Updates on Making Excellence Inclusive

February 17, 2021

Dear Members of the University Community,

Four years ago, our strategic planning process yielded a shared University commitment to foster and sustain a thriving, inclusive community. Inspired by that commitment, over 100 faculty, staff, students, alumni, administrators, and trustees contributed to the development of Making Excellence Inclusive: Report and Recommendations , with its three interconnected goals — Representation, Belonging, and Capability — and its corresponding three-year plan to advance them.

As we approach the end of our plan in 2022, I am pleased to see how community members have embraced this work as a shared responsibility, including through student-, faculty-, and staff-led initiatives. Today, I write to share a few highlights that exemplify the ways in which commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion are taking root across campus.

UR’s First Equity Summit: Under the astute leadership of student Tommy Na and recent alum Hijab Fatima, UR students engaged more than 450 students, faculty, staff, and alumni in a virtual Equity Summit focused on such critical issues as combatting anti-Semitism and xenophobia and improving campus climate for LGBTQIA+ students.

No Loan Program for Richmond Public School Students: Thanks to the inspiring work of our Enrollment Management and Advancement colleagues, the University announced its commitment to meet the full demonstrated financial need of all enrolled or enrolling graduates of Richmond Public Schools, including public magnet schools with grant and scholarship aid. This program will open the University’s doors wider to talented students in our own backyard, making UR’s exceptional education more widely available to our local community.

Africana Studies: In spring 2020, five undergraduate students submitted a proposal calling on the University to create an Africana Studies academic program that “truly reflect[s] the current scholarly landscape and promote[s] diversity of thought on campus.” Following nearly a year of campus dialogue, a faculty learning community led by Dr. Atiya Husain and Dr. Armond Townes submitted a formal proposal, the first step toward founding an Africana Studies academic program. In December, the School of Arts & Sciences faculty voted overwhelmingly in favor of a motion to create an Africana Studies academic program. This semester will mark the completion of this process, with the dean and provost’s endorsement of an Africana Studies academic program of study. Students will be able to begin majoring and minoring in Africana Studies in the fall of 2022.

Assessing Campus Climate: This year, the University is partnering with UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) to administer campus climate surveys to all faculty, staff, and students. These surveys, in addition to prior survey work, will help us better understand the experiences of all campus constituencies, including in comparison to those at other colleges and universities, and inform our ongoing equity and inclusion efforts. I am grateful to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Human Resources for their support of this important project — and to our faculty for already completing the survey last fall. This is a very busy time for all, and I appreciate your participation. Please do complete the survey.

Support for DEI Initiatives: I am particularly proud that our work has reached beyond the bounds of our campus and inspired philanthropy. Thanks to generous leadership gifts, we will launch a Thriving, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Fund to provide supplementary financial support to faculty, staff, and student organizations and groups that have creative ideas for how to strengthen and advance our shared goals.

Facilitating Dialogue: This week, we will launch a pilot for the Community Dialogue Facilitation Network (CDFN), a cohort of faculty, staff, and students who will learn how to build, strengthen, and use facilitation skills to manage difficult dialogues. The pilot will be led by facilitation experts Matthew Freeman and David Campt. Feedback from this pilot will ensure the CDFN matches our community’s needs and aspirations before recruiting its first class later this year.

Alliance for Racial Equity: This year, the University became a founding institutional member of the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA), convened by the USC Race and Equity Center. LACRELA comprises 51 liberal arts colleges and universities committed to developing and achieving equity goals, fostering campus climates that are inclusive for people of color and other underrepresented groups, and offering shared educational resources and tools for faculty, staff, and administrators. This year, our LACRELA membership will provide professional development and learning opportunities for faculty, staff, and administrators on a range of topics from leading productive conversations across difference to recruiting, retaining, and providing leadership development for faculty and staff of color. We will also have institutional access to the Prism Network, a recruiting platform designed to aid search committees in recruiting qualified applicants of color for faculty and staff positions.

Institutional History: In the coming weeks we will share research reports that are being completed about the lives and legacies of Reverend Robert Ryland and Douglas Southall Freeman. In addition to sharing these reports with the community, we will also convene a series of community conversations about them. More information will be forthcoming on these reports and community events.

You can learn more about our programs, progress, and resources by visiting equity.richmond.edu .

Ensuring the University lives up to its potential as a truly inclusive community where all can fully participate and thrive will take continuous effort; I am confident that, together, we will continue moving toward this community to which we aspire. Thank you for all the ways each of you contributes to this worthy shared endeavor.

Sincerely,

Ronald A. Crutcher
President