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Upcoming Opportunities for Campus-Wide Dialogue and Partnership

Dear members of the Northwestern community,

The last several months have been a tumultuous time, both for our country and for our University community. We have heard from many of you – students, faculty and staff – about the need for change and for new measures to make Northwestern a better, fairer and more equitable institution. We share your commitment to making our University a place where all can feel welcome and all can thrive.

Last night, we attended, virtually, a presentation by Professor Angela Davis on “The State of the Black Union.” We want to thank the student group For Members Only (FMO) for organizing and hosting this event, which was an example of programming that moves forward important conversations about race, diversity and the very nature of human community. It also encourages us to look inward, ask difficult questions and learn from one another, which is the essential mission of a university such as ours.

We’ve seen a wide range of events in recent months from faculty and staff across the University encouraging us to examine the impacts of systemic racism. These events include a timely panel co-hosted by Northwestern’s Health Professions Advising and Multicultural Student Affairs, where scholars discussed how racism has made marginalized communities more susceptible to COVID-19.

To build on the work students, faculty and staff already are doing on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, we would like to update you on several key initiatives that you will hear more about in the days ahead.

Listening and Learning

As we promised in October, we all are committed to holding ongoing, meaningful conversations with members of the Northwestern community. The goal of these conversations is simple — we want to understand your perspectives and discuss how to make our University better. We hope these dialogues will provoke meaningful engagement and deep conversation and lead to sustained progress.

  • Campus Conversations
    Beginning Nov. 23, the four of us will launch an on-going series of dialogues, called “Campus Conversations,” covering a range of issues surrounding public safety, well-being and equity. 

    We will hold six sessions with faculty, staff and students, and each group will have the opportunity to meet with us in-person (with masks and social distancing) on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses, as well as a virtual option for those who cannot be in-person. Dates and details of those sessions will be announced next week. 

  • Ongoing Dialogue
    We have met with members of the Northwestern Black Alumni Association, with whom we discussed how we can continue to engage our Black alumni in our fight against anti-Blackness and racial inequity. We have reached out to and are arranging to meet with the student leaders of NU Community Not Cops (NUCNC) to develop a framework for dialogue and create progress together.

    Additionally, outside of the newly launched “Campus Conversations,” we will prioritize conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion in upcoming meetings with faculty, staff and students. And we will participate in a student-led Community Dialogue with Associated Student Government next Wednesday, Nov. 18.

  • Senior Leadership Anti-Racism Training
    This month, we personally completed, along with approximately 50 senior leaders from across the University, a shared learning experience titled “Actualizing Social Justice at Northwestern: The Leader's Role,” facilitated over the course of several sessions by Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group. During our sessions, we sought to heighten our awareness of our own biases, increase understanding of the structures and systems that perpetuate racism and explore our own responsibility to actualize equity and social justice within our community. These sessions stemmed out of one of the social justice commitments from this summer.

Community Safety Advisory Board

Today, we are announcing the appointment of Clyde Yancy, vice dean for diversity and inclusion and chief of cardiology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, to chair the newly created Community Safety Advisory Board. This advisory board is charged with reimagining and considering the many dimensions of community safety.

It will advise on implementing changes arising from the forthcoming external review of the Northwestern University Police Department (NUPD). This new advisory board will be composed of students, faculty and staff who will be asked to make recommendations to senior leadership on how to improve the well-being of everyone at Northwestern.

Among the board’s responsibilities will be to examine policies, standards and procedures rooted in scholarship and best practices to improve safety on campus, including non-police approaches.

The board also will be asked to analyze our campus climate around community safety, the effectiveness of campus security efforts and the impact of these efforts on the community. They will do so with an emphasis on the experiences of Northwestern’s Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and all marginalized community members.

You can read more about the advisory board and how to get involved here.

Ombudsperson Position

We also will launch this month the search for an ombudsperson, who will lead a professional ombuds office at Northwestern. The ombudsperson will help individuals understand and navigate University resources, policies and formal mechanisms that are available to help resolve their issues, conflicts or concerns. The position acts as a neutral, independent, impartial and confidential resource for faculty, staff and students on all three campuses. The ombudsperson will offer assistance on a broad array of issues, including academic and work-related concerns.

Our thanks to the Northwestern Faculty Senate and all the other members of the Northwestern community who provided their input and examined the potential for this campus resource: the Provost’s Advisory Council for Women Faculty, leaders of the Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council, the Associated Student Government, and the Graduate Leadership and Advisory Council.

NUPD Report

Finally, as we have previously announced, we will publish a report Monday, Nov. 16, explaining the role of NUPD in campus safety, its staffing and partnerships and details about the unit’s budget. Like the advisory board, this shared set of information about NUPD is an important step toward improved transparency and dialogue.

Over the next several months, you will be hearing more from us on topics related to combating anti-Blackness and promoting racial equity, social justice and inclusion within our University. In December, we will share with you a detailed update on the social justice commitments announced in June. Our leaders have been making progress in areas of significance across the University, including the hiring of Robin R. Means Coleman as our incoming vice president and associate provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, which we announced this week.

We recognize that the past several months have been extraordinarily challenging for so many members of our community, especially our BIPOC faculty, staff and students, and we are aware that these challenges will persist in the months ahead. We remain committed to doing the hard work necessary to better understand and enact change in partnership with our community.