Recently I shared a statement with the Arts & Sciences community condemning the recent needless and dehumanising murders of African Americans and other brutal actions of law enforcement. These events have generated a powerful energy and renewed urgency to address structural racism in our country and around the world. There is no more important time to be educating students to be prepared for the world—to listen and think critically, to ask tough questions, to use data-driven arguments, and to be knowledgeable, engaged citizens. These events are also a critical reinforcement for the Arts & Sciences community to continue to work on combating racism through our academic, community, and institutional initiatives.

As we acknowledge and reflect, I thought it was also important to share what has been happening on campus. We were very pleased to announce recently that after many months of preparation, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi will join the College of Arts & Sciences as a Professor of History, pending the standard faculty appointment process. Dr. Kendi is one of the nation’s leading scholars and historians of antiracism. He will be launching the BU Center for Antiracist Research, which will bring together researchers and practitioners from across the University and the region to engage around issues of racism and racial justice. You can find the full announcement of his appointment here, along with the BU Today article and a Q&A with Dr. Kendi. He also gave a recent TED talk from BU.

Dr. Kendi joins strong academic foundations in History, African American Studies, and the study of racism. Two professors in History and African American Studies, Linda Heywood and John Thorton, were recently elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. BU’s African American Studies program, which is housed in the College, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Its director, Louis Chude-Sokei, a Professor of English and the George and Joyce Wein Chair in African American Studies, is an authority on the African Diaspora and the editor of The Black Scholar, one of the oldest journals of Black Studies and ranked the #1 journal of Black Studies in the United States by the Princeton journal review. In addition, studies of the impacts of bias and racial inequality span our college, including (but not limited to) work by faculty and students in sociology, political science, economics, computer science, religion, and psychological and brain sciences.

Academic endeavors like these, which examine and seek solutions for our society’s problems, are at the heart of our mission. So, too, is our community. Always strong advocates, our students have rallied together. Umoja: Boston University Black Student Union and the BU Student Government launched a fundraiser last week to support prominent social justice organizations. More than 150 student groups and 3,000 individuals donated to the campaign, raising more than $140,000. There have been a wide range of community events across campus, as well as community networking events for students, faculty and staff of color and allies. On June 10, there was broad participation of faculty, staff, and students in the campus talks, virtual gatherings and town meetings as part of the nationwide #shutdownSTEM and #shutdownACADEMIA day to step away from work, to reflect on and formulate a plan for how we can act to help eliminate structural and systemic racism in our society and the academy. And on June 24, BU will cancel all classes and events in order to host a collective day of engagement to reflect on American racism.

In the wake of these events, we have reaffirmed our ongoing commitment to examine our own institution and to address the practices and structures that are part of the broader edifice of racism. Issues of faculty diversity, college climate, creation of pipeline programs, inclusive pedagogy and curricula are among the areas of improvement that were identified by the report of the CAS Diversity and Inclusion Committee. We must continue to systemically and proactively address them. Among the key action items from this report is the appointment of an Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion whose work will likely initially focus on faculty diversity, particularly the recruitment and retention of under-represented minority faculty.

We have a great deal to do as a college, a university, a city, and a country. I hope that these efforts help us come together as a community, and that our creative energies as educators, researchers, students, and alumni also advance the hard work necessary for addressing the racial injustices in our society, resulting in lasting and positive change for all.

Stan Sclaroff
Dean of Arts & Sciences
Boston University