NYU pledges more diversity, meaningful direction in the wake of Black Lives Matter resurgence

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PWI works to respond to the rise of protests with “substance.”

New York University board of trustees sent a memorandum pledging to implement far-reaching and ongoing changes at the school regarding racial justice. The memo came in response to recent nationwide outcry and protest regarding police brutality against Black Americans and widespread inequality. Quoting social justice lawyer and NYU professor Bryan Stevenson, they wrote, “We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated”.

The university faced pressure from faculty and students to expand its opportunities for Black and low-income undergraduates.

Mike Gomez, Director of NYU’s Center for the Study of Africa and the African Diaspora, implored the University community to do better in his own letter:

Marches and demonstrations are important, the participants to be commended, but something more is required, and effort far more thoroughgoing . . . we therefore have a responsibility to re-imagine and refashion our worlds in ways that comport with our own needs and sensibilities”

The memo acknowledged the university’s own culpability and contribution to racist systems, then named and detailed the actions the institution will take to dismantle those.  The board stated that changes should commence during the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.

Specifically, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholars Program was a point of contention for online critics, who circulated a petition demanding that the scholarship be expanded, both in award amount and number of recipients.  Now, NYU has vowed to invest an additional $6 million per year and double the number of beneficiaries to 60 per class.  The 30-year-old scholarship will be expanded more in the future.

For faculty whose work has had a positive impact on society, the University established the James Weldon Johnson Scholars Program. Valued at $25,000 per year for three years, the funding is named after James Weldon Johnson, a civil rights activist and NYU’s first Black professor.  It aims to promote the school’s Cross-Cutting Initiative on Inequality program.

NYU will also expand the Management Fellows program and create a new mentorship program with the Administrative Management Council to address diversity in its higher administration.

The University has launched NYU-BeTOGETHER, a program that will address and implement the wishes of the student body regarding social issues and disparities.  New online learning modules on diversity, equity and inclusion will now be required for all first-year students.

Before the memo, in communication to NYU faculty, the Office of the Provost detailed the steps they will undertake to confront inequities.  These include strengthened partnerships with the Office of Global Inclusion and Office of Equal Opportunity; a commitment to a more diverse faculty in the future; the launch of two new student courses entitled, Race and Inequality and Black Lives Matter; and the introduction of a discussion series, in partnership with NYU Libraries, on systemic and structural racism.

From Vermont to the world, Sophia Moore Smith is an investigator, gardener, reader, and lover of language. 

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