Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
As referenced in my message to campus on March 8, earlier this month, the members of the President’s Cabinet and I, along with many others, received a series of letters from students representing the Multi-Identity Based Union (MIBU), which advocates for the needs and in the best interests of students and our identity-based student organizations.
“Letters to the University: A Set of Demands from the Multi-Identity Based Union To the University of Puget Sound Administration and the Broader UPS Community” includes 11 demands that speak to the appointment of a specific individual as vice president for institutional equity and diversity; expansion of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion; creation of a justice and equity center; recommendations regarding campus diversity training; improvements to the discrimination and harassment reporting process; decolonization of academic courses and academic department development; improvements to campus infrastructure and student accommodations; revisions to the university’s Statement on Academic Freedom and the Exercise of Free Speech; and accountability on the part of administrators in responding, in transparent and tangible ways, to the needs that have been expressed.
These substantive and considerable demands deserve our collective attention and call for the university as a whole to advance our shared commitment to equity and justice. The creation of these demands represents a considerable amount of time and effort, and also the pain, hurt, harm, and frustration that members of our campus experience when we fail to live up to our ideals as a community.
To best engage this work and honor the intentions expressed on the part of those creating the demands, I responded to the student authors with a choice of dates to meet with me and all members of the Cabinet. The purpose of that meeting, which took place on Monday of this week, was to listen and learn from our students. We must collaborate and consult with one another if we are to create lasting change.
As next steps, the Cabinet and I agreed to:
- Create a webpage to build transparency about the history, progress, and accountability regarding student-led demands.
Members of the Cabinet will take responsibility for drafting a web page that identifies demands made by MIBU and students representing Advocates for Institutional Change (2015) and the Coalition Against Injustice and Racism (2008) and actions taken by the university in response. This draft will be shared with the campus community the week of April 12.
- Hold an open forum to discuss our next steps as a community.
We are working to identify a date before the end of the semester, and I will communicate this to campus as soon as possible. In order to interfere as little as possible with class schedules, we expect this forum to take place in the early evening hours. Unfortunately, it will need to be conducted remotely, but it will be a springboard for what I expect to be a fuller, in-person discussion and connection with one another in the fall.
- Review students’ preferences regarding prioritization of the demands.
Students in attendance at Monday’s meeting talked us through their thoughts on priorities, based on how long they believe the demands will take to accomplish and how attainable they believe they are. They indicated that they would follow up with documentation regarding these priorities, and we look forward to receiving it.
I reached out to MIBU yesterday morning, shortly following the announcement about the appointment of our new vice president for institutional equity and diversity, indicating that I would send a message to the campus community today acknowledging their demands in a more fulsome way and committing publicly to the next steps identified above. Out of respect for and in fairness to all finalists involved in the search process, I am sending this message today as the search process has now concluded.
While we work together as a campus and with the broader community to achieve our shared goals, I acknowledge that there are multiple paths to achieving them, and we may not always be in full agreement about the path forward. The work that is before us to advance our diversity, inclusion, equity, and anti-racism goals is multi-faceted. It involves the hearts, minds, and expertise of our entire campus community. It’s not just that all of us have a role to play; all of us must assume responsibility for learning (and unlearning) and grow together as a community in which all have access to the best that Puget Sound has to offer, and in a manner in which all feel valued, heard, and respected.
We are moving forward in critically important ways against a seemingly ever-present backdrop of a prolonged pandemic, economic uncertainty, and a rapid pace of change that must be embraced if we are to advance our mission of educating students in relevant and meaningful ways today and in the years to come. There are many calls upon our time and attention, but none are as important as creating a strong community that feels pride in who we are and the work that we do. Together.
Isiaah Crawford, Ph.D. | President.