I am extremely grateful to each member of the task force for agreeing to serve. This group has important work to do for William & Mary.
Race – its injustices, insensitivities, misunderstandings and complexities – remains one of our nation’s abiding challenges. William & Mary has not been spared the challenge. For centuries, the College’s practice of slavery and then segregation stained its life. Our Lemon Project now seeks to understand, explain and learn from William & Mary racial past. While there has been enormous racial progress in the United States and on our campus in the last half century, it’s clear that our deep racial wounds have not wholly healed.
The deaths during the past year of three black men, followed by grand jury decisions not to indict, have inflamed racial feelings across the country. Shortly after the holidays in Williamsburg several off-campus parties involving some William & Mary students proved to be racially insensitive and insulting. Anonymous postings on social media reflecting racial bias have taken their predictably poisonous toll.
Civility customarily characterizes how people deal with one another at William & Mary. It is especially important that it grace how we deal with one another racially. Any display of racial bias at W&M is flatly unacceptable. And there is a real need for us all to understand and avoid racial insensitivity. Each of us can learn from different perspectives born of different life experiences; we need to share our experiences with one another so they can be understood and so we can ensure that W&M is a place where everyone is welcome and respected.
I ask that the task force engage broadly the following matters:
- What is the overall racial climate on campus and how is it experienced by individual members of our community?
- How can we more successfully recruit and retain a racially diverse faculty and senior administration?
- What measures can productively be taken (a) to educate the campus community about racial insensitivity and discrimination and (b) to help prevent both?
- As a matter of process, how can actual or suspected instances of racial prejudice most effectively be reported for investigation and remedial action?
In your work, please engage the full campus community, including students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni. Canvass broadly, review W&M-specific data, and consider research on race in higher education to help spot key issues and best practices. Your recommendations should focus on both short-term and long-term remedies. While your final report should reach me by the end of this calendar year, please provide me as well as the campus community with interim findings and recommendations.