Taking Action: June 16, 2020

A message from President Harring to the Muhlenberg College community

 Tuesday, June 16, 2020 10:35 AM

Dear students, faculty and staff, 

It was only seven years ago that Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi created Black Lives Matter following the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, but Black Americans’ fight for equality has gone on throughout our country’s history. In the past few days alone, we have been confronted with the death of yet another Black man, Rayshard Brooks. And here we stand today, confronting the reality that progress has been insufficient. This is true at Muhlenberg as well.

I understand when members of our College community express frustration with promises and plans that lack concrete and immediate action. I understand that change in higher education appears to move at a glacial pace. I understand that the work we have done at Muhlenberg isn’t enough. However, I want to say clearly today that I am committed, as is the senior leadership of Muhlenberg, to the values of equity, inclusion and respect for human dignity expressed by the College and to implementing actions that support that commitment and lead to sustainable change.

To that end, we plan to implement immediate and long-term actions that move us forward as an inclusive institution. I have met with campus diversity leaders, the group of Black faculty who drafted an important letter and recommendations to our community, and will be meeting with students from the Black Student Association. In response to this feedback, the senior staff and I have identified immediate actions to move Muhlenberg toward becoming a more inclusive institution. Let me be clear, this is only the beginning. In the coming weeks and months, we will be discerning more deeply and planning additional initiatives. For now, here are the actions underway:

  • We will increase funding and resources to the Office of Multicultural Life (OML) to advance the actions outlined in the department’s strategic plan. Increased resources will strengthen programs on diversity and social justice, student advocacy, leadership development and community building.
  • We will increase funding and resources to the Emerging Leaders (EL) program to strengthen the opportunities for leadership development and to expand peer, staff and faculty mentoring. In collaboration with the EL co-directors, the student EL council and other stakeholders, we will develop a plan for expanding the program to include all four years of a student's time at Muhlenberg.
  • I am announcing the approval of hires for two tenure-track faculty positions with joint appointments in Africana Studies to expand the program. Provost Anderson will work with the co-directors and others in our community to develop a plan to commence these searches.
  • I am meeting with the Allentown chief of police, along with Chief Fidati and Dean Gulati, to discuss what our respective departments are doing to improve practices and to identify collaborative strategies so that all community members feel they are protected and respected. We will also continue our own internal review of our campus safety protocols, procedures and officer training to build deeper trust between our officers and the student community.
  • Working with the President’s Diversity Advisory Countil (PDAC), we will broaden the scope of the Presidential Diversity Innovation Grants (PDIG) overseen by PDAC and provide additional funds specifically targeted for anti-racist programs. These grants bring together campus groups that do not normally work together to collaborate on initiatives that advance equity and inclusion. 
  • I have asked the President’s Diversity Advisory Council (PDAC) to identify and prioritize uncompleted initiatives or actions from the Diversity Strategic Plan, 2017 College Strategic Plan and the CREDO report and to make additional recommendations to me for moving forward. In addition to their ongoing work on the Diversity Strategic Plan, I am asking PDAC for guidance on a process for revising the College diversity statement to include the creation of institutional structures that support the College’s goals for equity, inclusion and anti-racism.
  • The Advancement Office is advising alumni interested in supporting the College’s diversity and inclusion efforts to contribute to these areas:

If you want to deepen your understanding of anti-racism and racial justice, learn more or do more, I encourage you to use the resources we have shared or look for others that let you find ways to learn and contribute. 

We are at a pivotal moment in our history. The murder of Black Americans and the structures that oppress people of color must end. This cannot be another moment that will pass, but a moment where we work together to realize lasting change that results in true equity. I am grateful to everyone who has written to me to share their experiences and ideas. I am thankful to the Black faculty who drafted a letter and set of actions directed at moving our College toward a more inclusive and anti-racist institution. I am heartened by the groundswell of faculty and staff who have already expressed their commitment to doing that work. Together we can more fully realize the ideals of equity and inclusion for all members of our community. I am committed to continuing this work at Muhlenberg and look forward to partnering with all members of our College community to strengthen our institution.

Sincerely, Kathleen E. Harring
Interim President