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Update From the Anti-Racism Task Force Chairs

June 10, 2021

As we come to the close of this academic year, we are pleased to share an update on the progress of the Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTF). The final report and new website for the ARTF will be released in the coming weeks and will include detailed information on the recommendations and progress to date. In the meantime, we wanted to share this brief update and important milestones.

Becoming an anti-racist campus requires constant vigilance and a permanent commitment. This year, we have seen a solid beginning, with many early actions and budget commitments that will ensure the work continues. Fully addressing structural racism at Drexel will take time, and the launch of these initiatives is only the start. Having an ongoing structure of review and transparent systems of accountability will be key to our success as a community.

ARTF Final Report Update

A total of 120 people participated in the 11 sub-committees of the ARTF, representing 30 colleges, schools and administrative offices. The Community Collaborations Committee ensured that community voices were part of several subcommittees, as well as the 21CP Solutions review of the Drexel Police Department. Our thanks to everyone who served on the subcommittees, who met with senior leadership to discuss recommendations and actions, who joined conversations in their colleges and schools organized by their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) representatives, who brought their passion and enthusiasm to the first incredible year of the Center for Black Culture, and who insisted on holding our campus to a higher standard. Each of the subcommittees produced a summary final report and a total of approximately 200 detailed recommendations. This information will be made available on the new ARTF website, where we will also track our progress toward the recommendations.

Over the past several months, the subcommittees met to discuss their recommendations with senior leadership – President John Fry, Executive Vice President, Treasurer and Chief Operating Officer Helen Bowman, and Executive Vice President and Nina Henderson Provost Paul Jensen – and the individual subcommittee co-chairs are now in the process of meeting with the leaders of the units that will be responsible for confirming and implementing the recommendations. The recommendations were also shared with the Board of Trustees. These discussions have been frank and open. Many of the recommendations are already moving forward in their respective offices, while others will begin to be implemented in the coming year. For some recommendations, further discussions with University leaders are necessary and will take place in the coming weeks and months. All progress will be demonstrated on the ARTF website.

The recommendations from the ARTF subcommittees have also now been integrated into Drexel’s new Strategic Plan, so there is a transparent process for aligning the ARTF recommendations with the Strategic Plan implementation workstreams. We will ensure that those ARTF recommendations that don’t neatly fit into the Strategic Plan workstreams will also be monitored for progress.

Achievements and Milestones to Date

There have been many milestones this year, some of which already build on recommendations from the subcommittees. Below are just a few of the most recent ones.

  • The release of the Drexel Police Department review by 21CP Solutions responds to questions our community raised a year ago and provides a blueprint for addressing one of the key recommendations from the Community Engagement subcommittee: reimagining public safety at Drexel. We have now moved from study and review to implementation, with Senior Vice Provost and Chief Wellness Officer Marla Gold, MD, leading this next phase of work.
  • Drexel will observe Juneteenth, a now established University holiday, on Friday, June 18, this year. The Office of Equality and Diversity and the Center for Black Culture are hosting a panel conversation in commemoration of Juneteenth on June 16 at 11 a.m. Click here to register via Zoom.
  • A formalized and centralized approach to policy across the University with a specific focus on DEI was approved by the President’s Cabinet and will be housed in the Office of Compliance, Privacy and Internal Audit. The recruitment of a policy administrator who will put a DEI lens on existing and new policies and procedures is in process. The policy administrator will support the formation of a Policy Council that will include students, faculty and professional staff and kick-off the newly approved policy review and comment process. A new policy management system will serve as the vehicle for this shift in the University’s approach to policies.
  • The Provost’s Office is currently reviewing applications for the new position of Vice Provost of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which will ensure a continuing focus on DEI work in regards to academics and faculty recruitment, retention and advancement.
  • Three new faculty have been hired for the Africana Studies Program in the College of Arts and Sciences; they will be joining the University in the fall. These hires were part of a broader cluster hire effort with Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and the Dornsife School of Public Health.
  • The Dornsife School of Public Health has officially established The Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements and Population Health Equity. Opening in Fall 2021, the Center will be led by inaugural Director Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH, an assistant professor at Dornsife. The school will also launch a search this summer for two new tenure-track faculty whose work will be aligned with the aims of the Center. The Center will integrate and address the many ways in which structural racism and inequities impact health, including the critical roles of history, systems, policies, and the environment.
  • Funds have been identified to add new staff in the Drexel Counseling Center, which will increase the mental health support for students.
  • New staff will also be added to the Office of Equality and Diversity to further support DEI efforts and help address reported issues and concerns.
  • Progress has been made increasing the self-reported ethnic diversity of the Board of Trustees, and the ethnic diversity is now 17%, up from 12% a year ago.
  • Many colleges and schools have appointed associate deans for DEI and, along with administrative offices, have also formed DEI committees, which are now brought together by Executive Director of Diversity and Inclusive Culture Patience Ajoff-Foster, PhD. These DEI partner meetings ensure there is alignment between OED and the academic and administrative units.
  • The first DEI enterprise learning module required for all employees has now been posted in Career Pathway, with corresponding roundtable discussions scheduled June 23 and July 21 from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. This module is just the beginning and one component of a new and robust DEI curriculum for faculty, professional staff and students.

Next Steps

We are finalizing the ARTF final report and look forward to sharing it with the University community in the coming weeks. We will welcome your feedback on the ARTF final recommendations through town hall discussions in collaboration with the strategic planning process, as well as other community sharing discussions over the next several months. The “Towards an Anti-Racist University” virtual roundtable discussion being held on June 23 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., as part of the new DEI enterprise learning module for Drexel faculty and professional staff, will feature a conversation with senior Drexel leaders about the University’s anti-racism efforts from the past year, plans and updates from the work of the ARTF. Faculty and professional staff can register for this event via Career Pathway.

With best wishes and thanks for your partnership in this important work,

Aroutis Foster, Kim Gholston, Lucy Kerman and Subir Sahu