June 18, 2021
Dear Members of the Connecticut College Community,
Tomorrow is Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating June 19, 1865, the date enslaved communities in Texas finally received word—two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation—that the Civil War had ended and that they were now free. What began as a local Texas tradition has grown into a nationwide observance recognized in 49 states and the District of Columbia. On Wednesday, Congress voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, and on Thursday, President Biden signed it into law.
It is a day with a profound lesson of “freedom deferred and then found,” as Kevin Young, the Mellon Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, has suggested. We want to encourage all of you to take time tomorrow to reflect on the meaning of this day in your own way, through readings, stories, food, or music. If you are on campus or living nearby, you can attend the launch of the New London Community Dream Market and the Juneteenth Jubilation celebration taking place from 4-7 p.m. on Mercer Street in New London. There are also online resources you can explore, among them, the virtual exhibition, Juneteenth: A Story of Resilience, created by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
We also want to take this opportunity to provide a summary of the College’s progress in advancing our strategic goal of full participation. A little over a year ago, following the murder of George Floyd, we wrote a letter outlining our plan to promote anti-racist education in our community as part of our commitment to full participation. This included ten goals that expanded the list of action items published in the College’s Equity and Inclusion Action Plan. We are pleased to report that in the past year our community has worked to advance every one of these goals. Below is a summary:
Anti-Racist Education in Campus Safety and Law Enforcement
The Student Life Division reallocated two staff positions in Campus Safety to create two new student support specialists who will work collaboratively with safety officers and other campus staff to address student issues during the evening and late night hours. Connecticut College is the first among its peer institutions to adopt this enhanced approach to community wellbeing.
The Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion and the Dean of Academic Support designed a comprehensive anti-bias training for Campus Safety officers and implemented the training in fall 2020. The Department continues to enhance its education efforts in the areas of anti-bias and anti-racism.
The Mayor of New London asked John McKnight to chair an intergenerational task force, the New London Public Safety Policy Review Committee, in the summer of 2020, with Mary Savage, Director of Campus Safety, and Clayton Potter, Community Learning Coordinator, serving as representatives. The group concluded its work in January 2021 with a report to the New London Mayor and City Council. Several recommendations are currently being implemented, including a significant budget increase for the city’s Human Services Department. This article contains detailed information.
Our public lecture series Conversations on Race, in partnership with The Day, continued during the pandemic with a dynamic virtual event in January 2021 focused on racial bias in policing. Guests included Debo Adegbile ’91 and a group of local panelists providing national context on the issues of police and community relations. Conversations on Race will continue in the 2021-22 academic year.
Anti-Racist Education in Teaching and Learning
Students, staff, and faculty completed a required online training program that provided foundational concepts about diversity, equity, and inclusion. The EverFi training modules, completed by the majority of campus in 2021, will be offered annually to new community members. Additional content will be created to expand educational opportunities in the coming year.
A new graduation requirement on Social Difference and Power was established with the Class of 2024. More than 60 courses in the College catalogue are now tagged with this designation.
The DIEI professional staff offered a new student orientation programming focused on bias, anti-Black, and anti-BIPOC racism. The staff also delivered a new module for the First-Year Seminars on developing effective behaviors as allies in the work of social justice.
Many campus academic departments and offices created statements of solidarity with the BIPOC community, with links to educational resources. These included student leaders; faculty and staff allies; the department of Psychology; Student Counseling Services; and the resources found on this page. The Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion will be collating all these resources into a single comprehensive guide to be posted on its website this summer.
Anti-Racism and Campus Climate
The College disseminated the national Higher Education Data Sharing (HEDS) Consortium campus climate survey this past spring. After receiving the full report from HEDS this summer, including comparative data from other institutions, we will share the results with the campus community in the fall.
The DIEI team established a committee of student, staff, and faculty representatives to review the College’s bias policies and protocols and make recommendations for improvement. An anticipated shift will be toward providing bias education as a preventive measure and refining modes of reporting. The committee’s work is still underway.
Reflecting on our collective work is vital at the end of this year of crisis and loss, when questions of racial equity and justice were foremost in our minds. And while we mark progress in our efforts, we also acknowledge that we have far to go to live up to our ideal of full participation, where all members of our campus are able to thrive and contribute meaningfully to the flourishing of others. May this Juneteenth holiday be an occasion to reflect, recommit, and return to this work with renewed vigor as we come together again as a community in the fall.
Interim Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion