Letter to the Editor: Casey and Hucks Respond to Anti-Racism Letter


To the signatories of the letter of July 13,

We write, as President and Provost and Dean of the Faculty, to acknowledge and thank those who signed the letter of July 13, 2020. As the letter notes, over the past several weeks, both of us and the Board have sent to the campus and to the greater alumni community a series of messages and communications in which we condemned racism, decried the loss of Black lives in America, spoke to the role of systemic racism in many of our nation’s institutions — including Colgate — and indicated the need to celebrate Black contributions to Colgate and to this nation through the recognition of Juneteenth as a new University holiday. We again, today, reiterate and reaffirm these messages.

Since our own arrivals at Colgate in 2016 and 2017, we have engaged in a systematic and rigorous review of the campus and the development of a pathway to a better and stronger future for Colgate. This work has resulted in both a comprehensive long-term plan for Colgate, The Third-Century Plan, and the first real roadmap for change in campus life and campus culture, The Third-Century Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (the “DEI Plan.”)

It was extremely helpful — indeed, encouraging — that you connected some of your thinking with The Third-Century Plan and the DEI Plan. (Indeed, many of the points raised in your letter have their direct corresponding recommendations in the plans themselves.) The citing of these plans indicates that we all share common purposes: the creation of a more excellent Colgate, the commitment to being an anti-racist institution, a desire for concrete and sustained action, and a pledge to establish accountability against the University’s intentions. Such alignment is deeply encouraging.

The DEI Plan was informed, first, by a comprehensive external review of the University’s campus climate in 2016–17. The actual plan was created through the tireless work of more than 70 faculty and staff members over two years. The DEI Plan was adopted by the University in November 2019. This plan presents a long-term roadmap for Colgate to achieve true excellence — excellence that has as its foundation a respect for a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds, a commitment to equity at all levels, and a passion for the transformative power of a liberal arts education. The plan calls for fundamental and significant changes in our hiring and admission practices, the support of our staff, and student residential and social life, as well as many other steps. One of the major recommendations — among the several dozen put forth — is to hire a Chief Diversity Officer, and that national search began in earnest several weeks ago. The Chief Diversity Officer will sit on the President’s Cabinet. Further, this individual will have our and the Board’s full support to begin to do the necessary work to achieve the goals set forth in The Third-Century Plan and the DEI Plan.

We believe — not only from our work on this campus, but from our time on other campuses — that true change, the core change that your letter speaks of and to which we have dedicated our professional and personal lives, can only come from the intense, sustained, rigorous work that planning and implementation require. It calls for the joint dedication of the faculty, the Board, the alumni bodies, and the administration. This is why both of us, in our early years as members of this community, worked through our University governance systems to develop the plans that can guide Colgate forward.

As a recent Maroon-News investigative report makes clear and as Colgate’s more recent history demonstrates, creating a more inclusive campus cannot be accomplished simply through administrative reaction to individual incidents. As your letter points out, we have seen that too many times. In Colgate’s history, these moments of “event and reaction” have only resulted in — as the Maroon-News rightly noted — a repeated cycle in which the University’s culture does not significantly change or improve. This cycle denies Colgate the opportunity to forge systemic, sustained, and meaningful change. This is why, as we arrived a few years ago, we committed ourselves to leading Colgate to a new pathway forward. We committed ourselves to the engagement of all constituencies of the University, to robust debate over our aims, and to the development of a clear, measurable set of actions as part of a public plan.

It is important to note here that the faculty have themselves been involved in their own work of discernment, commitment, and planning, as reflected in their work on the review of Colgate’s core curriculum. On July 6, the Core Revision Committee, consisting of faculty from across academic disciplines, released a draft of a revised Liberal Arts Core Curriculum, titled Diverse Perspectives, Inclusive Communities: A Core for Colgate’s Third Century, for consideration by the entire faculty in Fall 2020. A stated goal of this new core is to “align the faculty-driven core curriculum with the institutional mandate of the 2019 DEI Plan.” The faculty will take up this proposal in this academic year and engage in the very challenging work and necessary discussion that curricular change requires. Our responsibility — again as President and Provost — is to support the faculty as they take up this work and consider change through their faculty processes. It must be the work of the Board, the alumni bodies, the faculty, and the students.

It also requires accountability.

Accordingly, a University Report will be issued annually to hold all of us accountable to the goals set forth in both plans, to allow us to chart our progress, and to update our plans as the context changes. The first University Report will be issued in the next few weeks. In that report, we will provide detailed updates on all of the initiatives that Colgate has undertaken, including those outlined in the DEI Plan and those outlined in your letter.

We also will — as part of our commitment to sustained work — bring back to the faculty, the Board, the Alumni Council, and the administration, both The Third-Century Plan and the DEI Plan. We must ensure that the plans stay relevant. Are our plans bold enough? Are they still relevant? How can we do more? These are exactly the questions that will this year — and in all future years — be before our faculty, our administration, and our Board. Your letter and the ideas it contains will be part of these processes. This is exactly how you create a meaningful, shared vision.

This is the work — 1) developing a vision and pathway to a future, 2) reporting out on progress and challenges, and 3) refining and amending plans through rigorous and robust debate and discussion — that Colgate requires, not only to meet the vision you set forth in your letter, but also for all of us to be a part of this University’s continued development. Were we not to demand this sort of rigorous, focused work of Colgate — much as we demand it of ourselves — then we will have failed to have moved this University forward. We will be just the newest participants in an exhausting cycle that does not result in real change.

We recently met with the leaders of the alumni-based Partnership for Racial Progress, and it is clear that alumni of color are not only committed to change at Colgate, but also want to work in partnership and collaboration with this administration, the faculty, and the Board. We have met with students and faculty. We have read your letter with great care and attention. There is clear commitment to the sustained work we must undertake to address racism, to make Colgate live fully up to its mission, and to create an institution here in Hamilton that, as you quote, “educates reasoned and reasonable leaders and citizens of the world.” And, as the rest of the quote continues: “… who change that world through wisdom, intelligence, and grace.”

Colgate’s first University Report will be published in a few short weeks. In it you will see the progress made against both plans, and you will see where we have fallen short. And as the semester begins, we commence another year of continued development of and commitment to our shared future. We both expect that The Third-Century Plan and the DEI Plan will be debated and amended this year through these processes. (We have received, as an example of this process, a set of recommendations from the ALANA Board about how to enhance and improve the DEI Plan.)

We are excited to collaborate with the Partnership for Racial Progress in this work. We look forward to partnering with the Colgate faculty, Board, and alumni bodies in this work. We look forward to engaging with the ideas presented in your letter and offered in so many conversations as these plans are debated and updated. That is the sustained work before us that is necessary to create the Colgate we know our students and this nation needs.
We look forward to working together toward creating lasting and meaningful change.


Brian W. Casey, President

Tracey E. Hucks, Provost and Dean of the Faculty