Anti-Racism at Cal Lutheran

June 22, 2020

 

Cal Lutheran Community,

The Cal Lutheran community is supporting a movement that calls for broad and sustainable change on our campuses. We are energized by the calls to action from the Faculty Senate, newly formed groups on campus including the Anti-Racist Coalition and The Collective, the Equity Leadership Council, the Black Employees Association, and students, faculty and staff of color, as well as a plethora of anti-racism advocates. We accept the criticism, and we hear the call.

The University has significant work to do to eliminate systemic and institutional racism in all of its forms. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Rayshard Brooks, Riah Milton, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and countless other Black people due to anti-blackness are a stain on humanity.  

Black Lives Matter. Period.

It is painful to many in our community that the need still exists to explain what has given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. A too-popular reply of “all lives matter” or other similar language ignores the fact that Blacks are subjected to a systematic dehumanizing assault that results in a disproportionate number of murders based on the size of the Black Community.  

The 400-year-plus legacy of anti-blackness has been chronicled throughout history. Pastor Melissa’s message last week reminded us of the five-year anniversary of the murders of nine African Americans at a church prayer service in South Carolina at the hands of a self-proclaimed white supremacist who was raised in a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA has called itself to confess the sin of racism, condemn the ideology of white supremacy, and strive for racial justice and peace. It has called its members to take an anti-racism pledge. This is just one of countless reasons that we support the Black Lives Matter movement. It deeply connects to our mission and how we live out our commitments as a church-affiliated university and a member of the Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities.


All members of the campus community share responsibility for creating and supporting a culture that stands firm against racism. Meaningful change will be evident when each individual in our community is doing their part. And we know we must do our part as members of the Cabinet.

Our work as a Cabinet will be guided by three objectives:

  1. Improved accountability and transparency about work done and work in progress to support equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), as well as other key initiatives central to our mission
  2. Stronger communication and collaboration to actively seek out the voices of students, faculty and staff at all levels of the University
  3. Stronger support and recognition for those in our community who are working to strengthen equity, diversity and inclusion at Cal Lutheran



The following recent actions have been taken:

  • Black Lives Matter Fellowship and Community Scholarship Initiative
    Cal Lutheran’s Black Lives Matter Fellowship and Community Scholarship memorializes the numerous Black lives lost to the use of deadly force by police and racially motivated acts of violence, oftentimes with no criminal repercussion. The BLM Fellowship supports a Cal Lutheran student engaged in work that embodies progress toward a just society where African Americans do not bear the brunt of racist structures and systems. As a part of the fellowship program, leaders from Ventura County community organizations have agreed to help select and mentor the BLM Fellow. The University also funds scholarships that are disbursed by community partners to college-bound students who demonstrate a passion for advancing civil rights and racial justice.

    The killing of George Floyd reignited the Black Lives Matter movement, beckoning a worldwide cry for racial justice. One outcome of the uprising was North Central University in Minneapolis establishing the George Floyd Scholarship and challenging other universities to do the same. The Black Lives Matter Fellowship and Community Scholarship Initiative is our response to that challenge.

  • Space to support both student development and inclusive programming
    In response to the long-standing need brought to our attention by the Black Student Union and Sisters’ Circle, a dedicated space for Black students in the Student Union is under construction. This is intended to provide a safe and supportive place on campus that fosters a sense of community and belonging. Naming of the space is under consideration, and the project will be completed by the end of Summer 2020.  

    The establishment of this space brings with it the acknowledgement that additional affinity group spaces are needed so that all students on campus have a place to gather with people who have shared identities and common experiences.

  • An accountability tool: Interactive website communicating progress on equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives
    The site will be accessible to all members of the Cal Lutheran community and offer opportunities for individuals to submit questions and comments. Cal Lutheran community members will be invited to share their actions in support of equity, diversity and inclusion. The website will be live by August 2020. The Cabinet will review EDI initiatives weekly and use this tool to report updates to the campus each month.  

 

Here are items that are in progress:

  • The Equity Leadership Council (ELC) reviewed other institutions’ bias reporting systems. Following a recommendation from the ELC, the Cabinet committed to launching a bias reporting system and response team by September 1, 2020. A group of faculty, staff and students is meeting on Friday, June 26, to begin this work.
  • The Cal Lutheran community has a significant need to establish a standard of accountability that defines consequences for behavior that is inconsistent with the institutional commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. We will report to the campus an anti-bias policy that includes a community-standards statement by September 1, 2020. The community standards statement will be posted in several high-visibility locations and included in the student and employee handbooks. Changes in the student and employee handbooks to include this anti-bias policy, and consequences for violations of it, will be completed by September 1, 2020.
  • Increased funding will be provided by August 15, 2020, to support the Center for Cultural Engagement and Inclusion’s work cultivating and maintaining an inclusive campus community while supporting students from all backgrounds as they learn about identities beyond their own. This funding may contribute to adding new spaces, increased programming such as celebrations, educational workshops, peer education initiatives and additional funding opportunities for student culture and justice organizations.
  • We recognize that some faculty members need to learn how to talk about race in the classroom, integrate culturally relevant material into classes, and better shape the curriculum to address issues related to equity, diversity and inclusion. The new Associate Provost for Educational Effectiveness, Dr. Taiwo Ande, is starting June 29, 2020, and will lead an assessment of the curriculum with the faculty in Fall 2020.
  • Last week, the Cabinet discussed the possibility of a Juneteenth holiday. We recognized that we also need to consider holidays and cultural observances that honor César Chávez, Indigenous People, Veterans and other identities/experiences/expressions. In July 2020, a task group will begin reviewing our holiday schedule to find a way to honor the diverse cultural and religious traditions of our community. A new holiday calendar will be published no later than September 1, 2020.


Our anti-racism work in every area of the University will be judged by its ability to bring about the changes that our campus community deserves.

We accept your criticism and invite your feedback.

In good faith,

Chris Kimball
President

Regina Biddings-Muro
Vice President for University Advancement

Karen Davis
Vice President for Administration and Finance

Melissa Maxwell-Doherty
Vice President for Mission and Identity

Leanne Neilson
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Melinda Roper
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Matt Ward
Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing

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