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Skidmore College
Office of the President

Racial Justice Initiative update

October 7, 2020

Dear Skidmore Community, 
In the four weeks since the Racial Justice Initiative was presented to the community, work has begun on the 12 action items, and I am pleased to provide the first monthly update on our progress toward fulfilling the project’s goals. 
Searches are underway to fill the positions of director of the Office of Student Diversity Programs (OSDP) and the director of The Center, who will also serve as deputy chief diversity officer. Joshua Woodfork, vice president for strategic planning and institutional diversity, and Mariel Martin, associate dean of student affairs, are leading those search efforts. 
The new Board of Trustees Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has been created, with Linda Jackson-Chalmers ’73 serving as the chair. The committee will hold its first meeting next week and participate in Board of Trustees meetings on Oct. 15 and 16. 
The Saratoga Springs task force on Police Reform and Reinvention, which includes members of the Skidmore community, has met several times. Internally, we have begun discussions of how best to support, enhance and strengthen our Campus Safety staff, and how to make sure their relations and interactions with the entire Skidmore community are as positive and supportive as possible. 
On Tuesday evening I joined more than 170 participants in the kickoff session for this week’s In It 5 programming. The scheduled events include “How to Write an Anti-Racism Plan,” “Preparing for an Institutional Diversity Audit” and “Bias Response Case Study.” It is important to note that this is not a “one size fits all” antiracism program. Rather, we are making available resources, guidelines and programs so every unit and department at the College can find the approach and context that best fits their own specific needs and challenges.  
The more we can move toward an embrace of antiracism education, as opposed to a requirement or potentially negative experience, the better. The Racial Justice Initiative articulates this as a highest-level institutional priority and invites each unit on campus to find ways to align with this priority according to their own judgment. 
Upcoming Initiative events include a live, web-based 60-minute reading and conversation with Kevin Young, poet, author and poetry editor at The New Yorker, on Oct. 21. The event, a culmination of a virtual Skidmore residency with students and faculty in the English Department and Black Studies Program, is co-sponsored by the Office of the President, Arts Administration Program, Black Studies Program, English Department, and the Office of Alumni Relations & College Events. 
As I said before, this initiative will act as an incubator space to grow creative, thoughtful projects on race and justice, including the programs I mentioned here. This is a community effort and proposals are welcome from students, staff, retirees and faculty. Proposals will be considered and recommended by the Committee on Intercultural and Global Understanding (CIGU). Proposals may be submitted electronically here.

Simply put, this initiative continues to be the central priority for our campus in this tumultuous year.  I cannot think of any work that is more necessary to our community. I look forward to making further progress through continued collaboration and engagement across the entire Skidmore community. 

Marc C. Conner