To the NEC Community:
As I have read the open letters to the NEC community over this past month from the Black Student Union, the Progressive Alumni Coalition, and a third letter just sent to me this afternoon by the Revolutionary Students Alliance, I feel their grief, hear their call to action, and sense their optimism for the future. The calls and emails I received in response to these letters expressed overwhelming support for our Black students, recognition of the changes our institution needs to make, and commitment to sustained effort to build trust over time. I am proud of our community for speaking out during this challenging time, for holding NEC accountable to living up to our mission and values by being an institution of integrity, heart, and impact, as well as of excellence, and to committing to playing their part by taking meaningful action towards creating a more culturally equitable and inclusive institution.
We have serious work to do to build an educational experience, as well as institutional culture and practice, that purposefully, emphatically, and consistently live up to our stated values. Specific evidence of change will be critical, but I am committed to deep and comprehensive work that moves us beyond checked boxes or tokens of commitment, because we are capable of accomplishing much more. We must and will ensure that the values, policies, and practices of our institution reflect a true culture of community and belonging—one that recognizes, supports, and celebrates our Black students, as well as others who have historically been marginalized.
While the commitments, actions, and timelines outlined below may not align directly with the demands made from our students and alumni, we are working swiftly to ensure that the needs of our Black students are redressed immediately, and are working deliberately to ensure that the standards articulated by alumni are met and sustained over time. I call on the entire NEC community—including the BSU, PAC, and RSA—to join in our institutional work to dismantle and reset beliefs, practices, and systems that have left any room for inequity, discrimination, and exclusion.
Confirmed Commitment to our Black students and to the Black Student Union
We are well underway with providing the mental wellness resources requested by the BSU. We also are beginning to develop virtual content recognizing Black culture and music, bolstering financial and administrative support to BSU-led programming, and repositioning institutional support for economically and socially at-risk Black students.
Commitment to Increasing Diversity Within the NEC Community
We have significant work to accomplish in our recruitment and hiring, at all levels of the institution. Yet new policies to identify and attract diversified students, faculty, and staff will not be enough; instead, concrete and consistent work to cultivate relationships with our local, regional, and national partners, creation of diversified programming, and building an inclusive culture of teaching and learning will allow NEC to realize this commitment. We will make progress each year towards this goal across every department at NEC, as well as our Board of Trustees, and will publish an annual data-driven diversity and social-impact report, beginning in Fall 2021.
Commitment to Building an Environment of Belonging
We are committed to ensuring that our underrepresented students, faculty, and staff thrive in a fair, open, accountable, and supportive environment, with equitable opportunities for artistic, professional, and personal growth and achievement. Our initial efforts to realize this commitment will include the creation of an Institute for Cultural Equity and Belonging, including hiring a Director for the Institute, and developing a comprehensive set of resources and training to equip and support our faculty in creating inclusive teaching and learning environments, and our staff in creating inclusive work environments Our current DEI Task Force will evolve this summer through a campus-wide nomination process to include a broader range of perspectives, and various working groups will be established to play a vital role in engaging our entire NEC community in the shared work of creating and sustaining an inclusive, welcoming, and supportive community.
Commitment to Implementing Diversity, Anti-Racism, and Belonging Training
We will identify, sponsor, and implement training sessions and programs for all students, faculty, staff, and board members, beginning in the Fall of 2020, and we will increase informal and ad hoc opportunities for ongoing discussion and learning.
Commitment to Greater Communication and Transparency
While we understand the sentiment behind the PAC’s request for baseline data in order to “illuminate objective inequalities” in a transparent way, we have acknowledged our lack of diversity across the campus, and information that we are able to share publicly is reported in IPEDS (https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/).
Our commitment to greater communication and transparency begins, however, with the launch of the Commitment to Cultural Equity and Belonging page on our website (http://necmusic.edu/cultural-equity-belonging), which includes a timeline of work and goals, report on progress towards those goals, an ongoing archive of relevant communications and documents, DEI Task Force agendas and meeting notes, other related information and resources, and opportunities for involvement. Regular updates will be emailed to members of the NEC community and posted to the webpage during each phase of this process. You are welcome also to email the Special Advisor to the President, Stanford Thompson, at email@example.com.
Commitment to Progress and Accountability
We will work with the entire NEC community to develop a campus-wide action plan, to be reviewed by the Board of Trustees, and for the implementation of which they will hold Senior Leadership accountable.
Our musical work succeeds on our capacity to listen, and I would suggest that our institutional work will succeed similarly. It is time for deep listening, for empathy, for openness to change, and for action. I reiterate NEC’s commitment to the work needed to realize fully our mission and values, and invite you to join in that institutional work.