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A Message from the Chief Diversity Officer

June 5, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

"They heard us!" With this heartfelt intention, I had to find words to convey that this moment in time had the power to be different from other failed moments in time. So, what is different? Being sick and tired of being sick and tired! ( Fannie Lou Hamer). We can’t control the world, but we can optimize ours. Clearly words are not actions, and credibility is deeply rooted in relationships and earned trust. We are all life-time learners, inspired by the saying, when you know better, you do better…and I always add, then you are better!

"They heard us!" Yes, and we received your message! On Saturday, May 30th, and again on Tuesday, June 2nd, Interim President Michael Bernstein and President-Elect Maurie McInnis provided a responsive joint statement acknowledging the continued disregard of human life being justified by a privileged sense of superiority and intentional malice. This was in specific reference to George Floyd’s death and the disturbing video that captured his final moments and last breath. There are countless other victims whose names and experiences will never be made public, nor will their memories receive fair justice because the advantages of a video could not capture their truth.

"They heard us!" College campuses are major hubs of international academic exchange and are now addressing increasing reports of xenophobia. Our international students and faculty are experiencing acts of hate and fear around the public health rhetoric to justify xenophobic behavior. The inability to return home and to see their families, coupled with the uncertainty of their visa statuses, has profound impacts that result in historical deep trauma, debilitating fear, and palatable pain.

You asked, what will change at Stony Brook moving forward? It was intentional that the statement from the President’s Office came from both Interim President Michael Bernstein and President-Elect Maurie McInnis. That was their unified reassurance to you that the core values of diversity, equity and inclusion at Stony Brook University are a priority and deeply embedded within their presidential leadership. This includes a continuity of support for the strategies and actions we will be taking now and moving forward.

As the new Chief Diversity Officer, I was charged with creating a strategic plan with concrete actions to address the above-stated issues. In addition to the past three months of meetings throughout campus and hearing your perspectives, I have spent these last twelve days listening to you for targeted advice. I have received emails, texts, phone calls, and had "real talk" Zoom conversations with over 100 individuals. These have all informed my efforts to affect sustainable institutional change.

We will "lift the words off the pages" of our thoughtfully crafted Plan for Equity, Inclusion & Diversity (DEI). We have had strategic implementation plans each year since the development of our DEI plan that have provided relevant and targeted guidance on our emphasis for the year. Right now, we must focus on immediate needs while we develop plans for the coming academic year.  More concretely, here are some of our summer plans:

  • We will soon schedule a virtual student town hall to have an open dialogue around the issue of racism in America. The focus will be discussing ways to combat racism through relationships, daily activities and challenging conversations. The aim is to provide a platform for Stony Brook to approach the topics of race, law enforcement and protest through the lens of scholarship and solidarity.
  • We are planning a Facebook Live vigil for the campus community later in the summer.
  • We will strengthen our diversity training workshop during summer orientation for all new and transfer students.
  • We will offer professional development offerings that address strategies for confronting and mitigating bias in our lives and in the workplace, how to be an effective ally, communicating about culturally sensitive issues, inclusive leadership, growing your cultural intelligence, disabilities awareness and etiquette, and creating the conditions for others to thrive, among others. 

    We look forward to tapping into our own SBU talent bank of faculty and experts for guidance and leadership. These include the Office of Multicultural Affairs, UNITI Cultural Center, Center for Civic Justice, Center for Changing Systems of Power, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), University Police Department (and regional law enforcement), Human Resources Services, Student Affairs & Residential Life, Graduate School, Career Center, LGBTQ* Services, the Black Lives Matter Movement, Asian American Faculty Staff Associations (AAFSA), Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA), Union Universitaria Latinoamericana (UUL), Undergraduate Student Government (USG), the Graduate Student Organization (GSO) and other student affinity groups and faculty experts, to name a few.

Be reassured that this is not all we will do, but rather a starting point for further listening opportunities and meaningful actions. We know it does not heal the hurt and trauma caused by structural and systemic racism and discrimination; however, with sincere intentionality, we can work together for a more just, equitable and humane campus community through our service, activism, and pedagogy in individual and collaborative efforts.

We heard you!

We value you!

We need you!

We are stronger with you!


Judith Brown Clarke
Chief Diversity Officer