Good morning. Welcome to our 3rd annual Professional Development Day!
I want to first thank Vice President Shontay Delalue and her team in the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity for their hard work in organizing the day—it looks truly amazing.
I also want to acknowledge our Title IX Program Officer, Rene Davis, who will offer the keynote on sexual harassment and gender inequity in the workplace. I can’t think of a more timely and important topic.
And of course, my thanks to all of you for choosing to be here.
I am proud of the progress we have made at Brown on diversity and inclusion. The DIAP was introduced nearly two years ago, and we have enacted comprehensive initiatives and processes across the University. Today’s sessions will highlight highlight many of our accomplishments, with data, lessons learned and best practices.
In light of our progress, Professional Development Day might be seen as a checkpoint in our journey to become a more inclusive, respectful university community.
And yet, despite the successes, we would be wise to think of Professional Development Day not just as a checkpoint, but as a reality check.
As we know, the country remains roiled with divisiveness and tension, threatening democratic institutions, and alienating those vulnerable to injustices because of race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and gender.
Let me remind you that it was only six months ago when Charlottesville happened, and bigotry was mainstreamed in the most chilling way possible.
It was only five months ago when Dreamers were thrust into uncertainty, and we once again had to marshal arguments touting the extraordinary contributions of immigrants to the social, cultural, and intellectual life of this country.
It was only four months ago when brave women from every background began to speak out about sexual harassment, domestic violence and workplace inequality, and the MeToo and Times Up movements emerged.
And it was only two weeks ago that racist flyers were distributed and posted right here in Providence, including on streets that run through our campus.
Now, how do we reconcile the promise and intentionality of our diversity efforts with the broken notions of equity and justice that we see in the world?
Well, it begins with recognizing the power of our purpose. This is an institution of higher education. We occupy a position on the front lines of knowledge creation, and at the cutting edge of discovery.
We convey a truth we have come to know: that academic excellence and social progress are advanced by diverse experiences and perspectives.
Because we are charged with preparing students who will go on to be novel thinkers, innovative leaders, and engaged, compassionate citizens who have impact in the world, we have to model the preparation of young people to thrive in diversity.
We have to set the bar high. We have to be better.
That is why the DIAP marked such an important moment for Brown: it gave us all a roadmap to be better – not just as staff, faculty and students, but as human beings.
Two years into DIAP, I think we are better, in a number of ways.
We’re better because we attracted top faculty from historically underrepresented groups to Brown and engaged their brilliant scholarship and innovative approaches to educating.
We’re better because we increased the numbers of graduate students from historically underrepresented groups who are are applying to and enrolling at Brown – and bringing with them their unique talents and worldviews.
We’re better because we opened a First-Generation College and Low-Income Student Center last fall, an idea inspired by thoughtful first generation students at Brown who wished to empower first-generation students like themselves.
We’re better because we introduced the Reaffirming University Values lecture series, which continues to set an intellectually open tone and foster dialogue among people with different views.
We’re better because we have new staff at the LGBQT Center, the Brown Center for Students of Color and the new Native American and Indigenous Peoples Initiative – strengthening curricular and co-curricular support for our incredibly diverse student body.
We’re better because we coordinate professional development sessions with faculty and staff on recognizing implicit bias, developing "inclusive classrooms," and other topics that advance a shared desire to learn – from each other.
And we’re better because of the partnerships we cultivate with community organizations – through the Swearer Center and across the University.
As an institution of higher education, if our work is truly about training the leaders, thinkers, and innovators of the future, then our community must reflect the diverse world in which we live. Our efforts must affirm the truth that diversity is a cornerstone of knowledge, innovation and social progress.
Many of us who attended the Reaffirming University Values discussion on white supremacy and Charlottesville last semester will recall Bonnie Honig’s eloquence – about the “devitalization” of public life and the steps required to build communities that hold together.
That insight feels so important right now. At a time when bitterness infects the public square, communities – like ours – are taking steps to be better, to cultivate what makes them stronger.
I see DIAP as such a step. It is reshaping our campus culture, creating an environment that celebrates the contributions of all, and expands the marketplace of ideas. We are trying to replace walls that separate with bridges of opportunity.
While I am proud of the strides we’ve made, we cannot become complacent. There’s so much more to do.
Workplaces and educational institutions are still not as diverse and inclusive as they should be, and do not yet reflect the rich variety of ideas and talent that are embodied in the changing population of our nation and the world.
Will there be new outbursts of intolerance and bigotry that reverberate across the country? Sadly, I suspect there will be. And when they do occur, it may feel hopeless to us, despite all of the good work we are doing to strengthen the Brown community.
But now more than ever, universities like Brown must model the norms and values that bring people together, and revitalize public life.
Let me conclude with an announcement.
Over the past two years, I have heard stories of many individuals – staff, students and faculty – who made extraordinary efforts to bring the DIAP to life at Brown.
While some people take on this work as part of their job descriptions, many others do not. And their often hidden contributions should be recognized and valued.
So I am very pleased to announce that we have created the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan Community Awards, to recognize the work of individuals in the Brown community who have gone above and beyond to implement the University DIAP and/or their Departmental Diversity and Inclusion Action Plans.
Beginning this year, there will be six awards given annually – two for staff, two for students, and two for faculty – and each awardee will receive $4,000. Nominations for 2018 will open shortly and close on April 1. Shontay Delalue’s office will take the lead in overseeing this process, and I want to thank her in working with me to develop plans for these new awards.
So, I would invite you to put forward colleagues and students who you believe are making us better.
Let me close by saying that America’s diversity is an amazing achievement and a national asset that has prompted positive social change and spurred relentless innovation and discovery. It is this very idea that has made this country a beacon of hope for so many.
So on Professional Development Day, as we take stock of where we are and imagine where we wish to be, consider what you can learn today, how you can grow today – as a member of the Brown community, and as a human being.
And with that, I would invite our provost, Rick Locke – who has been instrumental in advancing and refining the departmental DIAP process across the University – to the podium to offer his thoughts on Professional Development Day.