BU to Host a Day of Collective Engagement to Reflect on Racism June 24
Updated: BU Will Host Day of Collective Engagement June 24 to Reflect on American Racism
Classes and events rescheduled; website with agenda details forums happening all day
Update: The website with the agenda and Zoom access for the Day of Collective Engagement is now live.
- BU schedules Day of Collective Engagement June 24 to ponder systemic US racism
- Classes, University events canceled that day to permit attendance
- A website has been created for the BU community to follow the events
For perhaps the first time since the tumult of the Vietnam War, when finals and Commencement were canceled in 1970, the University will suspend all business—classes, meetings, and events—on June 24 so that the BU community can explore the trauma of racism in America.
The University has asked all faculty and managers to reschedule anything planned for that day to allow for a daylong community discussion about American racism and antiracism.
The BU-wide Day of Collective Engagement: Racism and Antiracism, Our Realities and Our Roles will be held remotely in response to weeks of national protests sparked by police killings of Black people across the country. The day will begin at 8:30 am with an opening plenary session, A Conversation on the History of Racism. That will be followed by concurrent discussion sessions, lunch discussions, a town hall led by Robert A. Brown, BU president, and Jean Morrison, University provost, and closing debriefings open to all BU affiliates and led by faculty and staff, ending at 4:30 pm.
“We are currently experiencing one of the most significant human rights moments of our lifetimes, as people in all 50 states and around the world have mobilized in horror in response to the killing of yet another unarmed Black person by the police,” Brown, Morrison, and Crystal Williams, associate provost for diversity and inclusion, wrote in a letter sent to the University community June 16.
“This movement was sparked most recently by the heinous murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, but is also in response to the deaths of countless Black people as a result of centuries of racism and racist policies and structures. The racial disparities which undergird so much of contemporary American society have also been laid bare in the disproportionate toll the COVID-19 pandemic has had on American communities of color.”
The discussion sessions will include topics that for many people may be unfamiliar and even uncomfortable, applying on campus and off.
A conversation about white allyship, advocacy, and leadership will be led by Carrie Preston, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of English and director of Kilachand Honors College. Angela Onwuachi-Willig, dean of the School of Law, will lead An Examination of How the Law Perpetuates Violence against People of Color. Among other topics: Racism and Antiracism in the Clinical Medical Practice; Inclusive Pedagogy and Decolonizing the Curriculum; and Practices and Ways to Undertake Antiracist Work Outside of the Academy. Ibram X. Kendi, the inaugural leader of BU’s new Center for Antiracist Research, will lead the plenary discussion.
We are currently experiencing one of the most significant human rights moments of our lifetimes.
“The entire country is on tenterhooks,” says Williams. “People are in pain and are suffering—have been suffering. But the answers won’t come quickly, and the remedies even less so. The systems in which we find ourselves entrenched are sophisticated and complex, and too often, so normalized that to see them anew requires a great deal of effort and a willingness to question everything.
“This collective day of engagement,” she adds, “is an important first step towards creating a world that is more equitable, is antiracist, and is a world in which we can all thrive. It’s a day to challenge ourselves, and it is a hopeful day that speaks to our highest aspirations as individuals.”
“As a community of individuals committed to the attainment of knowledge and pursuit of the truth,” Brown, Morrison, and Williams wrote, “we believe it is the responsibility of the entire University community to listen, learn, think critically about, and collectively reflect upon, these issues deliberately and with the seriousness they deserve.” The letter asked that faculty and managers “ensure that all classes, meetings, and events currently scheduled for June 24 be rescheduled on another day so that all members of our community can fully participate in these dialogues.”
Among the questions the sessions will probe, according to Brown, Morrison, and Williams: “What is racism? What are the policies that animate, perpetuate, and protect it? How did we get here? How do we change the policies and practices that perpetuate racism?
“These questions are essential at this moment in our history. And, exploring them is a necessary first step if we are ever to successfully address systemic racism.”
“Our nation is facing a terribly challenging time,” Morrison told BU Today, “and the moment requires that we speak honestly and directly with one another as colleagues, classmates, friends, and family members. This University-wide conversation, which we are eager to engage in, is a critical step. Through this day, we hope to provide an opportunity for needed introspection and a forum for coming together and striving for positive, meaningful societal change.”
What is this orchestrated event supposed to accomplish?
If it’s purpose is to mask the systemic racism practiced at BU then I am all for it, but BU should not project its problems to the entire country. After all, the US is the only country in the western world which has elected a black president and elected him twice. Now, thanks to media spotlight, many here at BU are now “woke” and are accusing the entire US of centuries of systemic racism.
BU is far from being a leader in diversity. Please look how many of BU’s leaders have roots in Boston’s black community. BU leadership should repent first before dragging the rest of us into the mess they supported and cultivated for decades.
Instead, why don’t we focus on what we have in common and not on what divides us – hobbies, sports, religion, and our dreams of better world.
Organized mass-scale exercises ala Mao Tse Tung do not work and only serves the economic power elites who maintain their grip on society because of ethnic, racial, and economic divides.
We are better than this.
The point of this event is to educate people on history and teach them about past /present issues this country has. It’s not that BU is a pillar of righteousness, but it is about improving.
Also, don’t use Obama as America’s one black friend. Racism did not end in 2008.
Clearly this event is meant to educate people like you.
My direct experience is rooted in the time between our involvement in the demise of Patrice Lumumba and our withdrawal from Vietnam. As you can imagine, such an enormous amount of turmoil, happening with overlapping lead to wide disparities in the focus of various demonstrations and movements. Often even the focus of individual demonstrations, on a single campus, were characterized by people chanting slogans, the meaning of which were way beyond their grasp. It came then as no surprise, when little or nothing came of them, beyond a boisterous moment and some nervousness on the part of school administrations, that wanted to avoid becoming their own Kent State moments.
A program like this has the potential to clarify to the point that fruitful debate can take place.
The article said there’s a place to register, but I didn’t see one on the website the link took me to. Do we have to register? If so, where do we do it? Thanks.
There is no registration required for the event. This was a mistake and I think has now been corrected. Please follow the links above for additional instructions regarding participating in the day.
Supporting Lewis’ comment.
BU has the resources to be better than this cookie-cutter response. Throughout my years at the university, I experienced and witnessed many incidents of racial discrimination, bias, and the informed inaction by supposed leaders across campus. Students were consistently treated differently by university employees/faculty/visitors based on their appearance; often black students (and staff) were treated as outsiders by questioning their merit and qualifications for their presence on campus. Complaints were filed with three different entities with no response from BU.
Empower your students to create stronger communities of support. Enable your faculty and staff to facilitate critical discussions and provide actual leadership.
BU senior admins are in serious denial of its own community issues on campus.
Agreeing with Sara’s comment. Come on BU, do better.
Having a “Day” of collective engagement? How about having a year, decade, an ALWAYS of collective engagement. We don’t need to TALK about “how to dismantle systemic racism” – we need to actually DO it.
BU senior admin has the ability to make fundamental changes now. How to dismantle systemic racism is KNOWN information. Continued failure to DO it is the problem.
Organizing one event where we sit comfortably at our laptops, hear panel presentations, and go through the motions of discussing systemic racism — nothing is going to come of that. CHANGE the curriculum, FIRE people for racist behaviors, make classes on systemic oppression MANDATORY for all students and staff, cut ties/contracts with the Boston Police — these are ACTUAL steps that you can and should be taking right now.
Having a “day,” in 2020, to “discuss” systemic racism, and calling that “a step towards dismantling oppression” is sorta like if doctors, in 2020, had a “day” to “discuss” cancer, where all they do is describe how cancer is really bad and deadly, and then call that “a step towards curing cancer.” It’s not curing anything. It’s doing more of the same.
Excellent. Thanks for sharing. We love the information on this site. we will add the RSS feed to our own to support you. Cheers. Dave.