Dear Members of the Fordham Community,
After decades and centuries, we have still not created a nation and a culture in which all citizens are truly equal, a nation in which each citizen is treated with dignity.
The Black community has never enjoyed the kind of respect, and has never had access to the range of opportunities, that other communities in our country have had. The protests that have occurred across the country and that have brought together people from every race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, and age group in the aftermath of the brutal killing of George Floyd are both a cry of the heart coming from a community that has been the victim of systemic racism for our entire history, and a call to a national examination of conscience on race relations and on racism itself. And a call to action for Fordham.
In the course of the past few weeks, the members of the Board of Trustees, the administration, and I have watched and listened. We have read the many emails, petitions, and Instagram posts that have come from the University community. We have all been moved and dismayed by these statements and testimonials, and deeply saddened by the trauma that prompted them. Therefore, it is clear that the national awakening has come to Fordham. To be sure, we have in the past made strides in our efforts to create a more diverse, inclusive, and affirming community. But this moment has made it clear that we can and must do more. We all know this in our bones and in our hearts.
In the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, the chair of our Board of Trustees convened a special meeting of the Executive Committee of the Board devoted to addressing the scourge of racism. During the meeting (which was attended by a majority of the board’s members), our conversations were led by the Black members of the board. That meeting was followed by a meeting of the Board Strategy Committee. The board came away from both of those meetings with a firm belief that the question of racism was of such great mission-importance that they have both recast the charge of the Mission and Identity Committee to include Social Justice (and hence that committee has become the Mission and Social Justice Committee, which will be co-chaired by Anthony Carter and Thomas Regan, S.J.) and asked us to make the confrontation of racism in all its forms an important part of our strategic planning.
The same passion for confronting racism has been clear in all of the conversations that I and the other members of the administration and faculty leadership have had in the course of the past month. Indeed, the Board of Trustees feels so strongly about this that they have mandated annual anti-racism training for all faculty, administrators, staff, and students—including the president’s cabinet and the Board of Trustees.
Therefore, with the backing of the whole Fordham community (from the board to the faculty to the staff to the students), the administration, the provost, the vice presidents, the deans, the chief diversity officer, and I have drawn up the action plan that is outlined below. As the board, the administration, and I share it with you, I assure you that this should be seen as the first in a series of steps in what we now recognize must be an iterative process: as we listen more attentively and as we do more, we will learn more and adjust our plans and actions accordingly. Therefore, let us begin.
Goal: Develop Robust Admissions Strategies for Effective Recruitment of Students of Color to Fordham
Recruitment and Pipeline Development
The University will launch an aggressive recruitment program for Black and Latinx students, with a focus on talent identification, pipeline development, and enhanced financial aid aimed at substantially increasing our undergraduate Black and Latinx student populations. We are committed to dedicating significant resources to achieve this goal.
Create an overnight Multicultural Admitted Students’ Yield Program designed specifically for historically underrepresented students and their families.
Continue to co-sponsor (with the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities) and host the only college open house for Black and Latinx students in New York state.
To promote the University’s interest in furthering diversity, Fordham will increase the amount of financial aid available to our Black (and Latinx) students by prioritizing the creation of endowed scholarships in our new capital campaign.
Launch the Urban Justice Scholars Program to bring to Fordham each year a cohort of 15 high-achieving, low- to moderate-income students from across the country whose academic, cocurricular, and vocational goals focus on understanding and addressing social and economic inequality from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives.
The University has already adopted a test-optional admissions policy. In Fordham’s undergraduate admission process, each application will continue to be reviewed holistically as we look for students who will be academically successful and bring personal qualities of integrity, perseverance, and leadership to our campus communities.
Actions Supporting the Building of a Better Admissions Pipeline
Create the Bronx Bothered Excellence Scholars Summer Program to serve historically underrepresented high school students in grades 10 through 12 who are committed to the Catholic and Jesuit mission of justice and cura personalis.
Drawing on the success of our outreach efforts at local Catholic high schools in the Bronx and Manhattan (such as Cardinal Hayes High School, Cristo Rey New York High School, and the Academy of Mount Saint Ursula), we will expand our efforts to include other neighborhood high schools, both public and private.
Goal: Recruiting and Retaining a More Diverse Faculty, Administration and Staff
Fordham will continue to prioritize the diversification of the ranks of the entire staff of the University: administrators, faculty, and staff.
Building on the success that we have had in the past few hiring cycles, the chief diversity officer will continue to conduct annual workshops for deans, chairs, vice presidents, and search committees to familiarize them with the University’s expectations for hiring practices.
Launch the John LaFarge, S.J., Visiting Scholars and Fellows Program, which will bring doctoral candidates to Fordham to facilitate the career growth and success of degree candidates who are underrepresented in their proposed fields of study to work with Fordham faculty mentors in their fields.
Launch the Joseph Fitzpatrick, S.J., Postdoctoral Fellowship and Cluster Hire Program, a postdoctoral scholars program designed to attract young scholar-teachers whose work takes an interdisciplinary, praxis-oriented approach to examining the structures, policies, and practices that produce racial and gender inequality in American society.
Goal: Develop Curricular and Cocurricular Initiatives That Support the Imperative of Confronting Racism and Educating for Justice
Increase support for the work of the special assistant to the provost for faculty development to enhance initiatives focused on anti-racist pedagogy and practice.
The Office of the Chief Diversity Officer will offer Teaching Race Across the Curriculum Grants to assist the faculty’s efforts to develop ways to integrate questions of race, racism, inequality, and justice into their introductory courses as well as in Values Seminar and Interdisciplinary Capstone Core courses.
The deans of all of the schools will work with their faculty members to ensure that courses include content-appropriate discussions or treatment of issues of racism, inequality, and diversity as often and as richly as possible.
Use faculty resources to create a library of print, audio, and audiovisual resources on racism, race, and diversity. This library will make it possible for faculty to use these resources as asynchronous elements to achieve the goal of providing all first-year students with the course that contains a strong introduction to anti-racism called for in the University’s Diversity Action Plan during the 2020–2021 academic year, and to embed discussion of issues associated with diversity, inclusion, and racism in their existing courses.
Strengthen and expand our Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), as well as our Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP).
The University will increase its support of and work to raise the visibility of the Department of African and African American Studies, as well as the Bronx African American History Project.
The University will co-sponsor and significantly increase its support of the Law School’s Center on Race, Law and Justice in order to convene scholars across the University working on issues of racial justice. The center aims to be a hub of scholarship on issues relating to race that strengthens the University internally and helps to build its reputation in the wider community.
Goal: Create a More Welcoming and Affirming Campus
The University has made provision in the plans for the new campus center at Rose Hill for the creation of a much-needed dedicated Multicultural Center. A similar center will be established on the Lincoln Center campus.
Supplement the goal of supporting diversity in all University policies with the goal of confronting racism in all we do.
Institute annual, mandatory anti-racism training for all faculty, administrators, staff, and students—including the president’s cabinet and the Board of Trustees.
The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, which collects suggestions and feedback from all constituencies at Fordham, shall make twice-annual recommendations to the president on necessary actions and policies.
Building on the work of the Diversity Leadership Team, led by Rafael Zapata (chief diversity officer), Kay Turner (vice president for human resources) and Juan Carlos Matos (assistant vice president for student affairs for diversity and inclusion), redouble our efforts to create and sustain a campus culture that supports and cherishes our students, faculty, and staff of color.
Drawing from input we have received from our students, the counseling office, the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer, and the Office of Multicultural Affairs will continue to refine the following offerings: Black Healing and Empowerment Circle, Ally Solidarity and Support Space, Non-Black Students of Color Support Group, and Navigating Police Brutality and Racial Trauma Workshop.
Establish a peer mentoring program for students of color.
As was the case this year, the University will henceforth observe Juneteenth as a paid University holiday.
Goal: Build Lasting Partnerships With Our Neighbors
Launch the first Bronx Youth Summit on the Rose Hill campus during calendar year 2021, convening high school students from across the borough to study and actively address issues affecting their communities.
We will strive to become the primary sponsor and host of the annual Bronx Book Festival, as well as co-sponsor events with the organization throughout the academic year.
Led by the finance division and the Office of Government Relations and Urban Affairs, we will develop a plan to increase our university-wide contracting and purchasing with and from minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs), with a particular focus on those in the Bronx and Manhattan.
We will launch the Annual Fordham University Arts, Community, and Social Justice Banquet to honor local artists, youth, community organizations, as well as Fordham students, faculty, and staff whose work, service, teaching, and scholarship embody lives dedicated to justice for others.
Through the Fordham Foundry and Social Innovation Collaboratory, we will create a consulting service/office (staffed by undergraduate and graduate students from the Gabelli School of Business) to assist minority-owned neighborhood businesses in applying for funding, including loans from the Small Business Administration, and to help them draw up business plans that will enable them to achieve greater stability and success in the future.
Building on the work of the Center for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL), double or triple CCEL’s investment of time, energy, and attention in sustainable partnerships in areas around the Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses.
Use the expertise and services of the Graduate School of Social Service, the Graduate School of Education, the School of Law, and the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education to create clinics or outreach to serve the members of our Bronx and Manhattan neighborhoods.
Goal: Amplify our Voice in Educating for Justice Beyond the Campus
Create an ongoing WFUV series on The Black Experience in America that will be aired on the station, ensuring that conversations on racism, race, and the richness of Black culture are shared broadly with the WFUV audience.
Seek a partnership with the recently established Museum of Civil Rights that will enable us to broaden the University’s involvement in the study of the Black experience in America.
Build collaborative relationships with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, PEN America, and other prominent academic and cultural institutions in New York City.
The divisions and departments responsible for the various initiatives outlined above will develop implementation plans. The Board of Trustees and the cabinet will be deeply involved in the process, reviewing those plans and follow-up reports with an eye to effectiveness and sustainability.
To those of you who have shared painful memories via email and on social media, let me say I am deeply grateful for your forthrightness, something from which I learned more than I can say about the way in which systemic, structural racism inflicts pain on those who suffer from its power. You have my solemn word that we will do better.
I invite the whole Fordham community to see this inflection moment in our nation’s history and in Fordham’s history as an opportunity to work for the creation of a more just world.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J.