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Campus & Community - Society & Culture

Stronger Advocates and Better Partners on Anti-Racism

July 17, 2020

The following message was sent to the University community from Drexel President John Fry:

Dear Students and Colleagues:

I am writing to update you on where we stand in advancing the anti-racism agenda that I laid out last month. I am deeply committed to creating an anti-racist community at Drexel where all students, faculty, and professional staff know they are seen for their individual skills and talents, and not judged through the lens of preconceived racist notions, thoughts or beliefs. As a university, we are equipped to tackle racism by educating our community and practicing the behaviors we value.

Anti-Racism Task Force Co-chairs, Report Card

I’m pleased to announce that Kim Gholston, vice president and chief diversity officer, has assembled an extraordinary group of co-chairs for the working committees of the Task Force. I’m grateful to everyone who has agreed to provide leadership for this important work. A complete list of the committees and co-chairs can be found here, and the committee work will be launched this month.

In the meantime, I have heard the many requests from across our community for metrics and accountability. I am in complete agreement: We must develop and share a baseline of where we are and set goals for where we need to go as a community. With Kim‘s leadership, we will be moving ahead with two efforts that together will hold us accountable.

First, working with Institutional Research, we are developing a report card that will lay out the baseline data on such key indicators as admissions and financial aid, and faculty and professional staff recruitment, retention and promotion. These metrics will be public and transparent, and we will provide regular updates on our progress in building trust within our community through actions that promote anti-racist values and behavior.

Second, to assist with measuring the impact of our anti-racism efforts, we are developing a campus-wide climate survey on the current state of the University and experiences with racism. This, too, will be updated regularly, so we are transparent about progress and areas of continuing concern as we work to dismantle racism at Drexel.

Going forward, you will hear about this work directly from the Task Force co-chairs. The committees will provide regular written and video updates, host listening sessions, and will be available to everyone in the Drexel community. You can reach the co-chairs and any of the committee leaders at anti-racism@drexel.edu.

Center for Black Culture Interim Director Named, Rush Building Readied

As we move forward to develop the plan for the Center for Black Culture, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Shardé Johnson as interim director of the Center. Shardé has been part of the Drexel community since 2009, working in multiple offices within Student Life. In collaboration with Subir Sahu, senior vice president for Student Success, Shardé will lead a steering committee to develop the Center’s mission and ensure that it serves as a home to all Drexel students, faculty and professional staff, while increasing knowledge of the people, histories, and culture of the African diaspora and its many contributions to the world.

The first floor of the Rush Building on 34th Street will be the home for the Center for Black Culture; renovation efforts on this space are now underway. I walked through the Rush space yesterday and am excited about the possibilities for the Center. We are working towards having the Center open when students return in the fall. Anyone interested in participating in planning for the Center for Black Culture should email anti-racism@drexel.edu.

Drexel Police Department Review

This week, we began to detail the work of the independent review of the Drexel University Police Department. Charles H. Ramsey and his firm, 21CP Solutions, will bring broad expertise and a national perspective to this important effort. MacKenzie Luke, associate vice president for Student Success, will lead the Police Review Advisory Committee that will work with 21CP Solutions. The advisory committee will include students, faculty and professional staff.

As with the Anti-Racism Task Force, there will be opportunities for members of the Drexel community — as well as our neighbors — to give direct input, share experiences with the Drexel police, and contribute their perspectives to the review. We are committed to asking the hard questions: how students, faculty, and professional staff have interacted with Drexel police; under what circumstances our police officers consider the use of force; and how the Drexel Police Department interacts with Philadelphia police. We will also look at the budget that supports the Drexel Police Department to ensure it is appropriate and that those functions beyond public safety — particularly relating to mental health supports and other preventive services for campus and community — are positioned and fully funded.

Our goal in taking on this independent review is to address any potential problematic behaviors and practices, and ultimately strengthen the Drexel Police Department. Our police department provides the basic public safety that our campus and community require. Drexel police provide an essential service to students, faculty, professional staff and neighbors, and we value and respect their work. We expect that the Police Department’s treatment of Black and brown students, faculty and professional staff is at all times respectful and free from racism or bias. Similarly, we expect that residents and citizens visiting our campus and living in the neighborhoods nearby are not profiled or singled out on the basis of their race. We will look to this independent review of the Drexel Police Department to ensure that our expectations are met.

I hear many calling for more transparency in our public safety efforts, and I acknowledge we can always do more to build trust and understanding between the Drexel community and our police. As part of the 21CP review, we will assess communications protocols, with postings of the department’s policies and trainings, and regular reports on police activities.

I also want you to know that the University will no longer provide donations or sponsorships to the Philadelphia Police Foundation. Our contributions in the past have been restricted to sponsorships for their annual fundraiser. The last sponsorship was in 2019.

I want to reiterate my commitment to the safety, professional growth and well-being of Drexel’s Black students, faculty and professional staff. While the work ahead may feel daunting at times, I am confident that this will be a time of extraordinary growth for all of us — certainly, for me — as we engage in honest self-reflection and courageous conversations. I am also confident that, through this, we will become stronger advocates and better partners, ready to lead not just our University but a country that is crying out for a compassionate and fair-minded citizenry.

Sincerely,

John Fry

President

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