On June 19, 2020, Duquesne University President Ken Gormley sent the letter below to the campus community, detailing immediate actions the University is taking to strengthen inclusion:
Dear Duquesne University community,
Over the last few weeks, since the inexcusable death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as well as the additional tragic circumstances that led to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and too many others, a host of students, faculty, and alumni have contacted me and others at the University with questions. Not only are they asking about the wellbeing of students and our faculty and staff, they are asking more urgently: what does Duquesne plan to do?
It is a fair and vital question. I have heard many of our Black students describe painful, frustrating and disappointing experiences-not just in a broader societal context, but right here at Duquesne. The particulars are distressing-more so than expected. I have met with leaders of different student groups, exchanged emails with faculty, staff, and students, and done my best to get to the root of this issue. To everyone who has shared their perspective, asked questions, and advocated for others, I am grateful.
It is abundantly clear that we must do more listening, and listen in deeper and different ways. Today, as we observe Juneteenth, is an appropriate time to commit to doing so.
Issues of race and conflict have been alive in Pittsburgh for a long time, just as they have been alive around the nation. Duquesne has taken pride in its inclusive history, but we cannot do so complacently, as though it is a past achievement we have checked off. The work is ongoing. The reminder of that is underscored in the pain and frustration that so many people, of all backgrounds, have so emphatically expressed about the ongoing systemic racism that continues to plague our country and every community, including ours.
Since May 30, Duquesne has taken the following concrete actions to move forward and do a better job to create an inclusive environment in our community:
- We have reassigned a portion of Dr. Anthony Kane's professional obligations in student life to help staff the University's Office of Diversity and Inclusion, joining Dr. Jeff Mallory and Amber Satterwhite in serving students. We recognize the office needs further review to help improve what it can do, but this is an important move we can make immediately.
- I have created the University's first Bias Response Team, a group that will provide educational and restorative responses to incidents of bias in our campus community. This group is not a judicial or conduct body, though it can refer matters for conduct. Rather, it will work to engage people who act in biased ways as well as the people affected by such behavior, to help restore feelings of belonging while educating about the systemic, unconscious, or overt instances and effects of bias.
- Right now, the University raises money to be used for scholarship support for minority students. In the past, that fund has been reserved solely for the purposes of scholarship support. We have adjusted the restrictions so that the gifts can support other activities, including programming, need-based assistance, research efforts, and more to promote an inclusive environment on campus immediately.
- I have communicated to my Cabinet and other groups that we are not done yet and will devote more time in the months ahead and throughout the fall semester to listen and hear what our students and faculty have to say. While I think it is important to take immediate and demonstrable actions to address racism, to better understand its insidiousness, and to make clear that Black lives matter at Duquesne, it is equally imperative to understand this is a process. I intend to listen in the months ahead and throughout the fall. Look for invitations to such opportunities.
Again, I am grateful that so many have raised their voices, raised awareness, and been willing to do the work to attack racism at its root. I am prepared to do so as well. While it has been difficult to hear some of the experiences related by our own students and employees, I know it is nothing compared to actually experiencing the trauma, hurt and frustration they described.
I look forward to working with everyone on this process of learning and improving,
for which the measures above are only the first few steps.