June 15, 2020: Actions to Support Diverse Communities

Dear Members of the Bucknell Community,

In recent days many of you have reached out to us personally, posted on social media, or signed petitions on Change.org and elsewhere to express your frustration and anger regarding the circumstances surrounding the brutal murder of George Floyd and the many other cases of racial injustice in our country. You have asked Bucknell to take a deeper look at how it can do more to make meaningful change. We hear you and are committed to leading the University in that work. Black lives do matter at Bucknell.

In President Bravman’s Breath of Life email, we reaffirmed that Bucknell can and must do more when it comes to issues that focus on justice, equity and human rights. As an institution of higher education, we have an obligation, as our mission statement and our strategic plan clearly state, to address historical and emerging barriers to equity and inclusion and provide all students, faculty and staff the structures and programs to thrive on campus and in a diverse world. This includes overcoming racism.

In the midst of these trying times, our challenge and opportunity is to find ways to bring all members of our community together to build a learning and work environment that is inclusive in fact and not merely in rhetoric. Although our work necessarily will be extensive and ongoing, some immediate actions we are taking are as follows. Other actions will follow, including development of evaluation and reporting processes, and all will be complementary to the existing efforts of the President’s Diversity Council, the Provost’s office, Student Affairs and many others.

Being Heard
There are far too few opportunities for Bucknell’s diverse communities to truly and authentically be heard. You’ve told us this many times. In the past few weeks there have been a few such opportunities, including Zoom meetings, for which we are grateful, but we know that these must not be organized just in the wake of tragedy. We understand that if people cannot be heard, learning is impossible.

We also understand that those who hear must truly listen and strive to understand, and must include those who have the special responsibility of nurturing the University at the highest levels. To this end, the president’s senior team, the Operations & Management Group (OMG), will henceforth include the Associate Provost For Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Furthermore, the OMG will create more opportunities to listen to individuals and groups concerning their experiences at Bucknell and how our work must evolve to make Bucknell better. Similarly, and at least annually, the Board of Trustees will, as a whole, directly engage with diverse members of the community on critical issues concerning the University. These forms of engagement, and others, along with ongoing assessments thereof, will help all of us further identify actions that lead to sustainable change.

Employee Training
As part of a systematic effort to build a more inclusive and diverse environment, we will design and institute a strengthened and more permanent set of programs that address such common workplace issues as unconscious bias, search process design and systemic pay disparities. Part of this effort will be aimed at new employees and the on-boarding process, but the training and reviews we build will be required of all employees and units. Additionally, college and divisional leaders will pursue training and professional development opportunities to raise workplace awareness of racism and other forms of discrimination, and to define action steps to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment at the University. One essential component of that improvement must comprise building and retaining a more diverse faculty and staff.

As an academic institution, the curriculum is at the center of our mission. As Provost Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak said recently in a faculty and staff town hall meeting, we are committed to incorporating the study of injustice and inequality across the curriculum. We are already doing this in parts of the institution, but we can and will do better. Consistent with the call in the Plan for Bucknell 2025 to study the feasibility of a University Core Curriculum, we will include in this analysis coursework centered on the role of privilege in contemporary society. This will further the goal of developing students who, in the words of our mission statement, “serve the common good while seeking to promote justice in ways sensitive to the moral and ethical dimensions of life.”

Creation of an Anti-Racism Fund
Overseen by the Office of the Provost, an Anti-Racism Fund will support campus-wide anti-racism and anti-bias efforts including but not limited to facilitator training, resource materials, curriculum development, and faculty, staff and student education and programming. Until our financial picture for the next budget year is clearer, this fund will be seeded by a reallocation of existing resources while also becoming a designation for philanthropic support.

Search for Our New Director of Multicultural Student Services
Our current director recently announced she is leaving Bucknell for an opportunity at another institution. We immediately posted the search for her successor with the goal of filling this critical position as soon as possible.

The University’s work continues to be supported by our faculty and staff partners engaged in, for instance, the Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives & Cultures, the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Gender, and Multicultural Student Services, amongst many others. We also will continue building upon the work of the Diversity Plan as we complete its second iteration. We ask members of our campus community to take advantage of these programs and resources and the dedicated staff who, through these initiatives, continue to focus on creating a more inclusive and welcoming Bucknell. For more, please visit this website.

Looking Ahead
We want to make clear, both personally and on behalf of Bucknell, that we need to do better. We must maintain the will and allocate the resources to do all we can as a University to cultivate an academic environment that is socially just, equitable, inclusive, accessible and diverse. We will address it in our educational programs, in our teaching and scholarly work, and in our engagement and related activities. In the coming weeks and months, you will hear more from us and other members of our campus community as we continue to find collective answers to the persistent issues we all know but too infrequently recognize.

We must and will do better moving forward. And this must be everyone’s responsibility. We owe it to our current students, faculty and staff. We owe it to the communities and organizations where our students become not only contributing members, but also leaders. We owe it to our future students. And we owe it to our society. It won’t be easy, but it is critically important, and we all need to join the conversation and take action if we are to make progress against racism and discrimination.


John Bravman, President

Chris O’Brien ’80 P’18 ’20, Chair of the Bucknell Board of Trustees