Belonging at Fletcher: Moving forward on Diversity & Inclusion
Dear Members of the Fletcher Community,
In the few months I have been on campus as Dean, it has become clear to me that there is an urgent need for The Fletcher School to move forward with purpose and mindfulness on issues of diversity and inclusion. My understanding of where we are as a School and as a community has deepened. I am grateful to all those who have brought us to where we are today and who are leading on this issue, within the student body, faculty, staff, board of advisors, and alumni.
At the town hall held earlier this month and at which I gave my first state of the school address, I noted that we have work ahead of us in terms of diversifying the faculty and staff, in ensuring that diverse perspectives are found within the syllabi and the curriculum, and in ensuring that this is a community where nobody has to question whether they fully belong. Students and others in attendance that night made clear that this is not always a place where everyone feels that they do belong. I am committed to working across the community to move forward.
I reported out to the Faculty the feedback I received at the town hall meeting. This is not new feedback. The faculty recognized this. These issues are a priority for the School. We will need to dedicate time and resources to improving and moving forward.
How will we do this? Moving forward involves a process to develop a shared vision of what a more inclusive and diverse school looks and feels like, and how it will improve every aspect of how we pursue our mission – to produce global leaders. With this vision we will then set goals. This means taking into account everything from pedagogical approaches, admissions strategy, faculty recruitment processes, staff recruitment processes, the syallabi review, the curriculum review, the speakers we invite to campus, practitioners and other guests – and I am sure more.
Part of moving forward is also a structured conversation creating a space where we can hear and understand each other’s perspectives. We can invite into the space those whose experience and expertise can help illuminate our path forward. We will be reaching out to a number of members of our community and the broader Tufts community to examine how to initiate that conversation, and we will have more to share on this in the near future. We will also start to record the views and voices of different members of our community in order to share with each other how we each see things.
At the same time, we are coming to the end of Black History Month. This year, as a School, we missed an opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary story of Black History Month and its contribution to the U.S. and other countries where it is celebrated. We also missed the opportunity it presents to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the unfinished story of freedom from slavery, and to understand how to reflect that in our work on international relations. Black History Month began as a commemoration of the leaders who helped move this country along part of its journey to a more perfect Union – Douglass and Lincoln (both with February birthdays). Today it is much more than that.
I have thought carefully about why this happened. It’s clear that administrative decisions meant that it was no one’s clear responsibility for ensuring that we did mark Black History Month or any other occasion to celebrate our diversity. Responsibility for issues of diversity and inclusion are diffuse within our current structure and resources have been thin. This is something that I will clarify, reorganize and bolster in the coming months. But, it also says much of the School that our leadership wasn’t sufficiently aware that we didn’t stop and ask what we were doing and what was being planned. Ultimately, this is my responsibility now and I want to change this.
Please look for announcements from the Diversity and Inclusion committee and my office going forward on ways to engage and help build the process of conversation and strengthening of the School. The Diversity and Inclusion committee and I welcome thoughts, ideas and concerns as well as suggestions for moving forward as an institution where we all belong. Thank you to those of you who have already done so.
Fletcher can be transformative. It can be pivotal in the stories of our lives and careers. I want everyone to experience Fletcher this way, and for more and more people who need that pivot to want to come here and feel they belong whether they come to study, work or teach. To be the best in international relations we need this to be the next chapter of our story.
Dean Rachel Kyte, CMG