University of New England issues statement on anti-racism
The University of New England opposes racism and discrimination in all of its forms. We stand in solidarity with the Black community and unequivocally condemn predatory policing and other forms of systemic oppression. We recognize that this unprecedented historical moment has cast a long overdue spotlight on how badly our country has failed Black communities, specifically illuminating shameful disparities in economic opportunity, health care, and criminal justice.
While UNE has a historical commitment to diversity and inclusion, we readily admit that the current protests and the heightened national conversation around race have sparked a week of impassioned dialogue and self-examination among UNE leadership, students, and employees—as they should. As an influential regional institution and as educators and learners, we have a platform and a moral obligation to do better—in our hiring and recruitment, in our programming, in promoting a genuinely inclusive campus climate, and in using our platform to help dismantle systemic racism in our communities and around the world.
Statements condemning racism and racist acts are important — in this politically charged time, we must be absolutely clear in letting others know where we stand. But it is by our actions that we ultimately affect the world, and by our actions we are judged. In the words of Angela Davis, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.”
Our commitment to the active promotion of racial and economic justice is codified in our current Strategic Plan, adopted in 2018 and implemented by our Strategic Plan Priority IV Committee, co-chaired by Carol J. Ewan Whyte, Ph.D., M.Sc., the assistant director of research and service in our College of Graduate and Professional Studies, and Holly Parker, Ph.D., associate provost for strategic initiatives.
Over the past three years, UNE has invested in multiple programs and initiatives to combat racism and foster diversity at UNE.
Among the most significant are:
- The addition of two people of color to the UNE Board of Trustees, Ralph de Chabert ’69, M.A.T., Ed.D., and Kinna Thakarar, D.O., M.P.H.
- An increase in the number of non-white faculty and students and the designation of a representative to work with HBCU career fairs for recruitment of employees and graduate students
- The implementation of a Bias Incident Reporting system and online reporting tool
- The development of an Undergraduate Student Government-recognized Cultural Council to promote the work of UNE’s various affinity groups
- The successful addition of a Black Student Union and Muslim Student Association
- The move of the Cultural Exchange Lounge (CXL) within the Campus Center to a more expansive space and the inclusion of an Interfaith Prayer/Reflection room in the Ripich Commons
- The implementation of an informal mentoring programming for Black female undergraduates
- The inauguration of a Diversity Leadership Certificate Program through our Office of Intercultural Student Engagement, including trainings in Classism, Implicit Bias, Cultural Humility, Race and Racism, and Gender and Sexuality.
- Implementing a test-blind policy aimed at encouraging individuals from first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented backgrounds to apply. The policy is an expansion of the University’s test-optional policy, launched in 2018, which resulted in the largest and most ethnically diverse freshman class in UNE history.
We recognize that our society is at a unique inflection point -- one that requires us to dig deeper and go beyond what we have already accomplished. Within the past few days, UNE has committed not only to building on our ongoing work but to taking the following additional actions:
We will proceed with the search for an Assistant Provost of Community, Equity, and Diversity. This is a newly created position, providing institutional leadership around race and diversity, affecting virtually every area of the institution, including training, hiring, recruitment, programming, and building community partnerships.
We will request accelerated processing of the Campus Climate Survey data. In 2019, UNE engaged the consulting firm of Rankin & Associates, which specializes in helping educational institutions hold a mirror up to themselves, to conduct a campus climate survey. The results of the survey will allow us to implement data-driven strategic initiatives to improve our campus climate.
We will implement multi-faceted educational programs on the topic of race and the multiple aspects of racism throughout the 2020-2021 school year. The aim of these thematically linked programs will be to increase understanding, broaden perspective, and promote a more open and constructive dialogue around racial issues. Content will include seminars, workshops, and lectures and will involve faculty, student voices, professional staff and administration, as well as outside guests and educators.
We will launch a Community, Equity, and Diversity resource page on the UNE Library website. The UNE Library will host a web page and curate it in collaboration with the Priority IV committee, offering a variety of resources in multiple media, for community members who would like to get involved, take action, or simply learn more. This will be a “living,” crowd-sourced document, with a mechanism that allows members of the community to suggest resources for inclusion.
“This work is ongoing, ever-evolving, and, ultimately, must expand to engage every member, every aspect, of our community,” says UNE President James Herbert. “In addition to initiatives at the institutional level, I’ve been so inspired to see the number and variety of grass-roots actions spring up organically across the University, with student groups and individual colleges and departments organizing, protesting, forming curricular committees, issuing formal statements, and providing anti-racism resources and information—as, for example, on the blog hosted by our School of Social Work and this evening’s White Coats For Black Lives protest on our Biddeford Campus, organized by students from our College of Osteopathic Medicine.”
“These actions are based on deep-seated institutional values, our current strategic plan, and the steps we’ve put in place over the last three years—the collective efforts of many people throughout the University,” says Herbert, “But in this urgent historical moment, we must address areas where we have fallen short and redouble our efforts to bring about meaningful structural change—to step up in the fight against racism and for social and economic justice, both within our community and beyond.”