Growing Forward as a Community | St. Lawrence University President's Office

Growing Forward as a Community

Dear Laurentian friends,

Since our previous message to Laurentians last week, our country and our community have continued protesting and speaking up about the violent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. We must recognize these most recent moments are horrific chapters in the story of the greatest unresolved issue in American society and history, which also includes many others, like Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Philando Castile. No other narrative in our national history goes as deep or with as much pain, violence, and loss as this. We must reject injustice and brutality in all forms, whether from police officers, vigilantes, or anyone else.

Within the St. Lawrence community, brave black, indigenous, and other Laurentians of color have shared heartbreaking stories of their everyday lives out in the world, as well as on our campus and in the North Country. Some have shared a perspective of St. Lawrence that many others don’t recognize, and one that is difficult to comprehend. It’s a St. Lawrence where not everyone has felt welcomed, supported or safe. It’s a St. Lawrence that not everyone has been able to call home. This is not the Laurentian experience we promise and are committed to providing, yet St. Lawrence’s imperfections as a majority white institution are an uncomfortable reality that we absolutely must confront if the University and our community are going to grow forward together.

It is time for every Laurentian, especially our white Laurentians, to stand in solidarity with our black and brown students, alumni, faculty, and staff, understand their pain, recognize personal privilege, and turn that privilege into action that will help foster an anti-racist environment on our campus and in our communities across the country and around the world.

Many of you have reminded us in the past week that words alone solve very little and that meaningful action is the only solution for challenging racism and injustice. We recognize the need for additional space to help carry out this important work on campus. The University has identified additional space in the Sullivan Student Center, in the heart of campus and in our most trafficked building, for this vital purpose. It is our intention that this space will better serve the needs of our diversity and inclusion efforts.

We want to share a few other examples of the steps St. Lawrence has already taken, our plans for the future, and how you can take part in this work.

Recent Action Steps

  • Campus Climate Survey: In the Spring of 2018, St. Lawrence’s Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Kimberly Flint-Hamilton worked with colleagues to launch a campus-wide Climate Survey.
    • Staffing: In response, the University has hired two new positions:
      • A new counselor in our Counseling Center who has experience supporting students who are international, LGBTQIA, and our diverse student population, a position that was funded in part by a gift to The Campaign for Every Laurentian.
      • An additional International Student Services advisor.
    • Bias Incident Reporting: The University also developed a new Bias Incident Reporting process, where members of the campus community can submit reports of bias, harassment, or discrimination that take place on or off campus. There have been 66 reports submitted in the two years since the process began. All incidents were reviewed and referred to the appropriate oversight body.
  • Trainings: The University has instituted diversity and inclusion training for all new employees. Regular diversity and inclusion workshops and trainings are also conducted for Safety and Security officers, Dana Dining Services, and many student leaders. In addition, first-year students receive training during Orientation and after their fall Mid­­-semester Break.
  • Discussions and Conversations:
    • The Office of Diversity and Inclusion has also hosted a range of events and held many discussions and roundtables that have centered around the issues of race, equity, and inclusion with faculty, staff, and students. An extensive listing can be found on the University website. We estimate that more than 2,000 members of the Laurentian community have voluntarily participated. 
    • A leadership gift from a St. Lawrence family to the University has funded a campus initiative that started this past year called Fostering Civil Discourse in Political Conversations.
  • Employee Hiring: The University has launched the Diversity Advocates program to train tenured faculty to serve on faculty search committees to diversify candidate pools and interrupt implicit bias.
  • Student Action: Today’s St. Lawrence students are undertaking a tremendous amount of this important work alongside one another. Read this letter to students from Thelomathesian Society President Molly Thompson ’22 that details some of the action steps they have taken.
  • Alumni Involvement: We have created Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Across Laurentians (IDEAL), a group open to Laurentian graduates who wish to stay connected to and involved with St. Lawrence’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. The University has also created a Diversity & Inclusion subcommittee of the Alumni Executive Council.
  • Local Action: We recognize that St. Lawrence can play a pivotal role in creating a more inclusive North Country. Through the Associated Colleges Consortium, we have started and been part of conversations with local business owners and government officials across the Canton/Potsdam area about inclusion.

Future Action Steps

  • Strategic Action Plan: The University Diversity Committee has developed a comprehensive Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan that will be shared with the community in the fall semester. This action plan is informed by the Campus Climate Survey and campus focus groups held during the 2019-2020 academic year.
  • Student Diversity & Inclusion Advocates: Work is underway to develop a program similar to the Advocates, which is a group of students who raise awareness about sexual violence and serve as confidential resources for survivors. This group will provide our students with more support.
  • 2020-21 Forums and Discussions: The University will host open forums on topics such as race, privilege, implicit bias, microaggressions, LGBTQIA issues, and political difference to continue to bring those issues to the forefront of discussion and raise awareness among members of our community.
  • Upcoming Community Forums and Events:
    • Vigil: The University will host a Black Lives Matter Vigil “On The Quad” Thursday, June 11, 2020 starting at 11:55 a.m. At noon the community will kneel or stand in silence for nine minutes as the Gunnison Memorial Chapel bells ring on our final day of “tolling the bells for justice” for the recent racial violence and subsequent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
    • Forums: St. Lawrence is hosting a series of forums for members of the Laurentian community in the coming weeks to tell you more about the actions we are taking and hear your feedback.

We want to hear your feedback on steps that we have taken and our plans for the future. Please feel free to share your thoughts via email at diversitycommittee@stlawu.edu.

If you are interested in learning more about diversity & inclusion, especially regarding race/ethnicity, here are some useful resources.

There is more work to be done and we are committed to doing it, no matter how hard or uncomfortable it will be. We need every Laurentian to work alongside one another so we can ensure no member of our community ever feels like a mere guest in someone else's space ever again.

Sincerely,

Bill Fox                             Kimberly Flint-Hamilton
President                          Chief Diversity Officer