Next Steps Toward Dialogue and Change
Dear members of the Northwestern community,
Thank you for sharing with me your letters regarding my response to recent campus protests. I want to acknowledge that our conversations come at a moment of intense pain within our community, exacerbated by the relentless global pandemic that continues to disproportionately affect Black, Brown and Indigenous populations.
I am unwavering in my support of free speech, protest without intimidation or violence, and, most importantly, the safety of everyone in our community. I want nothing more than to work with all students, faculty, staff and alumni of Northwestern to move our University forward on the path to equity and justice. Your passion for improving our school in every way possible is something I value and share.
We acknowledge serious and pressing issues in policing across our nation, and we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that our campus police protect every member of the Northwestern community, especially those who are most vulnerable. No one should feel threatened or unsafe, and no one should be singled out or treated differently on the basis of race or background.
During this summer’s long-overdue national reckoning with systemic racism and structural anti-Blackness, our senior leadership team announced a range of commitments to crucial efforts in support of Black lives. We have already made progress toward these ends, as noted in a September letter to the community. But our work continues.
I want to now share some further updates:
We are establishing a new community safety oversight advisory board, even as we proceed with the external review of the Northwestern University Police Department (NUPD). The new advisory board will be composed of faculty, staff and student representatives who are tasked with strengthening relationships with our public safety team and with the campus community, fostering transparency and trust, and making recommendations to leadership. Senior leaders will share information on this initiative as our plans are finalized.
The review of NUPD by external consultants will continue through this fall, and we will share a public report when the review is complete. We also are finding ways to provide more information regularly about the inner workings of NUPD, including an overview of its budget by November 16.
At last week’s student Community Dialogue, we committed to hold regular meetings and deep conversations with student groups, including NU Community Not Cops. In addition to this, other senior leaders and I are scheduling a series of conversations with the larger Northwestern community on a range of issues surrounding public safety, well-being and equity. These will be opportunities to listen to one another. It is crucial that our efforts to rectify instances of anti-Blackness and other discrimination be informed by the perspectives of our students and the world-class expertise of our faculty and staff. I look forward to engaging with, and learning from, you all.
You will soon receive information on how to join these discussions. To the extent possible, we intend to hold many of these meetings in-person, with masks and social-distancing. We also will have options for virtual meetings. We want to move toward true constructive dialogue that leads to mutual understanding and lasting change.
I believe that, in a shared spirit of humility and respect, we can all work together to create a better and more inclusive University for our Black peers and students, as well as for all members of our Northwestern family.