more people and institutions to witness – many for the first time – the debasing and deadly nature of systems of racial and economic inequality in the United States. As a result, they have begun to take more serious steps to address long-standing, deeply-rooted challenges at the individual and systemic level.
THE WORK AHEAD
While this work is certainly not new at Fordham, as evidenced by Father McShane’s November 2016 Diversity Action Plan, it has taken on a new urgency among students, faculty and staff, as well as alumni and members of the communities surrounding our campuses.
Father McShane’s June 29th Action Plan, Addressing Racism/Educating for Justice, highlighted both ongoing priorities, as well as a bolder set of initiatives, to help us more fully live out our mission. Several initiatives are already underway, including:
- A series of outstanding summer and fall events hosted by the Fordham Law School Center on Race, Law and Justice.
- ASILI, in collaboration with other student organizations, offered programming over the summer via Instagram Live and other social media platforms.
- Numerous schools, divisions, and departments are developing and implementing plans to conduct anti-racism training for their students, staff, and faculty.
- The Office of Human Resources is currently working on developing University-wide training on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Fordham will be co-sponsoring a series of events this fall on issues of race, identity, and community in partnership with the Bronx Book Festival.
- Advanced conversations with students, faculty, and deans from various academic departments are taking place regarding curriculum, with many potentially supported by Teaching Race Across the Curriculum (TRAC) grants. That program will be officially announced within the next two weeks.
- The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council convened on Friday, September 4th, to begin to map out challenges, opportunities, and strategies in support of Father McShane’s June 29 Action Plan, and for on-going outreach and discussion throughout the Fordham community.
With the fall semester officially underway, planning and strategy meetings with key stakeholders across the University are taking place with greater frequency, helping to move us from aspiration, to prioritization, to action and eventual implementation. There will be more specifics to report in the coming weeks and months, and we promise to share news of progress and relevant developments as they unfold. Importantly, we also invite your ideas to help our community heal, continue to learn and grow, and work collaboratively toward sustainable, systemic change, and racial justice.
Yet, this will continue to be a year like no other. While we in the state, region, and city of New York have – for the time being – beaten the disease back, COVID is still among us, and must continue to be navigated with the utmost care. Moreover, the recent shooting of Jacob Blake, unarmed and in front of his children, by a Kenosha, WI, police officer, is yet another reminder of the urgency of this moment in the struggle for racial justice. Let us go forward, together, in love and solidarity, affirming in all that we do that BLACK LIVES MATTER, moved by the words and example of a previous generation of New York City youth fighting for justice: Pa’lante, Siempre Pa’lante.
Rafael A. Zapata
Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs & Chief Diversity Officer