Recognizing that here in Craftsbury, in this nation, and around the world, people are mobilizing to make personal commitments to address long standing injustice and to work to build more inclusive communities, we also believe that Sterling College needs to make a demonstrable commitment to participate in this movement. For our returning students, please accept this update. For our new students, welcome to the conversation.
In April of 2019 Sterling College adopted a strategic initiative that commits Sterling to use education as a force to address structural oppression that impacts human and ecological well being. We agreed:
- To create and sustain educational programs that are anti-racist, anti-biased, and that promote equality and justice;
- To recruit an increasingly diverse leadership, faculty, and staff while preparing all employees to work to ensure that all programs and institutional practices are inclusive and promote equality and justice;
- To merit a reputation as an anti-racist and anti-bias institution focused on promoting equality and justice;
- To develop partnerships with organizations that commit to anti-racism and anti-bias that promote equality and justice; and
- To fulfill our vision of anti-racism and anti-bias in our organization, governance, and use of resources.
These commitments have a longer history than just the last year. They are informed by the better part of a decade of effort on the part of many people to make Sterling a more inclusive institution.
The College is pleased to share that President Derr has worked with the President of the College of the Atlantic (COA) to secure a grant that will bring $160,000 – $180,000 to address academic and student life improvements in partnership with COA to collaboratively support students of color on our campuses and to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at both colleges. These new resources are no small feat to secure during challenging times and will directly serve the needs of our community of color. The grant will also work towards equipping white allies with the tools and skills and self-awareness they need as we work towards a community where all members are thriving.
While Sterling is radically different today than it was ten years ago, it continues to come up short in fully supporting community members of color. This new grant will make possible important work that supports the five commitments above. Work that, if not done, will undermine the integrity of our mission and the experience of people of color in this community. We have accepted responsibility as a College, acknowledge the obligation to redouble our efforts, and are working to build trust that we are earnest about fulfilling the commitments we’ve made together. The Equity Council, first established as the Racial Justice Task Force in 2017, will meet every other week with Anne Morse and Moxie Mehegan as co-chairs. Equity Council is working closely with student life and academics to assess and report on our progress on diversity and inclusion.
Since the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Sterling has:
- Appointed Sha’an Mouliert as the interim Diversity Coordinator to support students and act as advisor to Roots.
Taken responsibility for the establishment of a racial bias response policy to be used within academics and student life to better identify the presence of racial bias in our curriculum, policies, and response to conflict on campus. This policy will be adopted by the Equity Council and implemented in the community by September 15, 2020.
The College is working with the Craftsbury Select Board and the town’s “Equity Team” to initiate and foster dialogue about equity and inclusion, specifically focused on socioeconomic and race based bias. A similar dialogue in Kentucky will be initiated this fall.
Continued to offer a – now increased – budget for students of color to cover costs for conferences and workshops in order to build leadership skills, community, and a sense of belonging. Student Life in tandem with Equity Council will support students of color, by researching conference options, and offer support on travel, technology, and logistics for BIPOC students to attend.
- In June 2020, Sterling College with support and leadership from the Equity Council embraced the following specific priorities, a result of input from students and employees over several years. We have been listening but we failed to act earlier.
- The College will continue to demonstrate its commitment to reconciliation with indigenous peoples of North America, first by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the traditional and unceded territory of the Abenaki people on our Vermont campus and that the land on which our Kentucky students and faculty gather is the traditional and unceded territory of the Shawnee, Osage, and the Eastern band of the Cherokee. In addition, the College will continue to financially support and expand its broad array of faculty-driven engagements with the Abenaki.
- This year, the Dean of Academics will initiate a second phase of the Privilege, Oppression, Diversity, and Social Justice Task Force, a group that will oversee an external audit of undergraduate and professional curricula for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- The College will continue to fund and prioritize the engagement of visiting experts, scholars, and activists of color to lead and to participate in academic programming – undergraduate and professional – including individual course leadership every semester. The Dean of Academics and the Faculty Council will take responsibility for the consistency of this effort each semester.
- The President and the Dean of Finance & Operations – who oversees human resources – will identify external consultative support to examine the College’s hiring process and make changes that reflect best practices, including the adoption of a 3-year strategic plan to build a more diverse faculty, staff, and administration.
- The Board of Trustees will continue to require educational programs for its members on diversity and inclusion.
- The College will provide quarterly training – organized and led by the President’s Office and Human Resources – in diversity and inclusion for all employees.
- 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 by recruiting diversity to its three boards.
- The College will report to the Board of Trustees and the community in October 2020 on the results of the research, funded by the Davis Educational Foundation, being conducted by trustee Steven Thurston Oliver on the experiences of students and alumni of color at Sterling.
- In partnership between Equity Council, the Finance Office, and Sterling Operations including Grounds and Maintenance, the Sterling Kitchen, and the Sterling Farm, Sterling will make the commitment to increase our purchasing from BIPOC businesses, and other vendor options that support equity and inclusion.
- Led by the Equity Council, the College will provide quarterly 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.
This work requires all of our participation in order to build a more just, inclusive society. Sterling College hopes and expects that we will all be engaged in reflection and action with respect to our individual and collective commitment to this work. For all lives to matter here at Sterling and in the world, we begin by acknowledging that Black Lives Matter.