Inclusivity is one of the five core values of SUNY Geneseo. Our belief in and commitment to these values define us as a college. The statements of support and plans of action for racial justice on this page have been compiled and shared from various departments and offices at Geneseo.
Photos: On June 9, 2020, the College and Village of Geneseo came together for a Demonstration of Solidarity and a March for Black Lives through campus and down Main Street. Students, faculty, staff, College administrators, and residents from the Village and region participated. SUNY Geneseo/Keith Walters ’11.
This list includes statements and plans from academic departments and offices. It is not exhaustive. Many Geneseo-affiliated groups, clubs, organizations and programs have also issued statements of support and plans of action on their respective websites or social media accounts. If you represent an academic department or office and you have issued a statement that you would like included below, please email the Office of Diversity and Equity at email@example.com.
Statement on Racial Injustice
May 31, 2020 (Also see statement on Office of the President website)
Dear members of the Geneseo community,
While the College does not typically comment on national or international incidents, events of the past week are so unsettling that silence is not an option. The unrest sweeping the nation was prompted by the deeply disturbing circumstances associated with the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. However, it reflects a broader acknowledgement that this loss is one of far too many among persons of color and especially Black individuals in our society. This latest tragedy occurred in Minnesota, but we have seen time and again that racial injustice knows no bounds.
We members of the Geneseo community have chosen to embrace inclusivity as one of our five core values, and it’s essential that we not merely espouse but live that value. I call on each of you to join me in identifying tangible ways in which we can advance our individual – and our collective – commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Examine and check our own privilege. Recognize and call out injustice where it exists. Commit to doing our part to enhance our campus climate and culture. As an educational institution, we have an opportunity to actively effect positive change in our world, and through our resolute efforts, I have every confidence we can contribute to positive and much-needed societal change.
As always, members of our campus community are available to you should you desire support. You may contact Chief Diversity Officer robbie routenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or Director of Multicultural Programs and Services Sasha Eloi-Evans at email@example.com.
Even as we continue to be apart in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still one community. May we be stronger through our individual and collective action.
Denise A. Battles, President
Message of Support & Community Conversations
June 1, 2020
During this tragic and painful time, we are reaching out to you to let you know that you are not alone. You have a community of people who care deeply about you and we are here to support you. The murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis, and so many others is terrifying. It is a painful and inexcusable reminder of a history of systemic racism. These atrocities permeate the experiences of Black people in ways that result in extremely disproportionate and sometimes fatal outcomes because of the color of their skin.
These experiences and what they represent have left many people feeling terrified, frustrated, angry, sad, confused, depressed, and isolated. Like some of you, many of us are worried about the safety and the well-being of the people we love, now and in the future. In addition to confronting the violence of this moment, we are also being flooded with stereotypical images and narratives that frame these circumstances and the people involved in simplistic, dehumanizing ways. We reject these narratives. Instead, we strive to create opportunities to demonstrate empathy for each other and to write a more inclusive story.
We are here for you during this time. Three community conversations will be held to provide a venue to both give and receive support from one another. These sessions are also intended to provide our community members with an opportunity to express their thoughts, feelings, and how they have been impacted. The first conversation will be just for our students. The second, held two days later, will be for our faculty and staff. All members of the Geneseo family will be invited to a third conversation next week.
This is a difficult time for our community, but also a time to unite. Please join us to share your thoughts, feelings, and struggles and to provide support for one another.
Sasha Eloi-Evans, Sarah Frank, robbie routenberg, Monica Schneider (on behalf of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Community, the Bias Prevention and Response Team, the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services, and the Office of Diversity and Equity)
Statement of Support
June 2, 2020
To the campus community,
I write to you as the Chief of Police at SUNY Geneseo during a time of great pain, frustration, and anger in communities across the United States.
The death of George Floyd, at the hands of uniformed members of the police, has once again laid bare the ugly truths about the fractured relationship between law enforcement and the Black community. Far too often we in law enforcement have violated the trust this community has placed in us. I will say it clearly and plainly: the members of the University Police Department at SUNY Geneseo are horrified and appalled by the abuse of power and disregard for human life displayed in Minneapolis. Those officers not only failed to honor their legal duty to uphold the Constitution, but also failed to honor the humanity of a member of the community that they were entrusted to protect and serve. Their actions were indefensible and inconsistent with standards of police training, and instead they displayed willful indifference to the safety, wellbeing, and life of Mr. Floyd.
The officers of the University Police Department stand in support with the members of our community who are rightfully outraged, hurt, and terrified. We will continue to strive for progress in the relationship with those members of our community who have been marginalized, discriminated against, victimized, or otherwise suffered injustice. We hear you, we recognize you, we value you, and we swear upon our oath to protect your rights as members of our community.
Chief of Police
Actions Toward Becoming a More Racially Equitable and Inclusive College
June 11, 2020 (Also see statement on Office of the President website)
Dear members of the Geneseo community,
On Tuesday of this week, I took part in the Demonstration of Solidarity that was held in the Geneseo Village Park as well as the subsequent march organized by SUNY Geneseo students. By the hundreds, the Geneseo community – villagers, students, faculty, and staff – joined together to speak with one voice against racism and violence. Staged in the middle of a pandemic, these events demonstrated vividly the passion and determination of the people of Geneseo to speak out against injustice and come together to serve a greater cause. I was proud of our students and the people of our community and the collaborative approach to its planning. I left energized by our College’s opportunities to do even more to address racial injustice. The many members of the College leadership who participated also affirmed that resolve.
On May 31, I issued a statement in support of racial justice, urging you to join me in identifying tangible ways in which we can advance our individual – and our collective – commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. As a united Cabinet, we recognize that statements are merely a starting place. We need to back up our statements with transparent and transformative action.
Chief diversity officer robbie routenberg ’05 mentioned in their speech at the Demonstration of Solidarity that this moment serves as a reminder that we must always listen, speak, and act. I commit to you that we, the College leadership, have been listening, we are speaking, and we are working on an action plan that will bring about real change.
As leaders of an educational institution, it is essential that we personally embrace lifelong learning. This responsibility is amplified by our own status as white leaders of a predominantly white institution. The Cabinet will engage in intensive antiracist professional development with a willingness to be uncomfortable, participate in difficult dialogues, and be accountable to our community. We recommit to continuing our own education as we develop an even more nuanced understanding of issues of race, racism, and white privilege. By listening to and centering the needs of people of color, we will make better-informed decisions about additional improvements to our campus.
Our action plan builds upon the efforts and initiatives that the College has already been implementing and recognizes the ongoing need to do much more. The plan represents an ongoing commitment as we continue to identify and announce additional efforts to make Geneseo a more racially equitable and inclusive community. We acknowledge that there are many issues of importance that have been and will be shared with us which will shape our ongoing actions. robbie routenberg has agreed to receive those ideas to be shared with the entire Cabinet.
Today, we immediately commit to the following:
- The College is entering the final year of its current strategic plan, the roadmap that guides all our actions, and in the coming months will be developing its successor. As we do, we will ensure its deliberate connection to our Strategic Diversity Plan. We will intentionally engage the entire campus community in this diversity-minded planning with an expectation that substantive, specific, and measurable actions across our College will be identified to make Geneseo a more equitable and inclusive campus.
- We are revamping the college admissions review process to consider barriers and challenges that have impacted the high school experience for students of color, first generation, and low-income students. This includes modifying our standardized testing requirements and financial aid awarding process to address bias, promote racial equity, and provide greater funding to low-income students.
- While we have recently made progress toward diversifying our faculty and ensuring that new faculty hires share our community commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, we pledge to augment, strengthen, and expand these critical efforts. We will, for example, design an action plan based on recommendations developed by our year-long Learning Community on Diversity in Faculty Hiring led by Professor George Marcus. We will also build on our success by applying for a second round of SUNY PRODiG funding to hire, support, and mentor historically underrepresented faculty. We know that a diverse and inclusive faculty will enrich our students’ lives and improve our campus environment.
- After we are back together on campus, we will launch a comprehensive campus climate study in which all members of our community will be invited to participate. Most notably, this study will help us learn much more about the experiences of minoritized members of our community (students, staff, and faculty), establishing a key baseline to inform future initiatives and efforts.
I strongly believe that, together, Geneseo can become not only an equitable and inclusive college, but one even more dedicated to actively fighting racism. As a public liberal arts institution with a deeply-held commitment to the public good, our work in this arena is especially relevant and important. We must be proactive and work against the forces of systemic racism to make Geneseo a place where all members of our community feel valued and respected — and know without doubt that they truly matter.
Denise A. Battles, President
and the President’s Cabinet: David Braverman; Julie Buehler ’89; David Irwin; Wendi Kinney; Ellen Leverich ’90; Stacey Robertson; robbie routenberg ’05; Costas Solomou
Our Commitment to Action on Racial Justice
(Also see statement on Dept. of English website)
As protests continue and emerge across the U.S. and around the globe in response to the killing of George Floyd, and the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, we write to express our anger and grief. We write to acknowledge that the protests unfold not only because of these killings but because of the accumulated history of Black death at the hands of law enforcement, vigilantes, and the violence of structural inequalities. We acknowledge and mourn too many deaths, from Eric Garner to Jonathan Ferrell and Nina Pop, from Aiyana Stanley-Jones and Pamela Turner to Patrick Dorismond, from Tamir Rice and Tanisha Anderson to Amadou Diallo, from Sandra Bland and Korryn Gaines to Atatiana Jefferson and Shantel Davis and Trayvon Martin and so many more human beings across time and geography. We acknowledge that these protests unfold also because of the toll of COVID-19 that has fallen disproportionately upon Black people because of the long-term effects both of white supremacy and anti-Black racism. We write to support Black Lives Matter and other national and local movements for justice and to commit to actions as well as words.
We write to support Black students who in both the physical and digital world must navigate Geneseo. We witness the excellent academic and creative work of the Black students in our classes, students able to thrive and innovate even while Geneseo’s spaces, like those of other predominantly white campuses, accumulate everyday careless and gratuitous insults and other obstacles to Black students’ achievement of a public liberal arts education.
As Geneseo English alumna Evelyn Mendez puts it, “Black individuals are dying inside and outside of jails and because many of us are afraid to seek help because of systemic racism.…We aren’t at peace. All we want is to no longer live in fear.” We write, then, in response to her and her peers: we write to affirm the shared responsibility of our Community Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and particularly to “sustaining and expanding the diversity of our community and to making equity for all members of our diverse community a measure of our success.” That is, we write to acknowledge we can and must do more and better to fight actively against anti-Black racism.
As faculty members who study and craft literature, we rely on the long record of evidence that Black artists, scholars, and cultural critics have woven into stories of the fight against fear and the fight for peace that cannot be unpartnered from justice. These are narratives that, in the words of Geneseo English alumna Dr. Jacqueline Monique Jones, can “help us better understand the world that we’re in and the world that we want to see.” We strive in our courses to offer specific historical and cultural contexts for the texts that we teach, understanding both that art does not lie outside of history and politics and that complex stories and rigorous interdisciplinary scholarship inform the transformative Black art and activism we witness today. Such transformation is possible even and especially when it feels impossible; indeed, as Geneseo English alumna Sabrina Bramwell put it during her 2019 Senior Oration, “A core characteristic of interdisciplinary thinking is being willing to value a thought that differs from your own and use it to foster growth. With this mindset, the fear of difference is transformed to intrigue, the unfamiliar is now admired, and inclusion—the desire to hear different opinions—develops more naturally.” Discomfort is not there to be avoided but rather to be explored, not singly or by a few but by a community committed to equity as essential to inquiry.
As teachers and scholars, our commitment is to be listeners: to learn, to reflect, to educate ourselves and others. In the wake of the 2016 election, Mariame Kaba wrote that “Humility is in order across the land. It’s really OK to say that you don’t know the answers. You don’t have to pretend you do.” Kaba’s words guide us now. We commit to taking action, and in doing so commit to making Black lives the center while not asking those most affected by anti-Black racism to take on more emotional labor. We commit to be accountable for the sources, words, images, and narratives that we spread in personal and digital spaces, especially as Black Lives Matter warns of misinformation and disinformation targeted at the movement. We commit to take action within our various spheres of influence. We refuse saviorism, white and otherwise. We offer what we have and can in service to building a more just world.
Above all, we are called to commit to behaviors and structures for care and caring rather than behaviors and structures that exist only for calling to order, as Fred Moten has termed it. Such commitment must be careful. As Saidiya Hartman has affirmed, “Care is the antidote to violence.” Yet also as Geneseo English alumna Davina Ward has affirmed, “Care can exist as violence. Violence can exist as care.” We see this over and over where police, whose charge is to “care and protect,” target Black people with violence. Resources devoted to continuing such violence (such as the $230 million paid out in claims against the NYPD in 2018 alone) must be reallocated to structures for public health, mental health, and public education.
As faculty members who teach and craft works of the imagination, we must not fail to work to build the different world that protestors and students are imagining through their demands. Indeed, rather than just saying Black lives matter, we should actively work on what Geneseo English and Philosophy student Emma Mandella identifies as a new model for reparations. Citing the work of Roy Brooks, in “The Ills of American Capitalism: A New Case for Reparations,” Mandella argues for reparations in the atonement model, demanding revolutionary structural change to support Black citizens. As an alternative to settlement reparations, the atonement model emphasizes long-term efforts to address structural inequalities and systemic inequities.
We close with words from Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, who notes a truth that emerged from her experience coming into what she calls her “full power” as an adult human being during the Civil Rights Movement:
“Sometimes you really need things to be thrown up in your community, everything to be turned over in such a way so you have another chance to look at what you have put together. And in any culture, any people, any history, throwing things up gives you a chance to be selective about what you will carry forward.”
All Geneseo students and alumni invoked in this statement have given their express consent to their work being included in this context.
Invitation to Discussion and Exploration of Racial Climate
June 12, 2020
Dear Geneseo alumni,
We are writing as an expression of solidarity with Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. After the killing of George Floyd, this moment of racial trauma serves as a reminder that we all have a responsibility to speak up and engage in order to address racial injustice in society.
Yesterday, President Battles outlined Geneseo’s commitment to promoting racial justice and the initial action steps we will take towards this goal. Among other specific actions listed in her message, she shared a commitment that “the Cabinet will engage in intensive antiracist professional development with a willingness to be uncomfortable, participate in difficult dialogues, and be accountable to our community.”
We encourage you to join us in a meaningful exploration of race, racism, and racial privilege in pursuit of fostering a more racially just Geneseo community and society. We have organized two virtual events specifically for our alum community (The Historic Roots of Today’s Racial Climate on June 16 and Reflecting and Sharing: Building Community in this Racial Climate on June 17).
In order to affect lasting systemic change, we need to come together as a community to understand where we have been and chart our path forward. We hope that you will join us.
Vice President for College Advancement Ellen Leverich ’90 and
Chief Diversity Officer robbie routenberg ’05
Statement of Support
(Also see statement on GROW STEM website)
Dear Geneseo friends,
In support of our students and colleagues, the faculty involved in GROW STEM (Geneseo Reaching Out to Women and under-represented groups in STEM) would like to express our deep concerns and sadness regarding the racist and violent events occurring across the country. We want our black students and their advocates to know that we see you and are here to support you. In line with our GROW STEM mission, we will strive to focus on raising awareness regarding difficulties that black and other under-represented students can face, focusing on their career in STEM fields. We believe that understanding the culture and psychology of what leads to any racist events is crucial. We will continue to learn about and educate our community on topics such as implicit bias, microaggressions, and addressing the lack of diversity in STEM. Education will have a direct impact on our broader community. GROW STEM, most importantly, seeks to work with our students to improve the situation.
We are here for you. Feel free to reach out to us.
The GROW STEM Team
Anne Pellerin (PHYS), Josephine Reinhardt (BIOL) and Melissa Sutherland (MATH)
Resolution in Support of the Black Lives Matter Movement
(Also see statement on College Senate website)
WHEREAS acts of racial violence, anti-Blackness, and institutional racism have a long history and are deeply embedded in our society; and
WHEREAS people of color, and Black people in particular, continue to be disproportionately harassed, abused, and killed by police in the contemporary United States; and
WHEREAS the senseless killing of George Floyd is just one example of a Black man killed at the hands of police; and
WHEREAS the recent killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, and Tony McDade are among countless tragic illustrations of the terrorization of Black and Brown people in the name of policing; and
WHEREAS this reality has been overlooked, ignored, and denied for generations; and
WHEREAS Black lives matter; and
WHEREAS nationwide protests have emerged to fight for racial justice and end police violence; and
WHEREAS these protests are occurring in the midst of a pandemic that is disproportionately killing people of color, for reasons that ultimately derive from that racist history; and
WHEREAS we recognize the toxic impact of systemic racism on our students, alumni, staff, faculty, and their families and communities; and
WHEREAS inclusivity and socially responsible global citizenry are central to the mission of SUNY Geneseo; and
WHEREAS institutions of higher education should be leaders in the practice of equity, community building, and civic engagement; and
WHEREAS the absence of an expression of solidarity with those protesting racial oppression communicates complicity with racial oppression; and
WHEREAS the SUNY Geneseo President has issued a statement of our College’s unwavering commitment to inclusivity as a core value and has called upon all members of our community to live that value by “identifying tangible ways in which we can advance our individual—and our collective—commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Examine and check our own privilege. Recognize and call out injustice where it exists. Commit to doing our part to enhance our campus climate and culture”; and
WHEREAS we recognize that the current policies and practices at SUNY Geneseo may play roles in upholding systemic racism.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that SUNY Geneseo faculty and staff offer our unwavering commitment of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement; students, alumni, staff, and faculty of color; and continued efforts toward the erasure of racial inequity and oppression.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that SUNY Geneseo reaffirms our belief that hatred, intolerance, and institutional racism have no place within the Geneseo community.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that SUNY Geneseo actively seeks and includes input from Black and other people of color and commits to reforming our current practices and policies that may play roles in upholding systematic racism.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that SUNY Geneseo faculty and staff reflect on the ways our social status might have provided an advantage for us as individuals, and be compassionate to those disadvantaged.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that SUNY Geneseo faculty and staff examine our individual spheres of influence and identify concrete ways we can improve our campus climate.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that SUNY Geneseo faculty and staff speak up when we witness bias or injustice, and be allies to advocate for the equality, equity, dignity, and rights of those oppressed within our spheres of influence.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that SUNY Geneseo dedicate the 2020–2021 academic year to the curricular and co-curricular (e.g., dialogue or lecture series, panel discussions, teach-ins) exploration of topics related to racial (in)equity, (in)justice, and movements for social change.
Visit the resolution page to add your name in support of this resolution.
Statement of Support
(Also see statement on School of Business website)
Dear School of Business community,
The wrongful and senseless death of George Floyd and many before him has brought forth an outpouring of stories and experiences about race in our country that impel us to listen, honestly examine our own views, and be more proactive in understanding and acting on issues of social and racial injustice. Our School’s mission is to prepare our students for professional success in today’s complex business environment, and part of that is an imperative to educate individuals to be responsible leaders who understand that diversity makes us all stronger, and who understand that racism and discrimination are unacceptable. The statements of many business leaders in recent days have shown how significant these values are to businesses.
Building on Geneseo’s strong liberal arts tradition and the insights of our business disciplines, we are committed to fostering just and ethical business practices. This is in line with the values put forth by Geneseo’s Office of Equity and Diversity: “The ideals of the SUNY Geneseo community strive to broaden understanding, heighten awareness, awaken empathy, and foster empowerment of all individuals.”
We want to ensure that the environment in the School of Business is one where all feel safe, welcomed and included. Students, faculty and staff should know that all voices will be heard. We will take the following actions (and others as we move forward) toward this goal:
- Strategic Planning Committee will continue to discuss and identify activities which will promote greater understanding, communication and action toward supporting diversity and social justice within and outside the School of Business.
- The faculty and staff will discuss diversity, inclusion and social justice at our fall retreat, in order to determine ways to include these topics in our Strategic Plan.
- The School of Business will support and facilitate students and faculty establishing clubs and groups for underrepresented groups in business disciplines, and forging connections to national organizations and to similar groups on other campuses.
- The School of Business faculty and staff work with students to recruit speakers and support programming around issues of diversity and inclusion, with specific reference to professional business careers.
- As the College develops faculty resources for thinking about and addressing issues of racial and social injustices in the curriculum, the School will focus Brown Bag discussions on successful practices.
I look forward to working with all members of our community to ensure that our conversations and actions provide excellent education in the broadest sense of the word, and that our dialogue on issues of diversity, equity, racial and social justice enrich and empower us individually and as a school.
Mary Ellen Zuckerman, Dean
Geneseo School of Business
Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter and Commitment to Racial Justice
The long-standing violence of white supremacy, settler colonialism, and systematized anti-Black racism continues to claim Black lives in the United States and around the world. In particular, the legacies of slavery are still evident in our culture and governance, and in the recent murders of Rayshard Brooks, Monika Diamond, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery, who were preceded by too many others, including Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Alesia Thomas, Miriam Carey, Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, and Aiyana Stanley-Jones, to name only a few. Their deaths are part of “an unbroken stream of racist violence, both official and extralegal, from slave patrols and the Ku Klux Klan to contemporary profiling practices and present-day vigilantes” (Davis 2016: 77), with violence perpetrated under the protections of police immunity and morally specious “stand your ground” and “citizen’s arrest” laws.
Current and ongoing protests are a sign that our nation has reached a tipping point. Protesters are speaking out, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, because the status quo cannot continue. And the faculty of the Women’s and Gender Studies (WGST) wish to offer this statement of solidarity and support.
Thanks to the groundbreaking work of feminist scholars including Angela Davis, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldúa, Cherríe Moraga, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Patricia Hill Collins, we know that the violence of racism works in tandem with systems of sexism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, cissexism, classism, ableism, and policing. And these interlocking systems of oppression disproportionately affect the lives, health, livelihood, and well-being of women, trans, and femme people who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).
As a discipline, Women’s and Gender Studies often stresses difference, encouraging us to speak about our own experiences and listen as others speak about their own experiences. But acknowledging difference is not enough; power-based hierarchies deserve particular attention as well, and so it is necessary for those of us with various kinds of privilege to do the more of the listening less of the speaking.
Thus, in order to participate in dismantling white supremacy and other systems of oppression and violence, we the faculty of the SUNY Geneseo Women and Gender Studies program acknowledge and look to the leadership of BIPOC and LGBTQ scholars, including:
Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, who created #BlackLivesMatter. The roles of these Black and queer women as founders of the movement has often gone unnoticed in the mainstream, as Garza explains in her “Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement“.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, Andrea Ritchie and others at the African American Policy Forum, who authored the Say Her Name Report and founded the #SayHerName campaign to bring “awareness to the often invisible names and stories of Black women and girls who have been victimized by racist police violence, and provide support to their families.”
Christen A. Smith (founder) and all the members of Cite Black Women, a collective of scholars who urge us “to engage in a radical praxis of citation that acknowledges and honors Black women’s transnational intellectual production…to motivate everyone, but particularly academics, to critically reflect on their everyday practices of citation and start to consciously question how they can incorporate black women into the CORE of their work.”
In response to this work and leadership, we, the faculty of the SUNY Geneseo Women and Gender Studies Program, recommit to:
- Teaching the interrelations between white supremacy and gender-based oppression.
- Ensuring that our curriculum centers the voices and experiences of those who are affected by intersectional oppression.
- Rejecting white feminism and paying particular attention to how whiteness and white women’s desire for equality has been weaponized against BIPOC.
- Preparing our students not only for theoretical understandings of how structural inequalities work, but also to be part of the activist movements to end them.
As indicated in the last bullet point, WGST is somewhat unique among academic fields in that we are explicitly dedicated not only to academically examining structural inequalities, but to the activism needed to end them. Thus, we wholeheartedly support the Black Lives Matter movement and current protests in aiming to radically alter or abolish institutions that uphold structural inequities; this movement and the demands for change being put forth are necessary to achieve the vision of a world without oppression to which the field of women’s and gender studies is fundamentally committed.
In closing we look to bell hooks, reminding us of the power of truly intersectional feminism: “Critical interventions around race did not destroy the women’s movement; it became stronger … It shows us that no matter how misguided feminist thinkers have been in the past, the will to change, the will to create the context for struggle and liberation, remains stronger than the need to hold on to wrong beliefs and assumptions.” ― bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics.
— The Women’s and Gender Studies Advisory Committee (Cathy Adams, Melanie Blood, Jennifer Guzmán, Amanda Roth, Alice Rutkowski)
Davis, Alice. (2016). From Michael Brown to Assata Shakur, the Racist State of America Persists. Freedom is a Constant Struggle. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.
Statement on Racial Injustice and Inequity in Higher Education
The powerful protests sparked by the senseless killing of George Floyd call for racial justice and social change, and they are a painful reminder of the injustices that have plagued our society for many generations. SUNY Geneseo President Denise Battles released a statement regarding the racial injustice that exists nationally and the need to go beyond talking about it. We must do something about it—now.
At Geneseo, we believe in the power of education to break down divisive barriers and create a better future for all students. We have broadened our reach to students in underserved urban and rural communities, and we have committed to expanding our efforts to support greater diversity within our student body. We also know that these efforts are not enough. Therefore, we are working collaboratively with our students, staff, and faculty to examine our enrollment policies in order to eliminate barriers and expand outreach to more underserved students.
Here’s what we’ve done so far and what we plan to do moving forward:
First, we assembled a campus-wide working group to assess our policies around standardized testing. This assessment directly informed our three-year test-optional pilot study that eliminates the SAT/ACT requirement for first-year and transfer students. Having previously worked at test-optional institutions, I know the bias that exists within standardized testing. Data also tells us that eliminating standardized test requirements results in more first-generation, low-income, and students of color applying and enrolling at test-optional institutions. We also know that it is simply the right thing to do.
Second, we’ve revised our admissions application review process to emphasize a holistic review that considers environmental factors. This context is important. For example, students who have experienced societal barriers or have had to manage a multitude of responsibilities at home have far fewer opportunities to engage in extracurricular activities, prep for SAT exams, or participate in academic research or internships, compared to students from privileged and affluent backgrounds who have few or no environmental barriers in front of them. Therefore, grit and perseverance have become important factors in student applications.
Third, we reimagined our financial aid and awarding process to look at and prioritize the financial need of our students. This will result in greater need-based aid, which will go directly to students who require more funding to support their education at Geneseo. We have also eliminated merit scholarships based on SAT or ACT scores. Instead, our scholarship awarding process will be aligned with our holistic application review, factoring in academic proficiency alongside leadership, activism, community service, and mentoring. Within the holistic application process and financial aid packaging, we are committed to honoring a student’s accomplishments, not penalizing them for a lack of opportunities.
Furthermore, we are in the process of making changes to our Multicultural Fellows Honors program. Students selected for this program have demonstrated their passion for social justice and activism within their high school and community. The Multicultural Fellows Honors program comes with a substantial scholarship, which helps support their education at Geneseo.
Moving forward, we are working closely with Geneseo’s chief diversity officer to provide more implicit-bias training for the entire enrollment division. Additionally, I plan to assemble an advisory group of diverse students to inform our enrollment practices—their voices are critical to our progress.
This is just the start. I recognize that these steps are not enough and that we need to do much more—and we will. We are committed to action, not just words.
Vice President for Enrollment Management
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