Juneteenth: Part I
Sterling’s Initial Commitments
Originating in 1865, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. For the first time, Sterling will join other organizations in solidarity with Black people by observing this Friday, June 19th, as a college holiday. While Juneteenth is a celebration of the end of the legal enslavement of millions of people, it does not represent the end of the struggle that led from Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Movement, and through the contemporary efforts to confront the persistence of white supremacy in the 21st century. We take this symbolic step as an inflection point for the College to build upon its work and stated commitment to take actions in the coming academic year and beyond that help to fulfill our aspiration to be an anti-racist institution focused on ecological thinking and action.
So what actions will Sterling College take in the coming weeks and beyond to fulfill our commitment to work to become an anti-racist institution, made over a year go, when the strategic initiative was approved by the Board of Trustees and its faculty?
Here are some initial institutional commitments to action in the coming semester:
(1) Recognizing the need to be vigilant in our support the safety and wellbeing of our community and the experience of students of color at Sterling, we will engage with the towns of Craftsbury and New Castle through open dialog and educational programs that foster respectful and courageous conversation about racism that includes the leadership of people of color so that we can strengthen our awareness, and prepare us to respond directly to racism in our communities.
(2) Revival of the Privilege, Oppression, Diversity, and Social Justice (P.O.D.S). Curriculum Taskforce to assess our progress in building equity and inclusion of diverse voices in the Sterling curriculum with support from outside consultation. The taskforce will make a public report to the Board, President, Faculty and Equity Councils no later than December 1, 2020.
(3) The College will devote new financial resources to increase campus-wide programming addressing racism.
(4) Sterling will appoint a student life advisor to support the needs of students of color and ROOTS for September 2020.
(5) The Faculty Council will prepare a specific strategy, including outside consultation, that the College will fund for the active recruitment of candidates of color for upcoming faculty vacancies before launching its next search.
(6) The Dean of Academics and Faculty Council will identify and regularly appoint visiting faculty of color to make virtual community presentations and also to teach intensive and/or long block courses in the coming academic year and beyond.
(7) The Trusteeship Committee of the Board of Trustees and the President will continue its effort to sustain and expand diversity in the governance and leadership of the College.
(8) The College will report to the Board of Trustees and the community on the results of the research, funded by the Davis Educational Foundation, being conducted by trustee Steven Oliver on the experiences of students and alumni of color at Sterling.
(9) The College will sustain its collaboration with the Abenaki Nation on issues of food sovereignty and reconciliation. Members of the nation will participate in our 2021 commencement ceremony.
(10) The Equity Council will convene weekly for the Fall Semester and, in collaboration with the Interim Dean of Student Life and Dean of Academics, will work closely with Student Life Council and Faculty Council to assess and report to the President and community on its progress on diversity and inclusion.
(11) In partnership between Equity Council and the Finance Office, Sterling will make the commitment to increase our purchasing from Black-Owned businesses, and other vendor options that support equity and inclusion.
(12) Invest educational resources into workshops and training for our students to learn more about Historical Racism, Why Vermont is So White, challenge and navigate personal bias, and invest in their development of project management, meeting facilitation, and group engagement and process to support them as grassroots organizers on and off-campus.
We as a College and a community, like all academic communities in the United States, have the opportunity to do better. Our mission requires us, and our convictions should ensure, that we take actions—meaningful, daily steps to merit the assertion that we are working to become an anti-racist institution. To those who feel – as we do – that the College has failed to entirely live up to this commitment in the past, we hope you will fully engage with your fellow community members in this deeply personal and important work.
If you would like to learn more about the history of Juneteenth and its history, you can visit Hellajuneteenth.