March 2, 2021
Dear members of the NYU Abu Dhabi community,
The past year has brought myriad opportunities for reflection and reckoning with the challenges of our time, and particularly with continued racial injustice and deep divisions in the US and beyond. Last summer our community responded to racism and protests against it in the US and elsewhere in the world, and we had important conversations acknowledging that we are not immune to racism and inequity on our campus. I made commitments at that time to advance inclusion, diversity, belonging, and equity (IDBE) as core to our mission, and I have been inspired by an enthusiastic embrace of those commitments over the past several months.
As reported in my last IDBE update back in October (available on the intranet and student portal), all through this academic year our University has harnessed its collective energy and values to take action. Today I am pleased to further report on some of the progress that we are making towards becoming an equitable community anchored in mutual respect and solidarity.
The Implementation Committee (IC) on Race, Diversity, and Belonging is working systematically on strengthening our commitments through listening sessions, stakeholder meetings, and partnership with the Office of Inclusion and Equity (OIE), the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEIC), and the DEI Advisory Board. Provost Arlie Petters and I have stayed close to this work, and we are greatly encouraged by the work of the Committee under the leadership of Marta Losada and Waseem Chaudry. An interim report on their progress to date may be found on the intranet and student portal. A final report from the Committee will be circulated in the early days of summer.
Provost Petters, CABO Peter Christensen, and Chief of Staff Jessica Sederquist have developed our Inclusion and Equity Accountability Framework to ensure that our commitments will be enacted in concrete and sustainable ways that will contribute to long-lasting change across our campus. The framework is now available online, with an official launch event to follow soon that I will host with Senior Director Inclusion and Equity Fatiah Touray, and the Implementation Committee Co-chairs. Many of the recommendations outlined in the Implementation Committee’s interim report are reflected in the Accountability Framework. The framework will be updated twice over the semester to reflect status changes.
Fatiah, who arrived in December, has already begun to advance engagement and conversation on topics of critical importance through the Blackness Without Borders speaker series, a subset of the Race, Diversity, and the Learning Community events. Blackness without Borders brings international scholars, writers, and practitioners who focus on multiple dimensions of the Black experience globally. Recordings of the events can be found on the intranet and student portal. The next Blackness Without Borders event, on March 8, will honor International Women’s Day. Please join me for a special conversation with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former President of Liberia and first woman to serve as head of state of an African country. OIE has also launched a newsletter, Al Berwaz, to share updates from the community, as well as resources, events, and trainings in the pursuit of IDBE.
As promised last summer, Fatiah will oversee the launch of a climate assessment survey later this spring to help us understand IDBE in our learning, working, and living environment at NYUAD.
The SLICE team has recently completed interviews for the second cohort of the SLICE Catalyst program, and will soon announce an exciting student-led project tied to student goals towards cultivating belonging on campus. SLICE is offering part two of the InterCultural Learning Program (ICLP) for staff, faculty, and students who have participated in former ICLP sessions. Following the Blackness Without Borders series, SLICE and OIE will host a student dialogue in late April which explores themes across the series.
Throughout this academic year we have been intentional about connecting IDBE initiatives across the institution. OIE, SLICE, and the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) will work collaboratively, identifying opportunities for synergies as part of an institutional and cross-community IDBE strategy. We are also happy to announce the launch of the new IDBE student portal pages, which provides information on the various offices doing this work, as well as definitions and resources. These mirror the recently launched IDBE intranet pages.
Last but not least, I am delighted to announce the appointment of our new OEO Officer David Smart. In this capacity, David will be conducting independent and unbiased investigations of complaints of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and serve as a resource regarding accommodations in the workplace. He will also conduct awareness education and training sessions to ensure these policies are understood and consistently applied. David will work primarily with our faculty and staff as well as colleagues in Campus Life and in New York. Although OEO and the OIE will be separate and serve two distinct functions, there will be close coordination between David and Fatiah as they work collaboratively to promote an inclusive NYUAD. Please join me in welcoming David to NYUAD, and learn more about him and his role on the intranet and student portal.
We have made great progress on our commitments, but the work of becoming an inclusive and equitable community is never done. Although the journey ahead is not easy, it also brings opportunity and joy. As a learning community of fellow travelers, we will take it together.