An Important Announcement from Rutgers University - Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor

chancellor cantor speaking at conference table

Dear Rutgers University - Newark Community Members,

As we have all gathered together in the recent weeks to emphasize our solidarity with the voices of reflection on questions of inclusion, inter-group relations, and the often frayed social fabric of our time, we have also turned to each other at Rutgers University-Newark, this specially diverse institution, and challenged ourselves to ever more intentionally and pointedly build on our legacy as a place of opportunity - a place where difference is given a human face through the many personal paths, passions, and possibilities that converge here. Running through all these conversations, and indeed throughout our year-long strategic planning process and in the strategic plan that emerged was a belief that we in this community could tackle in a thoughtful, but direct and honest way, the hard work of not only being diverse but, as John Dewey implored when he wrote about the need to "tend to democracy" in each successive generation, doing diversity - and doing it well.

What does doing diversity well include?  That, it seems to me, is the question that we can commit ourselves as an institution, but more pointedly, as a community of scholars and citizens, friends and strangers, to discussing, reflecting upon, and taking steps to realize as both a legacy and a goal of this university in this city at this time in the evolution of our national dialogue.

So, today, I write to announce one next step growing directly out of the call to "leverage our diversity"  emerging in our strategic planning process and in the strategic plan and the study group that followed from it - and that is the appointment of a Chancellor's Commission on Diversity and Transformation, as I previewed in my earlier remarks.

As the name implies, the RU-N Commission on Diversity and Transformation will serve as a dynamic and intentional action group focused on institutional change, however multi-faceted and challenging that may be. The Commission will aim to generate knowledge and suggest actions to create curriculum, scholarship, initiatives, places and spaces for both intragroup solidarity and inter-cultural engagement.

This is no small task, and clearly all of the talent and energy of our full community will need to be engaged, as the Commission reaches broadly and intensively to us to help inform what can often be heated but critical questions of access, opportunity, difference, dialogue, and connectedness.

While the Commission will need to be flexible and develop its own charge over time, it will be asked also to develop concrete plans in each of the following areas:

  • Develop curricula focused on the broad and complex questions that surround both the opportunity and the obstacles of realizing the full benefits of diversity.
  • Develop a dynamic inter-group dialogue initiative for students, faculty and staff.
  • Increase the diversity of our faculty across academic areas and the university.
  • Enhance professional development opportunities for faculty and staff to fully support them across their overlapping roles as scholars, teachers, and mentors engaged with our diverse student body and community.
  • Enhance RU-N's climate outside and inside the classroom by realizing the potential for the intersectionality and interconnectedness of identities among students, faculty, and staff.
  • Identify intersections between our diversity and our mission as an anchor institution with a tradition of excellence in publicly engaged scholarship.
  • Approach all of the above with a goal to establish RU-N as a national leader in leveraging diversity.
shirley collado and jerome williams

We have in our midst two individuals who are superbly qualified-and have agreed-to co-chair the Commission, each with a track record of national leadership in the Commission's domains of work: Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer Shirley Collado and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jerome D. Williams. Particularly important will be Shirley's experience in cultivating diversity through The Posse Foundation, in related national bodies focused on student and faculty diversity, and leadership of our own innovative Honors Living-Learning Community, and Jerome's distinguished record of award-winning, engaged scholarship addressing differential treatment of individuals based on race and ethnicity, experience as a diversity advocate at major research universities, and leadership in the Ph.D. Project, a national initiative to diversify the faculty.

Joining them in this work that is vital both to us as we pursue our strategic priorities and to the nation as colleges and universities everywhere strive to model how to strengthen democracies through embracing difference is an outstanding group of faculty, staff, and students that is broadly and deeply representative of the multi-dimensional diversity of our university community; many of them, too, are nationally or internationally renowned in precisely the Commission's areas of focus.

diversity and transformation committee seated at round table

Sadia Abbas, Associate Professor, College of Arts & Sciences, English

Elise Boddie, Associate Professor, Law School

Sherri-Ann Butterfield, Senior Associate Dean, College of Arts & Sciences; Associate Professor, Sociology

Arleska Castillo, Assistant Director, Human Resources

Ahmet Ceceli, Graduate Student, Psychology (2019)

Cleopatra Charles, Assistant Professor, School of Public Affairs & Administration

Abeer Elahraf, IT Manager, College of Arts & Sciences

Marta Elena Esquilin, Associate Dean, Honors Living-Learning Community

Shane Fuller, Undergraduate Student, School of Public Affairs & Administration (2016)

Suzanne Kim, Professor, Law School

Halimah Mahmoud, Undergraduate Student, College of Arts & Sciences (2017)

Thais Marques, Undergraduate Student, College of Arts & Sciences, Political Science (2017)

Jody Miller, Professor, School of Criminal Justice

Arturo Osorio, Assistant Professor, Rutgers Business School

Twila Perry, Professor, Law School

Luis Rivera, Assistant Professor, College of Arts & Sciences, Psychology

Jay Soled, Professor, Rutgers Business School

Corlisse Thomas, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Nukhet Varlik, Assistant Professor, College of Arts & Sciences, History

Xiaoyang Xu, Graduate Student, School of Public Affairs & Administration (2017)

The Commission will begin work immediately, meeting for the first time this Thursday, December 10. We very much look forward to engaging members across constituencies in the Commission's ongoing work, which you will be hearing about periodically. Meanwhile, Shirley and Jerome invite you to contact them directly should you have questions about the Commission's work
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Please join me in thanking the Commission's leadership and members for investing in all of us by investing themselves so deeply in this critical pursuit.

Nancy Cantor