Recommitting Ourselves to a More Just and Equitable Colby
Each day we listen to and read about protests happening around the world, and we too have joined with so many of you in being engaged in our communities to foster positive change. The drumbeat of pain and suffering isn’t going away. Those in the streets who are sacrificing their time, bodies, and energy want the world to learn about and not forget that systematic racism and acts of white supremacy continue to plague our country, our lives, and our ability to be our best selves. They want us to acknowledge that no matter where we work, study, or worship, there are centuries-old structures and policies meant to exclude and disempower Black people and other marginalized groups. They want us to recognize the ways we have been complicit and have caused harm. More importantly, they want us to use our resources and act now.
We are writing to affirm that we have heard the voices and experiences of our marginalized communities, particularly our Black faculty, students, and staff, encouraging us to rise to the occasion to be better, to do more, and to lead. We are recommitting ourselves as leaders to work more assertively to make additional changes that not only realize our commitment to creating a more inclusive community but also affirm our desire to work actively to become an anti-racist college.
We recognize Colby wasn’t built to include the diversity of our current community and thus we still have in place structures and policies that negatively impact groups of students, staff, and faculty. There have been times of significant change in the College’s history, often catalyzed by broad-scale social movements for greater equality. While those changes might not have been enough to create the College we want for today, we must also recognize the opportunity we have at this critical moment to raise our collective aspirations and to work together for a more just and equitable Colby.
This won’t be easy. There will be challenges, and we will make mistakes along the way. What we do know is that the racism and persistent racist structures that rob many of us of our liberty, freedom, and dignity have gone on too long.
Five years ago, the Presidential Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offered a robust and comprehensive set of recommendations. While we have implemented many of those recommendations, pursued initiatives, and improved systems in some areas, there is much work ahead. Some of it has already begun. We expanded our outreach to enroll many more students of color. In 2015, 383 students at Colby identified as students of color. This fall we expect to enroll 592 students who identify as students of color, an increase of nearly 55 percent, and the highest number in Colby’s history. During that same period, the number of students who identify as Black or African American has increased by 116 percent. We instituted mandatory anti-racism workshops for every staff and faculty member, and those began this week; we are reinstating a required reading and discussion of a book for all first-year students that will focus on race; we increased resources in Counseling Services that included the hiring of a part-time Black counselor; we are in the final process of hiring a dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion; and we have expanded the First-Generation Low-Income Program for Student Success, made all the more important because of the ways we have worked to shift the demographics of our student population.
We have worked to diversify our faculty as well. In fact, this is the first year that Colby will open with gender parity in the faculty for those who have identified themselves as female or male; in 2015 the faculty identified as 45 percent female and 55 percent male. We also now have many more faculty who identify as transgender or non-binary. In 2015 our faculty included 22 people who identified as faculty of color, and this year we will open with 30 faculty of color, a 36-percent increase. We will continue to work to diversify our faculty and the curricular areas in which they teach.
We are also attaching for your review the second annual progress report, which outlines additional progress made from the task force’s recommendations.
As we work to re-open the College, we know our individual and collective work toward being and becoming anti-racist is paramount. We intend to do more and look forward to your return as we work together to make the changes we all want to see, the changes we know every member of this community deserves.
David A. Greene
Provost and Dean of Faculty
Karlene Burrell-McRae ’94
Dean of the College