Aequitas: The Presidential Task Force on Race
Dear Members of the Villanova Community,
This week, Dr. Terry Nance and I were looking forward to sharing an update with you regarding the work of Aequitas: The Presidential Task Force on Race. As you know, I established the Task Force this past summer to assess the racial climate on campus, identify areas for improvement, and create a plan for developing the cultural competence for all students, staff and faculty who are members of the Villanova community.
Today, Dr. Nance and I am happy to share the Task Force’s progress, but we do so with a heavy heart, as just this week another tragic death has occurred on the streets of Philadelphia. We would like to express our condolences to the family, friends, and neighborhood community of Mr. Walter Wallace, Jr. The greatest tribute we can pay the Walter Wallace family is our commitment to continue working for and demanding change. As James Baldwin once said, “The impossible is the least that one can demand.”
Dear Members of the Villanova Community,
Aequitas: The Presidential Task Force on Race was established to assess the racial climate on campus, identify areas for improvement, and create a plan for developing the cultural competence for all students, staff and faculty who are members of the Villanova community. The work of Aequitas is connected to our new Strategic Plan: Rooted. Restless.,which includes a strong commitment to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. However, the necessity of this undertaking became even more apparent as instances of racial inequality and injustice continue to occur in our communities and our world.
For the past three months, the members of the Steering Committee have taken Father Peter’s charge, as well as input from the Black Student Union*, to inform our work. Today, I am pleased to share an update on our progress to date and provide information about next steps as we continue to pursue this mission-critical effort.
Task Force Progress as of July 2020
Since our establishment in July, the Task Force has met four times as a larger group. The first several meetings were spent understanding the nature and scope the work required of the committee and determining the underlying issues to be addressed. Given that the Task Force’s primary focus is on race and racism, trainers from the University of Michigan’s Intergroup Dialogue Program were brought in to discuss the complexities of discussing race, and to assist in the process of engaging in productive dialogue on the topic. Additionally, the group has spent time discussing structural racism and what it looks like in higher education institutions and the critical difference between diversity and anti-racism work.
As a result of these meetings, and considering the formal charges to the Task Force, the Steering Committee identified eight University goals:
- ACADEMIC ANTI-RACIST EVALUATION: Encourage all departments and academic programs to undertake a systematic evaluation of the underlying assumptions of their disciplines related to race.
- DIVERSITY COURSE and IGR: Work with the Colleges and their Deans to offer a course required of all Villanova students and focused on a study of race and racism to enhance dialogue across varied groups and perspectives.
- DIVERSE COMMUNITY (Faculty & Staff) & (Student): In line with the Strategic Plan: Rooted. Restless., increase the numbers of Black and minoritized members of our community, particularly students, senior staff and faculty.
- CAMPUS CLIMATE: Review all relevant climate data related to the perceptions of Black and minoritized students, faculty and staff regarding their lives on campus.
- RACE and POLICING: The Aequitas Task Force, with representatives from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) and the Office of Strategic Planning and Institutional Effectiveness (OSPIE), and in conjunction with Public Safety and the Police Oversight Committee, will determine what data, trends or numbers are available to inform a review of policies that potentially impact matters of race and policing on Villanova’s campus.
- STUDENT RELATIONS: The Student Relations Committee will work to ensure that the overall student experience aligns with each objective of the Aequitas Task Force and the Aequitas Anti-Racism Statement, which is still under development.
- COMMUNICATIONS: Conduct a racial equity audit of Villanova’s written and visual communications, which will culminate in recommendations on external communications, internal messaging and organizational review practices as they pertain to goals related to racial equity.
- PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT (Staff) & (Faculty)
More detailed information on each of these eight goals can be found at villanova.edu/aequitas.
We recognize that these goals are only the beginning of the work before us as a Task Force, and we are gratified by the number of community members interested in joining us in these important efforts. We are also cognizant that greater community involvement is imperative toward creating a more just and equitable Villanova. That is why we will name General Committee members to the Task Force in January and host a community webinar to share our work to date and address any questions regarding our progress. More information about the General Committee and the community webinar will be forthcoming.
We are honored to be a part of this important work and look forward to sharing more details with you soon. For the most up-to-date information, please visit the Aequitas webpage on the Office of the President site.
Terry Nance, PhD
Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Chair of the Aequitas Presidential Task Force on Race
* Specific recommendations can be obtained by contacting the Black Student Union. The Task Force is grateful for the thoughtful input from the Black Student Union and will continue to use their input to inform our work.