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July 17, 2020: An update from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee

Dear MSU faculty, staff and students:

Over the past few weeks, it has become painfully evident to many of us that the fear and anger that come with pervasive and systemic racial injustice are very real for black communities across our country. Unfortunately, many of us live with these injustices every day.

At MSU, our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee is uniquely positioned to identify areas of systemic racism and barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. We have been granted the enormous charge of asking the right questions, reviewing existing practices, listening to the voices of the university community and shaping them into a comprehensive Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan, which will inform every element of the university’s strategic planning moving forward.

As we undertake this important work, we are also poised, based on our collective backgrounds in diversity, equity and inclusion to offer insights and advice on the issues that affect our university community every day.

For these reasons and more, President Stanley has asked us to create a smaller task force under the direction of the DEI Steering Committee. This group will serve in an advisory role identifying areas of possible systemic racism on campus and will provide recommendations on direct actions towards racial inequities that Spartans of color are facing in the short-term. These recommendations will be made as issues on campus arise, while the broader committee continues to lay the groundwork for long-term, system-wide change.

While the creation of this task force expands the scope of work for this committee, we agree it is critical to be responsive to the current climate and remain committed to tearing down barriers that perpetuate systemic oppression. We plan to announce the names of the appointed task force members in the coming weeks in addition to sharing our progress with each of you over the next academic year.

Meanwhile, our initial charge continues to move forward despite the coronavirus pandemic, which has extended our work into the fall. We expect to provide long-term recommendations to President Stanley by this December. In building the foundation for those recommendations, collaborative efforts are underway across all of the work groups and task groups.

Of note, our committee’s DEI Definitions Workgroup has been actively working to gather feedback from the university community as to how we define diversity, equity and inclusion. We know summer is not the most opportune time to gather critical feedback, but we must continue to push forward in order to identify the foundational information that will inform the work of the Committee. To that end, we continue to ask all Spartans to visit the feedback section on the DEI Steering Committee website. Rest assured, there will be additional opportunities to offer feedback during the fall semester.

Our Benchmarking Workgroup has reviewed diversity, equity and inclusion plans at 15 other institutions to explore best practices, opportunities to ensure transparency and accountability, and identify feedback mechanisms that allow for two-way communications. In tandem with these efforts, our DEI Inventory Workgroup has been hard at work developing surveys that aim to understand what DEI efforts already exist on campus. As such, you can expect to receive a survey via email in the coming weeks.

We are greatly appreciative of our fellow committee members for prioritizing these critical efforts, and for volunteering their expertise and time, even through the summer. We remain deeply committed to this work, and do not take lightly the honor and the immense responsibility associated with it. As we look to the fall, we will find ways to engage with as many of our audiences and stakeholders as possible.

Stay safe and be well as you continue with your work, studies and service, and please continue to share your input with us regarding this work.

Thank you,

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee

Luis Alonzo Garcia, co-chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee
Wanda Lipscomb, co-chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee