Members of the University’s administration and faculty discussed the Task Force on Anti-Black Racism at the second faculty meeting of the semester Tuesday.
President Christina Paxson P’19 opened the meeting by addressing the task force’s recommendations. She highlighted the University’s “progress in compositional diversity,” citing the doubling of the number of Black faculty members since 2014 and the increase in the proportion of Black students to 14% of the student population.
“What the report really underscores … is that we have work to do in the areas of inclusion, how people are treated on campus, … to focus even on compositional diversity in (both academic and administrative) departments,” Paxson said.
The University has already adopted many of the Task Force’s recommendations, including doubling the size of the Presidential Diversity Postdoctoral Program, planning renovations to both Churchill and Harambee Houses, expanding partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and fostering more engagement with Black high schoolers in Rhode Island.
Paxson also spoke about the second edition of Brown’s Slavery and Justice Report, which will be a “fully-digital edition with new content and essays.” The original report was chosen as the University’s first-year reading this year, for the second year in a row. Currently, the University is discussing making the report a permanent addition to new student orientation, independent from the first-year reading.
The University also recently received approval for its first steps in creating a program funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which would be “aimed at bringing diverse students, again with a focus on Black-identified students, into the sciences, … social sciences and humanities,” Paxson said.
Paxson spoke to several other recommendations, the future of which she said must be determined on a faculty level. These recommendations included having every concentration require a course that prioritizes Black history, culture and scholarship and the creation of an Anti-Racist Science, Technology, Math and Medicine Institute. The Institute would provide a place on campus for scientists and engineers to study the effects of racism in their fields, according to the task force’s report.
These programs “grow out of faculty-led initiatives, they go through the Academic Priorities Committee as they grow, they come to the faculty for approval,” Paxson said, adding that the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society and the Brown Arts Institute have gone through similar processes.
“This report identifies anti-Black racism as a force that does significant harm to Black students, to Black faculty and Black staff, but (that) ultimately diminishes all of us,” said Seth Rockman, associate professor of history and a member of the Task Force. “I urge all members of the faculty to spend time with this report, to read it and to follow some of the ways in which it suggests that combating anti-Black racism has a great deal to do with our larger (Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan) goals.”
The Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Board, as well as the Corporation Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion “will work to provide governance and oversight” over the University’s progress throughout the year, Paxson said.
The Faculty Executive Committee also passed a motion with a 98% majority to update the “principles governing the academic calendar” by a formal acknowledgment and observation of Juneteenth as a University holiday.