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Campus & Community

Update From The Chairs: Anti-Racism Committee Work Is Underway

August 10, 2020

The following message was sent to the Drexel community on Aug. 10 from Anti-Racism Task Force Co-Chairs Kim Gholston, Subir Sahu, Aroutis Foster, and Lucy Kerman: 

Dear Drexel students, faculty and professional staff,

The chairs of the Anti-Racism Task Force and the co-chairs of its 11 committees have held our first two meetings, and our work has begun in earnest. In this message, we are pleased to update you on the status of this work and our efforts to improve communication with the University community.

We Hear You

Through your phone calls, emails and social media posts, we are hearing many questions and concerns about Drexel, stories of pain and distrust, and calls for immediate action. We hear you. We know there is work to do at the institution, and we are committed to making the changes necessary to ensure Drexel is living up to the vision of inclusion and access that was at the core of its founding and remains central to its mission today.

There are some things we can do right away, and in this and future messages, we will share early actions. There are other, more complicated issues that will be addressed as part of the committee process we have launched (more about that below). And some of you have raised issues that were not part of the original scope of this task force; plans to respond to and address those concerns are still being formulated.

We believe there is value in collective action and shared solutions. While we hear the impatience, we also want to create a future that genuinely reflects the many voices across our University. This work deserves to be deliberate and thoughtful. 

In the meantime, we are working to respond directly to specific questions and concerns that are being raised, whether about incidents of racial injustice or the Task Force work. We are offering weekly, virtual “office hours” with the chairs of the Anti-Racism Task Force, every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. Please email anti-racism@drexel.edu to set up an appointment. You can report incidents of harassment, discrimination or other forms of bias to the Office of Equality and Diversity (OED) by email or phone, or make an anonymous report to the University’s Compliance Hotline; please see the OED website for the options available to you. The “Contact Us” section at the end of this message has other relevant contact information.

News: University Holiday Policy Recognizes Juneteenth, Indigenous Peoples Day

As part of Drexel’s pledge to dismantle racism in University policies and practices, the University has revised its Holiday Policy to designate Juneteenth (June 19) and Indigenous Peoples Day (formerly Columbus Day) as recognized, annual University holidays. These holidays will be observed by all members of the Drexel community, including the College of Medicine, Drexel University Online and the Academy of Natural Sciences. Please read the full announcement in DrexelNow about this policy change.

Update on Committee Work

The Anti-Racism Task Force now has an online home on the Office of Equality and Diversity website, where you will find the 11 committees and their co-chairs listed, as well as links to previous communications about the task force and an “Announcements” feed where past and future messages will be housed. The committee co-chairs are contacting their members, and we will post the full membership of the committees once they are finalized.

Why 11 committees? As mentioned above, we have heard loud and clear from the University community that there are systemic issues around racial equity, inclusion and justice at the institution that need to be addressed. Your feedback informed the broad topic areas that make up the 11 committees. The committees themselves, in the weeks ahead, will be tasked with drilling down and sharpening their focus. It’s important that this not be a top-down process, so that the committees are empowered to explore their respective areas with a critical eye, letting short- and long-term targets come into focus organically.

The committee co-chairs will organize their meetings in the coming week, and we will report regularly on their progress -- by email updates such as this one, as well as other channels. We are gratified that the committees represent the breadth of the University, including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, professional staff, and alumni. Our thanks to everyone who has agreed to serve. 

Incorporating Community Perspectives

While the work of the Anti-Racism Task Force is mainly looking inward at the structure and systems within Drexel, we know that the University does not operate in a bubble. We exist within and as part of the West Philadelphia community. Therefore, we are exploring ways to incorporate the thoughts, voices and concerns of the community to ensure that the resident perspective and the impact of our University on the local neighborhoods are considered. Karen Lewis, assistant vice president of external affairs in the Office of Government and Community Relations, will lead this effort. 

WKDU Interview With Kim Gholston and Tianna Williams

For a frank conversation about Black student and staff experiences at Drexel, the work of the Anti-Racism Task Force, the Black Lives Matter Movement, police reform and more, check out Drexel student Jane-janette Ansah’s interview with Kim Gholston, Drexel’s vice president and chief diversity officer, and Tianna Williams, College of Engineering student and co-chair of the Anti-Racism Task Force’s Undergraduate Life Committee, for the Good Morning, Neighbors (GMN) show. GMN, currently in its sixth season, is a 30-minute interview series that features community leaders involved in neighborhood non-profits, highlighting their work and their place within Philadelphia's larger non-profit landscape. Ansah, a rising junior and a communication major in the College of Arts and Sciences, is hosting Season 6 with a focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and Black history. You can listen to Ansah’s insightful interview with Gholston and Williams on SoundCloud, Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

They say that every journey begins with a first step. While we know the journey may be long, we have made that first step, and we’re on our way. Please stay in touch and share your concerns and also your solutions, your good ideas, and your willingness to do the hard work together. 

CONTACT US

For questions, concerns, or requests, please email anti-racism@drexel.edu to make an appointment to meet with the co-chairs of the Anti-Racism Task Force. Office Hours are Wednesdays from 3-4 p.m.

To report discrimination, harassment and other bias incidents, email the Office of Equality and Diversity at oed@drexel.edu or call 215.895.1405.

Experiencing or witnessing racial injustice can have a direct impact on mental well-being.

To talk to someone from the Student Counseling Center, email counseling@drexel.edu.

Drexel is committed to providing care for our faculty and professional staff coping with discrimination, hate and violence. To talk to someone from the Employee Assistance Program, call 1.888.628.4824.