As we begin the fall semester, we continue to heal from the string of racially charged violent incidents in communities across the country, including in our own cities. That healing was made more difficult by recent events. The shooting of Jacob Blake multiple times in the back by the police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is deeply disturbing and must be fully investigated. Moreover, the resulting violence and killings in Kenosha and the destruction of property and violence in Minneapolis following the rumor of a police shooting also caused trauma and profound worry in our community. These tragic events remind us of the hard work ahead in building more equitable and inclusive communities.
Racial justice, equity and inclusion remain critical priorities at St. Thomas. We continue to accelerate our efforts and remain committed to keeping our community involved in our work and informed of our progress. We are pleased to share updates about some of the important work happening across campus:
- Transparency in Bias Reporting
Today, the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) released its Bias Incident Report for the 2019-20 academic year. This report is particularly important as it marks the first time we've been able to compile a full academic year's worth of bias incidents reported through Public Safety and/or through the online bias reporting system, implemented in November 2018. This information gives us our first full set of benchmark data that will allow us to better track and compare year-over-year trends and help us identify specific problem areas that can be addressed.
More than 1,450 first-year incoming students and 1,046 staff and faculty completed training on implicit bias and microaggressions in the 2019-20 academic year through DiversityEdu, followed by facilitated discussions. A post-course survey found an overwhelming majority of participants reported that the course caused them to rethink how to communicate with others based on what they learned related to defining diversity, engaging with differences, recognizing implicit bias, and addressing microaggressions and interventions.
- Action Plan Task Force
To augment our Action Plan to Combat Racism with measurable goals and objectives, a task force consisting of students, faculty and staff met this summer to further our work on racial equity. The task force will continue to meet through the upcoming fall semester and plans to roll out updates to the Action Plan in spring 2021.
- Assessing Public Safety
An equity assessment of our Department of Public Safety has started, led by Dr. Tanya Gladney, sociology and criminal justice associate professor and department chair. Dr. Gladney will assess current policies, procedures and training and recommend how Public Safety can promote an inclusive and equitable community. Dr. Gladney will survey students and form focus groups for student input. She is developing a process to ensure all members (faculty, staff, students and Public Safety) have an opportunity to be part of the process. We are grateful to Dr. Gladney for her work and to the Department of Public Safety for their support of this review.
- Upcoming Opportunities to Engage. Please see below for two important upcoming events:
- Meet and Greet with St. Paul Police Department and the Department of Public Safety on Sept. 29 from noon-1 p.m. All students, faculty and staff are welcome to attend via Zoom to learn about the relationship between St. Thomas and the St. Paul Police Department and their respective work in ensuring equitable practices.
- The Forum on Diversity and Equity Climate Survey Results is scheduled for Oct. 1 from noon-1 p.m. Nearly 4,000 students, staff and faculty responded to the Diversity and Equity Climate Survey, which measured the campus climate, experiences and perceptions. Attend via Zoom to learn about the results.
There is no one path to dismantle racism, and we lean on each other to remain strong and committed to this work. In doing so, please remember to take the time to care for yourself. There are university resources available to you relating to mental and physical support, well-being, mindfulness, counseling and more through services provided by the Center for Well-Being and Campus Resources.
As we strive to accelerate our commitment to equity, we thank those who have reached out with feedback and insights. We welcome additional input from all on how we can best accompany one another through these uncertain and troubling times.