Dec. 7, 2015

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

Many of you are likely concerned about racial tensions manifesting on campuses across the nation, and I write to share that I, along with many in leadership positions at Drew, are deeply engaged in thinking about the issues of racial bigotry and bias that have been raised by the #blacklivesmatter movement and that are affecting students and campuses nationally. I’m sure that many of you have been following closely and know that many, if not most, of the protests and demands have been stimulated by particular instances of racial bias or micro-aggressions that students believe are unaddressed by campus administrations and students’ experience of deeply entrenched and long term patterns of behavior in unwelcoming environments.

Drew University is not immune to instances of bigotry or bias, or perceived bigotry or bias. In that context, I write to assert my own personal and deep commitment to ensuring that our University is a safe and inclusive community. Our intention is to respond immediately and directly when such instances are brought to our attention, and to use our existing human rights processes to investigate when educational interventions don’t suffice. We have intensified our regular programming on race, race relations and sensitivity training, with the goal of making our campus more safe and comfortable for all. I encourage any community member who has an experience of bias, bigotry or continued micro-aggression to report it, and, if you choose, to contact me directly with those concerns. I will listen, and I will refer the information for investigation through our human rights processes.

Again, I do not believe that Drew is a community immune to bigotry and bias. What I do believe is that we are striving to make inclusion a natural part of our mission and heritage in ways that allow us to have tough conversations in respectful ways. I am listening to community members and we are intensifying our ongoing commitment to inclusion rather than instituting forced, structured and created-for-the-moment conversations or entities to address race relations. If and when community members approach me or anyone in a leadership position with issues that cause them concern or pain, we will work with them to find the right venue for conversation as soon as possible. I also welcome suggestions and wisdom on how we might begin our new semester in January discussing, listening and studying ourselves and our community and how we can be the best we can be.

Best wishes for a happy and peaceful holiday season,

President MaryAnn Baenninger