Real Change is More Than a March, Taskforce or Committee
June 9, 2020
Dear NOVA Nighthawks,
On Monday, I shared an open letter to our community asking us to consider what we can and must do to live our values and make equity in opportunity real at NOVA. Our mission, diversity and scale mean that success in our efforts to address systemic racism at our college can and will have a positive impact well beyond the borders of our campuses.
Like many of you, over this past week, my family and I participated in peaceful marches and other actions protesting racism and calling for the societal changes necessary to make Black lives matter. Real change, however, will take much more than a march, a task force or a special committee. This is not the time for another report of well-intentioned recommendations that gathers dust. If things are to change, we must come together to act, and because we are NOVA, we will.
Among our initial action steps are the following:
- NOVA’s College Senate and Councils provide a structure of cross-campus engagement at all levels through which we can move from “equity talk to equity walk.” All have agreed to join Administrative Council in identifying three specific, measurable, visible actions they will take in the coming year to improve equity in student outcomes and address the impact of structural racism on our college. Taken together, these actions will form the foundation of NOVA’s commitment to change.
- I will hold listening Zooms throughout June with our students and employees to hear their thoughts about NOVA’s climate and culture, and our Campus Provosts are doing the same. Look for dates/times in the Daily Flyer.
- We will begin advertising for NOVA’s first Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer this summer with the full search to commence this fall when teaching faculty return.
- NOVA will adopt an equity statement and will review our Mission and Values to ensure that they reflect who we are and the opportunity we hold out for the full diversity of our community.
- While NOVA has made efforts to close this gap, the demographics of our employees does not reflect those of our students. There is work to do, and Human Resources is taking the following steps: by fall, implementing implicit bias and cultural awareness training for all employees; implementing VCCS guidance on search advocates; establishing a review group, to include College Senate appointees and external members, that will identify and drive improvements in our search and promotion processes.
- NOVA is considering a common read or reads to frame our work and build a shared starting point for discussion and action. Suggestions thus far include How to be an AntiRacist by Ibram X. Kendi; From Equity Talk to Equity Walk by Tia Brown McNair, Estela Mara Bensimon, and Lindsey Malcom Piqueux; and White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo. If you have thoughts about a common read, let me know.
There is more to do, so please make your voice and ideas heard: reach out through College Senate, the Diversity and Inclusion Council, your Forum Council or your employee affinity Council; participate in one of the college-wide or campus listening sessions; or—if all of that is too public for you—send me an email. Suggest additional steps NOVA should take to make real our promise of equity in opportunity.
Finally, I cannot write a message about diversity, equity, and inclusion this week without noting that it is Pride Week, and NOVA’s amazing Virtual Student Union is hosting events each day to recognize and celebrate our LGBTQ+ community. I hope you will take the time to attend at least one of these activities: you can join the Virtual Student Union here.
Thank you for engaging in the challenging but essential antiracist and equity-focused work that will be necessary to move our NOVA community and all of our communities forward.
Anne M. Kress