Feb. 1, 2021

Dear HWS Community,

Over a century ago, meditating on questions of liberation and democracy in The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B DuBois observed that the equality we need in our political and social lives cannot be “confounded with sameness.” On the contrary, he insisted upon a “right of diversity.” A century later, I wonder what he would say about our world. Generations of struggle have accomplished much, yet our commitment to diversity is uneven and our systems remain substantively inequitable.

In the midst of concurrent movements for racial, gender and indigenous justice, HWS is called into the unfinished business of creating a community where diversity is honored, protected and strengthened. Ultimately, we are called to educate so that a diversity of identities, communities and people can fully participate and productively contribute to remaking society. There is no higher calling for the liberal arts than this.

On behalf of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, we are grateful to share some of the ways in which offices, departments and programs have collaborated to grow diversity, promote inclusion and confront inequity. Attached is the Summary Report of Fall semester progress on the HWS Strategic Diversity Plan (SDP). It’s important to measure progress through the SDP. It was developed by faculty, staff and students as our guiding document for integrating principles of equity and inclusion into every part of our community. I will share updates of this kind at the start of each semester and will track progress. I invite faculty staff and students to communicate their efforts here and I will incorporate them.

I encourage you to take a look at these efforts. As you’ll see, our faculty and staff have participated in hundreds of hours of professional development to address implicit bias and identify antiracist policies and practices for offices and classrooms. You’ll also learn about the efforts of Admissions to create more inclusive recruitment practices and the efforts of Human Resources and the Office of Faculty and Academic Affairs to reexamine hiring policies for faculty and staff, towards greater inclusion of diverse staff and faculty candidates.

Many of the efforts happening can go unnoticed by most of us. Such as greater intentionality by the Finance Office to increase utilization of diverse suppliers, or the creation of a diversity, equity and inclusion fund by the Office of Advancement, or a mounting effort by Trustees and senior administration to look inward and address internal biases and assess the equity of policies and practices at all levels.

Other efforts are widely visible. Among the most prominent examples is our community-wide reckoning with the first-year curriculum. Last semester the student and faculty advocates called for a seeding of antiracist education in the first-year experience. The Provost, ODEI and CTL are engaging students and faculty to address inclusive pedagogy and curriculum across a range of diversities.

This includes last week’s faculty retreat which addressed diversity, equity and inclusion in the curriculum. The high level of faculty engagement indicates how much our community wants a meaningful examination of how representative and inclusive our curriculum can be. As we commence Black History Month, I am reminded that generations of justice-minded scholars have insisted that a diverse and inclusive body of knowledge is elemental to community and belonging.

While I appreciate the progress we’re making, much work lies ahead. Yet we have reason to enact hope and actively cultivate an inclusive campus culture. DuBois asserted that if we honor and protect diversity we can all participate in “a realm of true freedom in thought” where our individual gifts, aptitudes, and genius can build into the intellectual and cultural wealth of our society. As we enter this Spring semester, I cannot imagine a better aspiration for our community.

Looking forward to sharing in the work with you.

Khuram Hussain, PhD
Associate Professor of Education
VP for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion