June 8, 2020
Dear Members of the CMU Community:
Last week, President Farnam Jahanian reached out to reaffirm Carnegie Mellon’s solidarity with our Black and African-American community in the wake of the tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. We share his outrage, and commit ourselves to working to dismantle the systemic racism that still pervades society more than 60 years after the Civil Rights Movement started.
We write today to provide details on how CMU is moving forward. Following the announcement of the findings of the Campus Climate Task Force this past fall, we articulated a set of goals, one of which was the establishment of a university-wide office dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Beginning in January, we hosted forums and discussions to hear from students, faculty, staff and alumni to gather our collective aspirations for this office, which will report directly to the provost. Today, we officially announce the launch of a global search for the inaugural Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to lead this office and catalyze its important mission. The pandemic caused us to suspend the start of the search process, but recent events have caused us to realize there is no more time to delay. We look forward to updating the community later this month with details about the search, including the membership of the search committee.
Additionally, all academic and administrative units have pursued the development of DEI plans that, in spite of the pandemic, are entering their implementation phases, ensuring that our efforts are accelerating institution-wide. The new vice provost will assist the units in the continual evaluation and improvement of their plans. These units will be held accountable by the president and provost to confirm that progress is achieved over the ensuing years.
Our primary focus over the last week has been to continue to provide support and care to the students who have been impacted by racism, inequality, inequity, injustice and discrimination. Our health and counseling teams have shared resources on activism, exhaustion, and self-care on their websites along with statements of continued support for our Black community and are working directly with impacted students. Our Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion staff have been working around the clock to further support our students and student organization leaders.
We recognize that this is a time when we need to listen, learn, and act with purpose. Beginning last week, and on an ongoing basis, leaders from the colleges are partnering with experts to curate conversations with members of their communities. This fall we will establish a university-wide forum to address the issues we must face to confront racism and create a more just society. In these forums, we will invite all voices who wish to participate, and ensure that they are supported and able to be heard. Beyond our campus, we will pursue opportunities to engage our neighboring communities in a dialogue about how CMU can partner with city leaders to build a more just and equitable Pittsburgh.
Both of us appreciate the honest and difficult conversations we have had with student leaders over the last week. We have been humbled and impressed by the leadership and advocacy of CMU’s student government and student organizations, and with their engagement of graduate and undergraduate student communities to advocate for the Black student experience on campus. We continue to learn from them and value the continued dialogue on how to do better.
Unfiltered discussion leads to stronger bonds and greater understanding, and we are grateful to have heard from so many of you in response to last weekend’s message. We agree with your frustration that our words must be met with action. You asked pointed questions about how CMU will fulfill its promise to do better. Several of you offered suggestions about tactical solutions to racism across our global campus community, and over the weekend we received petitions with additional proposals for concrete actions. Thank you for being bold and leaning in to tell us what you need from us, for speaking the truth about your experiences, and for giving us feedback on where we have fallen short. In our process of self-reflection, we commit to give all the comments and suggestions we received their due consideration, and to report back to the community on how we will act upon them.
We recognize that real sustainable change comes not through words or one-off solutions but through deep introspection, intentional planning, transparency, genuine engagement with our community members and accountability. We will expand our commitment to combatting the systemic injustice of racism not just in moments of national attention, but also in the quieter times of perceived normalcy that exist between the headlines and protests. University leadership will use our influence and educational insight to combat systemic racism both on and off campus. We aim for Carnegie Mellon to be a model for others as we lead the charge forward, and we know that while we have made some progress, we still have work to do to achieve our shared vision.
Jim Garrett, Provost
Gina Casalegno, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students