On June 30, Hunter College President Jennifer Raab sent the following message to the Hunter community:
Dear Hunter Community,
It has been nearly one month since you received my message to the Hunter community in response to the unspeakable tragedy of George Floyd’s murder and racial injustice in this country. I shared my hope that we can emerge from this period of anxiety and despair with a renewed commitment to creating a learning environment that is more welcoming, inclusive, and sensitive than ever. Today, I want to update you on the work we are doing to develop initiatives that will help us continue to confront systemic racism and create a more inclusive learning environment at Hunter.
These initiatives emerged following a series of moving and thoughtful discussions with a wide range of faculty from all of Hunter’s schools and programs, administrators, and student-leaders, as well as the Senate Administrative and Faculty Personnel and Budget Committees.
Education: Public Programming and Conversations
We are dedicated to facilitating learning about the historical and political context surrounding efforts to advance racial equity. Working with Roosevelt House’s programming team, we will host a series of virtual events, Speaking of Justice: Race, Racism and Reform, that feature faculty, scholars and activists who will speak to topics such as the history and current impact of protests, health inequities, controversial monuments, voting rights and voter suppression, and defunding police departments. The events will take place each Thursday evening from 6:30-7:30 pm. At the end of the program, from 7:30-8:00 pm, attendees will have the opportunity to join moderated breakout groups. The smaller group discussions will provide space to delve deeper into the program’s topic and participate in meaningful dialogue.
The first event, Protest as a Path to Progress: Making Black Lives Matter, will feature Professor D’Weston Haywood, History Department; Professor Lázaro Lima, Department of Africana, Puerto Rican and Latino Studies; and Professor Calvin Smiley, Sociology Department and will take place on Thursday, July 9th at 6:30 pm. Registration for the event is now open.
Our freshman class will begin their educational experience at Hunter by reading and discussing a faculty-selected book that speaks to the history, politics, and impact of racism. We are working to extend this reading program to other constituencies on campus. Reading as a community will deepen our conversations and complement the summer program series as well as other initiatives on campus.
We recognize the traumatic impact of racism on our students. In response, on July 1, 2020, we will welcome an additional counselor to our team of mental health professionals. We are addressing the need for increased mental health services as students navigate the stress resulting from racism in our country and the overwhelming impact of COVID-19 on our students and their families. We hope that the hiring of our new counselor will be the first in a series of positive changes we will be making this summer as we continue to build a robust and diverse mental health team at Hunter College.
Additionally, our Counseling and Wellness team will be facilitating support groups over the summer. The weekly group meetings will provide a place for students to discuss the ways in which the current racial and socio-political climate affects their well-being with a focus on exploring how to effectively cope with these stressors, while also being a part of the progress and change. An email will be sent to Hunter students in the coming days with information about how to participate in the group sessions.
Presidential Task Force:
We have committed to taking a deep dive and examining policies and practices at Hunter College to ensure that they reflect our values of diversity, inclusion, and racial equity. To that end, I will charge a Presidential Task Force that will thoughtfully consider the many suggestions and ideas that have been received by the administration in recent weeks and recommend new programs, policies, and practices that will help us achieve our goal of confronting racism. For example, the task force will explore the possibility of a required training for members of our campus to prevent implicit bias and address microaggressions. Working closely with the Hunter Senate, they will also explore potential curricular enhancements that will focus on race and racism. The task force will convene conversations and connect the various initiatives that are underway across campus so that we can be collaborative, productive, and effective. The task force will hold its first meeting in July with the hope of presenting their recommendations early in the fall semester. If you are interested in learning more about the work of the committee or would like to participate in the task force or a committee of the task force, please let us know.
As we navigate these times of reflection and reform, we are guided by the Hunter motto, Mihi Cura Futuri—the Care of the Future Is Mine.
I am grateful to the many faculty, staff members, and students who are generously lending their expertise and time over the summer to support these initiatives.
Wishing you a safe and healthy summer,
Jennifer J. Raab