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Supporting Our Black and Brown Community Members

Dear Salem State Students, Colleagues, Alumni, and Friends,

The conditions that have been unfolding in Minnesota are on many of our minds and in our hearts. The trial of Derek Chauvin, the first officer charged with George Floyd’s murder, is expected to conclude as early as next week and we all apprehensively wait for a legally just outcome in the case.

Adding insult to injury, less than 10 miles from that courtroom, 20-year-old Daunte Wright, was fatally shot by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Daunte Wright should be alive today. Adam Toledo should be alive today. As a nation, we just learned of 13-year-old Adam Toldeo, a Latino and seventh grader, also being fatally shot by a police officer in Chicago two weeks ago while he had his hands-up. Instead, their names have been added to a maddeningly long list of Black and brown victims of injustice. 

As I reflect on these most recent events, I have come to realize that there is no adequate university response to more than 400 years of systemic racism and oppression of Black and brown people in the United States of America. Until all incidents of systemic racism are eliminated, the university’s words will feel as if they come too slowly and lack sufficient weight.

However, inadequacy is not an excuse for inaction. I have learned that Salem State Vikings consistently demonstrate a persistence in the fight for social justice that mirrors the traditions of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King Junior, and Fannie Lou Hamer. The work of inclusive excellence is a distributed responsibility across the university, and I am incredibly honored by the opportunity to serve as a partner, cheerleader and/or catalyst for various efforts that have been occurring on campus during the 2020-2021 academic year.

In addition to upcoming inclusive excellence activities, here are just a few of the profoundly powerful projects that we have seen and will continue to see on campus advancing Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion:

  • Advocacy Week 2021: How to Get In Good Trouble
  • Alumni relations initiative expanding network of diverse alumni engaged with SSU
  • Civic engagement grant for anti-racist community-engaged programming, pedagogies, and practices
  • Departmental collaborations with human resources to diversify candidate pools.
  • Earth Day Series of virtual events
  • Engagement with City of Salem Police through City of Salem’s Racial Equity and Justice Task Force.
  • Expansion of LatinX, Black, Asian American, and Pacific Islander heritage month collaborative activity
  • Faculty virtual series on social justice
  • Faculty workshops focused on decentering white supremacy in the curriculum.
  • Identification and acquisition of online training resources that inform employee education on diversity and inclusion (Safe Colleges).
  • Interdisciplinary studies virtual public lecture and discussion series
  • Initiative to assess the impact of race on university policing and conduct
  • Introductory Implicit bias training with the board of trustees to be followed by a more extensive training summer 2021.
  • LEAD, NCBI, ERG, spaces for collaboration, support and education
  • Pilot “Walk in My Shoes” training supporting difference and the LGBTQ+ community.
  • School of Education’s educators of color program
  • University police engaged in bias training

Although not an exhaustive list, these projects are inspired by the commitments of the SSU community towards social justice. They represent the steady drumming of work that must continue in atonement for centuries of inequity. With that, I would also like to commit myself to open office hours next week on both Tuesday, April 20 and Wednesday, April 21  between the hours of 4 – 5 pm. Please email to receive a link to the rooms.

As always, I offer love and light as you grapple not only with the trauma of the deaths in Minnesota and Chicago just to name a few, but the real danger of police interactions that mirror the experience of US Army Lt. Caron Nazario in Virginia this past December. 

Stay safe and continue to support each other. The resources, below, were shared with inclusive excellence partners in the fall. They are included here in hopes that you might find them useful.


Sean T. Bennett, EdD
Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion

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