A Letter from President Gormley to the Duquesne community:

On July 27, 2020, I was pleased to receive a letter from Duquesne's Black Student Union, cosigned by a number of other student organizations that contained several ideas and suggested action plans designed to build a more inclusive atmosphere for all students on campus. The action plans had a particular but not exclusive focus on initiatives for Black students, in light of recent political and racial tension. However, most ideas were aimed at benefitting the campus community at-large.

As I wrote shortly after receiving it, I appreciated the thought that went into preparing this letter. Categorizing the suggestions by short- and long-term planning and by administrative topics has provided me and my leadership team with a good outline for identifying things we can do right away. Earlier today, I met with the leadership of the Black Student Union (BSU) for a productive discussion during which I shared with them some general ideas of how we will move forward as a campus. They asked great questions and provided useful ideas for our planning. With the University now opened and our safety and continuity plans in place, we've been able to focus on a few other priorities, and, as I told the BSU leaders, the inclusive climate of our campus is at the top of that list.

Actions will prove the power of our words, but it's important to start our work by stating unequivocally that Black lives matter at Duquesne. The letter from the Black Student Union comes at yet another moment in our history when our core principles need to be repeated again and with force. Our University's mission of service and our Catholic Spiritan ethic call on us to dignify all people, and so we will strengthen how we do that here.

I have charged several members of my leadership team with actions related to the ideas contained in the letter. Already, I have created a Bias Response Team, to provide educational and restorative responses to reported incidents of bias. That team also will help the University develop a comprehensive speech policy. Expect to learn more about that as soon as the team starts its work. With Dr. Anthony Kane taking over the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, we are discussing that office's needs to ensure they have greater presence and ability to work with students, faculty, and staff. Our Center for Student Wellbeing has launched The Village, a virtual support group that provides a space for Duquesne African American students to freely express themselves and receive support concerning racial stress and the complexities around being Black in America. Student Government Association President Kallie Crawford, as she shared in a recent letter to campus, is working on other positive initiatives.

I myself have scheduled listening sessions with students, faculty, and staff. I will schedule more throughout the fall, recognizing that it's important that our work together is conversational and collaborative. When we developed the University's strategic plan in the first year of my presidency, its ideas and projects came about through good discussion; these ideas then matured in the same way. We must do the same to make Duquesne live up to its potential with respect to diversity and inclusion, and I am committed to those conversations, as is my leadership team.

As a result, in the next few weeks I'll convene a planning group on the subject of equity and inclusion, similar to what I convened for the Master Plan to open the campus this fall. That process involved leveraging the array of expertise and resources we are fortunate to have at Duquesne while soliciting additional expert advice as needed. It allowed us to move quickly to align resources, goals, and actions. It worked well in galvanizing a diverse community, and I believe such a process will serve us well in this endeavor, too. Perhaps most importantly, the master plan and task force structure can leverage the highest levels of the University's administration to involve faculty, students, staff and others. This needs to be, and will be, a University-wide process.

Our University has a long history of removing impediments that stand in the way of people having access to education and its numerous benefits. I look forward to working with our campus community in writing the next chapter in that history as we construct a University Master Plan for diversity and inclusion.

Thank you for your ideas, support, energy and vision as we move forward with this important undertaking. It will help define our time on campus, and help shape the future of this special institution.


Ken Gormley

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The Universitys academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

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September 17, 2020