Updates and Archive

To view materials from past Commission meetings, visit the Archive page.

MESSAGE FROM PRES. CLAIRE STERK (Feb. 15, 2017)

Dear Emory Community,

Our second annual Racial Justice Retreat, hosted on Friday, Feb. 3, was a wonderful success. My thanks to the more than 100 invitees – including students, staff, faculty, and alumni – whose participation was key. 

The first half of the retreat was centered on the original 13 demands set forth in fall 2015 by the Black Students of Emory movement, which inspired the university’s first Racial Justice Retreat, hosted last year. At this year’s retreat, we discussed recommendations and actions planned or completed for each demand, and attendees from last year provided historical perspectives while new participants offered valuable insights.

As noted in my remarks at the retreat, we have made great progress in many areas, but we are not where we want to be. In part, this is because of our very ambitious goals and our sincere commitment to addressing systemic issues. As Dean Jim Curran of the Rollins School of Public Health noted, fighting racism is like “weeding a garden.” We must be persistent, and I am fully committed to our goals and will help ensure accountability. For example, I am designating leaders specifically responsible for advancing progress on two of our students’ original demands – faculty evaluations and diversity in our curriculum.

Allow me to reiterate an important point, one that had been stressed earlier by other retreat participants. Emory students, especially our black students, shoulder a disproportionate amount of the work required to move our community forward on racial justice. Our diverse faculty and staff will play an even greater role in this critical endeavor.

Emory’s core values of inclusion, compassion, collaboration, integrity, optimism, and boldness are key components to our success. Advancing racial justice is one of the ways we, as a community, live out Emory’s core values and our commitment to a more inclusive institution in today’s often uncertain and always challenging world. 

To learn more about our commitment to those values, the Racial Justice Retreats, and the Emory Commission on Racial and Social Justice, please visit our Dialogue at Emory website at www.dialogue.emory.edu.

Sincerely,

Claire E. Sterk
President

MESSAGE FROM AJAY NAIR (Jul. 12, 2016)

Dear Emory Community,

We appreciate your ongoing support of the university’s commitment to address each of the demands of the Black Students at Emory and proactively support implementation of programs and practices that strengthen diversity and inclusivity at Emory. 

The Emory Commission on Racial and Social Justice, which held its first meeting on June 21, replaces the Racial Justice Next Steps Group. The commission is comprised of an executive committee, steering committee, and social justice process owners. 

During the meeting, the social justice process owners outlined actions and next steps related to several initiatives, including reestablishing the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) bridge program. This initiative, now STEM Pathways, has invited 140 students of color and first-generation students to participate.

In addition, the Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) is being restructured to reflect broader representation from the Emory community and the bias incident reporting process is being refined for greater efficiency and support.  To learn about other actions completed and initiatives underway, please review our progress report.

The agenda and minutes of the commission meeting held on June 21 are available for review. The commission will continue to meet during the academic year to advance recommendations and action items developed by the original working groups.

Commission Meetings for 2016-17

The schedule is as follows:

  • Wednesday, September 21 (3:30-5:30 p.m.)
  • Monday, November 7 (2-4 p.m.)
  • Wednesday, April 12 (2-4 p.m.)
  • Wednesday, July 19 (2-4 p.m.)

We look forward to continuing to work with you to create a more socially just Emory community. 

Sincerely,
Ajay Nair
Senior Vice President and Dean, Emory Campus Life

MESSAGE FROM AJAY NAIR (Jun. 24, 2016)

Dear Campus Community:

As you know, the Emory community undertook an ambitious Racial and Social Justice Initiative in 2015-16 to identify and address critical issues that impact our university.  The foundational goal is to support implementation of programs and practices that strengthen diversity and inclusivity at Emory.

Underscoring the gravity of this endeavor, the university has established the Emory Commission on Racial and Social Justice, which is charged with moving the process forward in a deliberate and efficient manner.

The Emory Commission on Racial and Social Justice replaces the Racial Justice Next Steps Group. It is comprised of an Executive Committee, Steering Committee, and Social Justice Process Owners. 

The Executive Committee, which includes the President, members of the President’s Cabinet, and designated student representatives, creates the university’s vision on racial and social justice that guides the work of the commission and serves as a final point of accountability for timeline, structure, and outcomes.

The Steering Committee identifies and selects Social Justice Process Owners (SJPOs) to develop strategies and tactics that meet our social and racial justice goals. The committee also serves as a body to provide counsel and advocacy, and reports on our progress in achieving Emory’s racial and social justice goals.

The Social Justice Process Owners develop and advance strategies to achieve racial and social justice outcomes, and assess and report progress and overall impact of strategies. They also support continued integration of racial and social justice strategies into day-to-day operations that support progress toward outcomes.

The inaugural meeting of the Emory Commission on Racial and Social Justice was held on Tuesday, June 21, 2016.  The Social Justice Process Owners outlined actions and next steps related to several initiatives, including reestablishment of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) bridge program, now known as STEM Pathways, which has invited 140 students of color and first-generation students to participate. 

Another great example of the progress underway is restructuring of the Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) for greater efficiency and support, and refinements to the reporting process and website to be launched at the beginning of fall semester.  This information, along with the agenda and minutes of the meeting are available for review on this Dialogue at Emory website.

The Emory Black Student Movement has been a benefit to the entire community. We are creating new structures where structures currently do not exist. Our intention is to create a sustainable movement that reimagines and recreates a more socially just Emory community, and positions the institution as a leader on issues of racial and social justice.

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support.

Sincerely,

Ajay Nair
Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life

MESSAGE FROM AJAY NAIR (Apr. 4, 2016)

Dear Emory Community,

When the University decided to respond to a list of students’ demands last fall in a radically different way with a radically different philosophy, the idea of planning a Racial Justice Retreat in partnership with Black and other students was born.  Our shared goal for the retreat was to produce action items, timelines and accountability measures to address our students’ concerns – to move us from demands to dialogue to action.

A number of working groups were established for the retreat, which included the participation of students, faculty and staff.  Each group examined and developed recommendations and action items for one or more of the 13 demands initially set forth by the students.  Draft reports were posted on a new web site, Dialogue at Emory, devoted to transparency and ongoing feedback about the work associated with this important initiative.

The Racial Justice Retreat, held in late February, brought together more than 100 stakeholders to engage in dialogue about proposed ideas and action steps to create systemic change on our campus and beyond.  At the end of the retreat, the Next Steps Group consisting of students, faculty and staff was formed to develop an overall framework to implement recommendations from the retreat, and to discuss an organizational model to ensure that racial and social justice work is institutionalized for the long term at Emory. The group met on March 18 and created a proposed organizational structure to address racial and social justice on campus over the long term.  The proposal is posted for review and comment.  Also, the agenda, minutes and flip-chart notes from the meeting are available on the site.  We welcome your input and suggestions.

In addition, the Next Steps Group will review final reports from the working groups at the end of the month.  They will determine the structure, action steps, and timelines associated with key initiatives derived from these reports. Notably, the Next Steps Group will be uniquely positioned to facilitate change beyond the current demands by creating a structure to routinely identify opportunities to advance Emory's commitment to racial and social justice.

Significant progress has already been made since the Racial Justice Retreat. For example, Emory has a new bridge program for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students from underrepresented minorities and first-generation college students that begins this summer.  Also, the Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) will be revamped and relaunched in the fall.  It will include a yearly report that details the themes and data from bias incident reports and faculty evaluations.  In addition, BIRT will develop program recommendations for raising awareness and mitigating bias incidents on campus. The team will also create guidelines for sharing these incidents with the university community.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) in collaboration with the Student Peer Ambassador Program is providing a link between the department and the Black community. CAPS will also continue to offer therapy and support groups specifically for students of color.

Campus Life is committed to advancing education into action and delivering world-class services and programs. In addition to the aforementioned, plans for further progress by fall 2016 include:

  • Increase resources and support for the MORE Mentoring Program
  • Improve diversity education for Greek-letter organizations
  • Enhance diversity education for student athletes
  • Strengthen and further develop Creating Emory
  • Enhance transparency of the conduct process for student organizations 

The Emory Black Student Movement has been a benefit to the entire community. We are creating new structures where structures currently do not exist.  Our intention is to create a sustainable movement that reimagines and recreates a more socially just Emory community, and positions the institution as a leader on issues of racial justice.

Sincerely,

Ajay Nair
Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life

MESSAGE FROM AJAY NAIR (Mar. 25, 2016)

Dear Emory Community,

When the University decided to respond to a list of students’ demands last fall in a radically different way with a radically different philosophy, the idea of planning a Racial Justice Retreat in partnership with Black and other students was born.  Our shared goal for the retreat was to produce action items, timelines and accountability measures to address our students’ concerns – to move us from demands to dialogue to action.

A number of working groups were established for the retreat, which included the participation of students, faculty and staff.  Each group examined and developed recommendations and action items for one or more of the 13 demands initially set forth by the students.  Draft reports were posted to this website, devoted to transparency and ongoing feedback about the work associated with this important initiative.

The Racial Justice Retreat, held in late February, brought together more than 100 stakeholders to engage in dialogue about proposed ideas and action steps to create systemic change on our campus and beyond.  At the end of the retreat, the Next Steps Group consisting of students, faculty and staff was formed to develop an overall framework to implement recommendations from the retreat, and to discuss an organizational model to ensure that racial and social justice work is institutionalized for the long term at Emory.

Significant progress has already been made since the Racial Justice Retreat. For example, Emory has a new bridge program for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students from underrepresented minorities and first-generation college students that begins this summer.  Also, the Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) will be revamped and relaunched in the fall.  It will include a yearly report that details the themes and data from bias incident reports and faculty evaluations.  In addition, BIRT will develop program recommendations for raising awareness and mitigating bias incidents on campus. The team will also create guidelines for sharing these incidents with the university community.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) in collaboration with the Student Peer Ambassador Program is providing a link between the department and the Black community. CAPS will also continue to offer therapy and support groups specifically for students of color. 

The Emory Black Student Movement has been a benefit to the entire community. We are creating new structures where structures currently do not exist.  Our intention is to create a sustainable movement that reimagines and recreates a more socially just Emory community, and positions the institution as a leader on issues of racial justice.

Sincerely, 

Ajay Nair
Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life

MESSAGE FROM AJAY NAIR (Mar. 1, 2016)

originally sent to retreat participants:

Dear Retreat Participant:

The Racial Justice Retreat at Emory on Friday, February 26, was very successful – in large part due to all of your hard work.  As you know, the Racial Justice Retreat was an outgrowth of fall semester demands by the Black Students of Emory movement.  The retreat was an opportunity for the working groups, which have been meeting since January, to present recommendations and draft reports for feedback from participants.   Nearly one-hundred students, faculty and staff members gathered in Dobb University Center’s Winship Ballroom to engage in dialogue about proposed ideas and action steps to address systemic change on campus and beyond.

We know the Racial Justice Initiative is a process, and much work remains to move student concerns from demands to dialogue to action.  At the end of the retreat, the formation of a next steps group consisting of representatives from each working group and staff from Emory University executive offices was announced.  Also, the additional questions submitted during the retreat have been sent to the appropriate facilitators to share with their working groups. 

The working groups are being asked to finalize their recommendations and submit them no later than April 4 to Judith Pannell, who will forward them to the next steps group.  This group will develop an overall framework for implementation of the recommendations that includes timelines and accountability measures.  The group will also develop processes to monitor progress and provide periodic reports to the community.

Again, thank you for your dedication to this important initiative. 

Sincerely, 

Ajay Nair
Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life

MESSAGE FROM AJAY NAIR (Feb. 23, 2016)

Dear Emory Community,

The working groups of the Racial Justice Retreat, scheduled for Feb. 26, are currently submitting their initial responses to the 13 demands set forth by the Black Students of Emory movement last fall. The working groups will continue to update their recommendations while obtaining feedback from the community. 

You may recall that, when the threat of a winter storm compromised our January date for the Racial Justice Retreat, we immediately rescheduled the event for Feb. 26. Retreat planners requested the already formed working groups – including students, staff, and faculty – to immediately begin developing responses to the student demands and submit them for community review and feedback.

Our retreat planners and participants – including students, staff, and faculty – invite all members of the Emory community to offer feedback on the working groups’ preliminary thoughts on best approaches to addressing the issues identified in our students’ demands. To do so, visit http://dialogue.emory.edu/racial_justice/demands/index.html.

With the benefit of your input, each working group will present its thoughts at the retreat. Our retreat participants – and we are expecting 100 invitees – will provide feedback on those presentations. Based on their discussions, participants will update their working group plan to address the racial justice issues outlined in the demands.

We understand that our Racial Justice Initiative is a process and much work will remain after this month’s retreat as we implement the action steps developed during the retreat. Your engagement is vital at this step along the path forward and throughout the ongoing process. And please continue to visit our Dialogue at Emory website for updates at http://dialogue.emory.edu/.

I urge you to join us in this vital initiative to effect systemic change on our campus.

Sincerely,
Ajay Nair
Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life

MESSAGE FROM AJAY NAIR (Jan. 29, 2016)

Dear Retreat Participant:

The Racial Justice Retreat at Emory has been rescheduled for Friday, February 26, from 3 to 9 p.m., at Dobbs University Center, Winship Ballroom. Per the new retreat agenda, we have planned a full evening of dialogue and activity to move us forward. We urge all previously invited retreat participants to attend.

As you know, the Racial Justice Retreat is the outgrowth of fall semester demands by the Black Students of Emory movement. The event was originally scheduled for January but postponed due to a winter storm forecast that resulted in the university closing early that day.

Based on an alternative plan developed immediately by student leaders and the administration, all working groups have been requested to continue meeting until February 15 to discuss their assigned demands, develop recommendations, and generate draft reports. These reports will be available online during the week of February 15 for feedback and suggestions from the Emory community. 

Reflecting community feedback, the working groups will incorporate appropriate changes and present revised drafts during the retreat on February 26. During the six hours scheduled for the retreat, participants will collectively approve the next steps developed by working groups.

You may recall that the alternate plan initially called for a three-hour gathering in February. However, it was later determined that a longer period of time is needed to properly address the important issues at hand. 

A website has been developed to make this and additional information available, facilitate feedback, and ensure transparency. For more background, visit the racial justice section of the new site, Dialogue at Emory (http://dialogue.emory.edu). We intend over time for our Dialogue at Emory site to deliver online information on a range of topics of broad interest to the university community, including but not limited to other social justice issues.

I thank you for your dedication and hard work to date on this important initiative. I look forward to seeing you on February 26 to carry on our shared commitment to reimagine and co-create a more racially and socially just university community. 

Sincerely,
Ajay Nair

MESSAGE FROM PRES. JAMES WAGNER (Jan. 22, 2016)

Dear Emory Community:

Emory's Racial Justice Retreat, the outgrowth of a fall semester student initiative, has been canceled because of the developing winter storm and the need to close the university early. The retreat was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. today, an hour after the university will close.

The retreat format was designed by student leaders and Emory Campus Life leaders as an opportunity for intense deliberations to work toward remedies of issues and to advance opportunities for greater racial justice at Emory. I am disappointed that this particular event was canceled, but this unavoidable turn of events must not diminish our resolve to face our challenges and make a difference. In fact, I am confident that we will produce a range of positive plans and action steps to move ahead toward a more socially just university community.

Rather than reschedule the retreat, which would involve considerable delay in making progress, Ajay Nair, senior vice president and dean of Campus Life, has developed a plan with student leaders to maintain our timely commitment to creating systemic change. Emory Campus Life will help convene all of the retreat working groups separately over the next two weeks. Many of the groups have met at least once, but they will continue their conversations and create final draft plans by February 15. During the week of February 15, these reports will be available online for Emory community feedback and suggestions.

A meeting will be held on Friday, February 26, from 3 to 9 p.m., with all of the original retreat participants providing summaries and recommendations for next steps. We are developing a website for this material to ensure transparency and to facilitate feedback. Advised by the results of the working groups' efforts and our deliberations next month, we will move forward in intentional ways, investing the necessary time and resources and holding ourselves accountable, to make progress and implement solutions to this fundamentally important dimension of building true community.

Sincerely,

Jim Wagner

President

MESSAGE FROM AJAY NAIR (Jan. 22, 2016)

Dear Emory Community:

Background

Last fall, the Black Students of Emory University movement outlined demands regarding racial justice issues at Emory. Soon thereafter, university leadership issued an initial response to the concerns and worked closely with student leadership to plan a retreat to address issues set forth in the demands. 

The retreat agenda was developed jointly by student leaders and university administrators. The event was structured around working groups formed and staffed by students, faculty, staff, and administrators. Many of the working groups have met in advance of the retreat, and we know they will continue their good work despite the cancellation.

We had reached full capacity for the retreat, an indication of our university community’s commitment to racial justice. Approximately half of the 100 participants were students and the remainder faculty, staff, and administrators. Collectively, they reflect a broad cross-section of our community and bring a range of perspectives to the dialogue and decision-making.

Moving Forward

The plan that replaces the Racial Justice Retreat represents one point along a continuum of past, present, and future initiatives by our university community to address issues of social justice at Emory and beyond. Toward that end, we will continue and expand our dialogues to create a socially just campus community. 

Our intention is to create a sustainable movement that reimagines and recreates a more socially just Emory community and positions this institution as a leader on issues of racial justice. These goals are closely aligned with our university mission “to create, preserve, teach, and apply knowledge in the service of humanity.”

We suggest that no endeavor will better serve humanity than cultivating leaders who can create systemic change at Emory and ultimately pursue real and lasting social justice throughout our society and our global community.

Sincerely,

Ajay Nair

Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life