June 11, 2020
Dear members of the Geneseo community,
On Tuesday of this week, I took part in the Demonstration of Solidarity that was held in the Geneseo Village Park as well as the subsequent march organized by SUNY Geneseo students. By the hundreds, the Geneseo community - villagers, students, faculty, and staff - joined together to speak with one voice against racism and violence. Staged in the middle of a pandemic, these events demonstrated vividly the passion and determination of the people of Geneseo to speak out against injustice and come together to serve a greater cause. I was proud of our students and the people of our community and the collaborative approach to its planning. I left energized by our College’s opportunities to do even more to address racial injustice. The many members of the College leadership who participated also affirmed that resolve.
On May 31, I issued a statement in support of racial justice, urging you to join me in identifying tangible ways in which we can advance our individual - and our collective - commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. As a united Cabinet, we recognize that statements are merely a starting place. We need to back up our statements with transparent and transformative action.
Chief diversity officer robbie routenberg ’05 mentioned in their speech at the Demonstration of Solidarity that this moment serves as a reminder that we must always listen, speak, and act. I commit to you that we, the College leadership, have been listening, we are speaking, and we are working on an action plan that will bring about real change.
As leaders of an educational institution, it is essential that we personally embrace lifelong learning. This responsibility is amplified by our own status as white leaders of a predominantly white institution. The Cabinet will engage in intensive antiracist professional development with a willingness to be uncomfortable, participate in difficult dialogues, and be accountable to our community. We recommit to continuing our own education as we develop an even more nuanced understanding of issues of race, racism, and white privilege. By listening to and centering the needs of people of color, we will make better-informed decisions about additional improvements to our campus.
Our action plan builds upon the efforts and initiatives that the College has already been implementing and recognizes the ongoing need to do much more. The plan represents an ongoing commitment as we continue to identify and announce additional efforts to make Geneseo a more racially equitable and inclusive community. We acknowledge that there are many issues of importance that have been and will be shared with us which will shape our ongoing actions. robbie routenberg has agreed to receive those ideas to be shared with the entire Cabinet.
Today, we immediately commit to the following:
- The College is entering the final year of its current strategic plan, the roadmap that guides all our actions, and in the coming months will be developing its successor. As we do, we will ensure its deliberate connection to our Strategic Diversity Plan. We will intentionally engage the entire campus community in this diversity-minded planning with an expectation that substantive, specific, and measurable actions across our College will be identified to make Geneseo a more equitable and inclusive campus.
- We are revamping the college admissions review process to consider barriers and challenges that have impacted the high school experience for students of color, first generation, and low-income students. This includes modifying our standardized testing requirements and financial aid awarding process to address bias, promote racial equity, and provide greater funding to low-income students.
- While we have recently made progress toward diversifying our faculty and ensuring that new faculty hires share our community commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, we pledge to augment, strengthen, and expand these critical efforts. We will, for example, design an action plan based on recommendations developed by our year-long Learning Community on Diversity in Faculty Hiring led by Professor George Marcus. We will also build on our success by applying for a second round of SUNY PRODiG funding to hire, support, and mentor historically underrepresented faculty. We know that a diverse and inclusive faculty will enrich our students' lives and improve our campus environment.
- After we are back together on campus, we will launch a comprehensive campus climate study in which all members of our community will be invited to participate. Most notably, this study will help us learn much more about the experiences of minoritized members of our community (students, staff, and faculty), establishing a key baseline to inform future initiatives and efforts.
I strongly believe that, together, Geneseo can become not only an equitable and inclusive college, but one even more dedicated to actively fighting racism. As a public liberal arts institution with a deeply-held commitment to the public good, our work in this arena is especially relevant and important. We must be proactive and work against the forces of systemic racism to make Geneseo a place where all members of our community feel valued and respected — and know without doubt that they truly matter.
Denise A. Battles, President
and the President’s Cabinet: David Braverman; Julie Buehler ’89; David Irwin; Wendi Kinney; Ellen Leverich ’90; Stacey Robertson; robbie routenberg ’05; Costas Solomou