June 12, 2020

President’s Update: CGU’s Response to Protests Around the Nation, World

CGU UPDATE: CGU President Len Jessup discussed the work being done at the university to fight systemic racism. “Please help me keep the conversation, momentum, and our collective action going,” Jessup says in this message.

This week CGU President Len Jessup sent a message to the entire university community that provided an update on the university’s response to calls for action and protests sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers last month.

The message was a followup to a May 31 statement from CGU’s leadership that mourned and condemned Flloyd’s death and underscored the university’s commitment to social justice and equity.

Jessup’s message, which is provided in full below, identified measures now being taken. These measures include the work of the university’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee, a meeting of Jessup with other Southern California university presidents about combatting systemic racism on college campuses, recent public events to provide forums for addressing racism and creating lasting solutions, and other efforts planned in the months ahead.

The message also highlighted some campus resources to assist the CGU community. The links, given in Jessup’s email, are also here:

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Text of the full message:

To: All CGU Students, Faculty, and Staff
From: Office of the President
Subject: Moving Forward: An Update from President Len Jessup

June 11, 2020

CGU Community:

People around the world continue to express their outrage over the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and too many other Black Americans. The protests are shining a light on the necessity to rethink and rebuild racist norms and systems throughout society. Black lives do indeed matter, and so as human beings, we must work together to address systemic racism. To carry on a theme from a message that went out to campus this past week, we must do better.

I would like to share my thoughts and highlight just some of the conversations we are having across the university regarding our commitment to anti-racism and our helping to create real changes to systemic injustice. I hope this prompts all of us to ask what it means for CGU to ‘do better.’

In March, the Board of Trustees approved our strategic plan. This plan is explicitly guided by a core set of values of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and it includes a key goal of fostering an academic community of inclusive excellence. This past week Provost Easton and I also formally tasked the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee to collaborate with us in answering the following questions:

  • How can we do more to attract and retain a diverse body of students, staff, and faculty?
  • How can we do more to support them, their retention, and their success?
  • How can we better infuse diversity and equity into our curricula, structures, and practices?
  • How can we be more transparent in our efforts?

We’ll need help from everyone in answering these questions, identifying gaps, and putting into place actions that will be transformative. We’ve asked this group to engage all of you in giving feedback and enlisting members of the CGU community directly in this effort.

In the past week, we saw programming from Professor Torie Weiston-Serdan, Dean DeLacy Ganley, and a team in the School of Educational Studies. They hosted the virtual symposium, “Critiquing the Tragedy of George Floyd and Identifying Actions for a Future We Want,” that was a powerful call to action and exchange of ideas. On Tuesday, our Career Development Office offered a forum on how to create a more equitable workplace. Tonight, Professor Anna Gonzalez will participate in a symposium on education as a tool for protest and the dismantling of systemic racism.

I worked with DeLacy and others about a month ago to set up a conference call that was held yesterday with more than 15 college and university presidents from throughout Southern California. We discussed ways to combat systemic racism on our campuses and to prepare for the coming school year such that we protect our most vulnerable community members in the face of both the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism. This call was incredibly helpful. We will continue this dialogue to share resources, perspectives, and best practices, as well as to hold each other accountable.

To further advance these conversations, I will reestablish the popular “CGU in Conversation” series so that it focuses this coming year on issues of equity, social justice, anti-racism, and how we can collectively advance this work for our community members and beyond. Along these same lines, I’ve asked Andy Vosko, Associate Provost and Director of Transdisciplinary Studies, to work with others to develop a new transdisciplinary course focusing on issues of systemic racism to lead meaningful, sustainable change in improving the lives of those most affected.

If you feel that you need help, please don’t hesitate to utilize the available services.

  • During the summer, all students have access to Campus Health, which provides 24/7 medical and mental telehealthcare. To register for this service, visit services.claremont.edu/mcaps/
  • All staff and faculty are supported under The Claremont College Employee Assistance Program. For those services, contact the Office of Human Resources or call the OptumHealth line directly at 1-800-234-5465, TDD/TTY Dial 711, and enter the number above.
  • In finding community among fellow students, I recommend following our tremendous Student Life, Diversity & Leadership office in particular, and become a part of the conversation they are leading. Take advantage of the many opportunities they provide. Their work can be found at mycampus.cgu.edu/web/student-life-diversity-and-leadership/home
  • Please also reach out to our Ombudsperson, Tom Kosakowski, if you need to have a safe, confidential conversation with someone about campus matters. Visit his bio page for a link to contact him at cgu.edu/people/tom-kosakowski/

Please remember that we are an incredible, beautifully diverse community of graduate students and scholars, unique to higher education. We are inherently transdisciplinary, and we conduct research that matters, that solves real problems for people in the real world. Now more than ever, we have a lot to offer to those around us. We need the voices, the passion, and the unique talents of our diverse community members to create sustainable change in defeating systemic racism. We are listening to you and hearing your thoughts, concerns, and ideas for moving forward. We have a lot of work in front of us. A clear and profound opposition to racism must become ingrained in who we are. It is part of our responsibility as a global leader in transformative graduate education.

Please help me keep the conversation, momentum, and our collective action going. I will work to do better as an individual and as a leader, and I am certain that the CGU collective will continue to enact change as an institution. I am so incredibly proud of you all and proud to be a part of this team. We will continue to carry this flame forward together, and we will be a beacon for others to follow.

Len

Len Jessup
President
Claremont Graduate University

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