Followup to Courageous Conversations

July 31, 2020
Front of Hammond Hall with sign and white flower trees

President Lapidus shared the following information with the university community on July 31, 2020:

Dear Fitchburg State Community:

The three Courageous Conversations in June focusing on the theme “All Lives Can’t Matter Until Black Lives Matter” were a powerful reiteration that the Fitchburg State community is committed to promoting equity and creating a culture where everyone can thrive. At the same time, the institution identified a number of areas on which we need to work.

You may find the recordings of the three summer 2020 Courageous Conversations on the institution’s YouTube Channel:

Know that I am listening and attending to the experiences you shared, and have taken seriously the requests made of Fitchburg State University. One focus area that came up is resources for allies to learn about and develop skills to be anti-racist. In addition to the training workshops for students and employees that will be happening during the academic year, the Library has posted a set of anti-racism resources: Another area of focus was the diversification of the curriculum. Academic Affairs intends to continue to provide training to faculty on this topic and sponsor roundtable discussions about how to make the curriculum and teaching more inclusive. We also heard that the Center for Diversity and Inclusion needs to review its mission and approach. Plans are in place to hire a consultant with expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion to assist with the evolution of the Center.

The Courageous Conversations and the dialogues with students, faculty, and staff of varying identities during the Spring 2019 semester have presented 5 overarching themes.

  • Continue and enhance transparency and communication
  • Examine our policies, procedures, protocols, and curriculum for implicit bias
  • Achieve higher levels of representative hiring
  • Create safe spaces, and amplify the voices of and promote a sense of belonging in our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQ, and differently abled students and employees
  • Train students and employees around how to be anti-racist, for example, how to "go there" in class and other situations, microaggressions, implicit bias, etc.

Action items like those mentioned above are already in process in the short-and long-term to address these themes. Attached are some examples of planned and in-process actions in support of each theme.

In addition, the campus is in the midst of a rigorous strategic planning process. Through this process we articulated our shared belief that an inclusive, integrated, and equitable University is the clearest path to social and economic prosperity for all and therefore, the ultimate public good that we can offer. The strategic plan draft embraces Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Equity Agenda. This Agenda challenges public higher education to enhance the economic and social mobility for all citizens, but particularly for those that have historically been underserved and underrepresented, especially students of color.

In further support of the Equity Agenda, Fitchburg State has embedded the principles of education justice, being a student-ready campus, and inclusive excellence as pillars of the strategic plan. These strategic initiatives will rely on strengthening and better coordinating our ongoing efforts with the many partners on campus committed to this important work, including Leading for Change, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the Black Student Union, the Latin American Student Organization, the Gay Straight Alliance, and others. More information to come as the plan is adopted and implementation planned.

As President, I have made a commitment to devote the resources required to elevate the principles and the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to the forefront of this institution. I am counting on all administrators, faculty, staff, students, and alumni to join me in challenging injustice and embracing DEI as a foundation of Fitchburg State. There is much opportunity for us to be vigilant change agents. The consequences of not acting, not speaking up, are too great, and not consistent with the values of Fitchburg State University. I invite the entire community to work together to ensure that all Falcons are enriched by the experience of learning and working in a diverse, welcoming, and inclusive environment.

Together, we will welcome each community member’s authentic self into the space.

Richard S. Lapidus, PhD

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