In a historic year for Black Americans—nationwide protests against police violence, a Black woman elected as vice president, the death of Civil Rights icon John Lewis (Hon.’18)—Boston University took its own historic steps forward: A new senior position specifically focused on diversity, inclusion, and fairness was created; a Day of Collective Engagement in June drew 5,000 people together for a series of webinars to talk about diversity, race, and BU’s future; and a Trustees’ Diversity & Inclusion Committee and an Antiracism Working Group were established to recommend reforms to BU policies and practices.
Andrea Taylor (COM’68) was named as BU’s first senior diversity officer, a leadership role that reports directly to President Robert A. Brown and will collaborate with leaders across the University to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and fairness. “I think there’s a real sense that this time we can make substantive and meaningful commitments and changes in policy and practice that will improve the common good,” Taylor said. “It’s a tall order.”
As Taylor stepped into her new role, Crystal Williams, BU’s first associate provost for diversity and inclusion, was stepping into a more prominent one, as vice president and associate provost for community and inclusion. She will oversee BU’s new Newbury Center for first-generation students, and also play a key role in implementing two pillars of BU’s 2030 strategic plan focused on diversity as well as community.
Of all the measures BU took in 2020 toward fairness, the two most impactful might be the formation in September of the Board of Trustees Diversity & Inclusion Committee and a University-wide Antiracism Working Group. President Brown wrote of the Trustees’ effort: “This new committee will ensure that issues of diversity, inclusion, and antiracism are prominent at the highest level of the University’s governance structure, adding importance and accountability to our efforts.” And, of the working group, he said it will be “responsible for examining our institution’s racial climate, biases, and progress, and identifying best practices to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion.”