Dear Campus Community,
Over the recent weeks, the university has received many individual emails, phone calls, reports and social media posts on a range of behaviors from insensitive comments to racial slurs. In each case, we have followed our protocols, attempting to gather all relevant information in order to follow up and intervene appropriately. At the time, our priority was to ensure that we collected enough information to intervene and respond; while also making sure that reporting parties were connected to appropriate campus resources should they need or want personal support.
However, we should have taken another step. To the extent that the law allows us, we have not broadly communicated with you about the incidents and shared our thoughts about their collective damage to the Salem State community. To make it clear, the university does not condone or support bias behavior. Salem State strives to create a welcoming environment for all members. We denounce acts of bias or hate and pledge to respond in ways that reinforce our values, prioritize education and pursue personal accountability.
To that end, the university is taking the following action steps to deepen our commitment to social justice and ensure that we are clear that Black Lives Matter and that we must all engage in this important work.
- Intervention with cases involving bias behavior
- Any information received about a student potentially exhibiting racially insensitive or bias behavior is reviewed by the university bias response team via the bias incident report form. The university defines a bias incident as any act, conduct or communication that reasonably is understood to demean, degrade, threaten, or harass an individual or group based on an actual or perceived characteristic. Community members are encouraged to continue to share information through the incident report form so that we have an opportunity to intervene and educate.
- The bias response team will connect with key parties to designate appropriate next steps, which may include a further investigation, direct communication with the alleged offender(s), informal follow up, and educational opportunities for alleged offender(s), consideration of formal charges through the university disciplinary process, with sanctions up to and including suspension from the university.
- Increased dialogue
- Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Carla Panzella, PhD and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Sean Bennett, EdD are working together to convene an anti-racist working group. This group will work closely with Black members of the Salem State community to immediately examine university policies and practices. Concurrently, we will be asking each area of the university to reflect on policies and procedures and how they might intentionally or unintentionally have a systemic negative impact on Black students and other students of color’s belonging and success.
- This fall, the LEAD office (Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy, Diversity) will launch a success initiative for students of color who wish to opt into the program. Additionally, they will partner with the inclusive excellence office to offer a number of programs and educational opportunities for members of the community looking to expand their understanding of racial justice.
- Education and healing
- Inclusive excellence has begun hosting ‘NCBI Listening and Sharing Spaces’ for Salem State employees and students through the summer and plan to continue offering this space in the fall and spring. Using NCBI principles, ‘Listening and Sharing Spaces’ provide an opportunity in a caring space for members of the Salem State community to share their feelings and reactions regarding race-related events taking place throughout our nation. Additionally, healing circles for and with the Salem State Black community, hosted by the Black Employee Resource Group (BERG), will continue into the fall.
- Inclusive excellence will continue to provide resources, including those on anti-Black racism, dismantling white supremacy and Black healing indefinitely. In connection to the resources provided, ‘Critical Learning Spaces on Anti-Racism’ are currently being offered to employees and will continue into the fall and next spring. In addition, direct consultation, restorative-based events and NCBI workshops, ‘Welcoming Diversity’ and ‘Finding Common Ground,’ will continue to be offered to all employees and students.
As a campus, we must do better to truly become a community that is inclusive and caring. This is a time reaffirm our commitment to the values of inclusivity, decency and the dignity of all people. We must uphold a standard of care and respect in both words and actions that lives up to our values and our institutional diversity statement, where we all commit that diversity is part of our mission, history, community, academics, and our collective futures.
As a community we must work together, to build bridges and respect across differences to create a campus where we all can thrive.
Carla Panzella, PhD
Associate Vice President and Dean of Students
Sean Bennett, EdD
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion