Q&A with Committee Chairs

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee Leadership Q&A

A conversation between Senior Diversity Officer Andrea Taylor and the trustee committee leaders, Stephen M. Zide and Richard C. Godfrey

In September 2020, the Boston University Board of Trustees announced the creation of a new Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Committee that was charged with ensuring that the University’s leadership drives a clear and sustainable strategic vision for addressing DEI issues in the long term while working to foster a more inclusive environment for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and trustees. The committee will also ensure that University leadership is held accountable for addressing issues of DEI and antiracism. 

Recently, BU announced that trustees Stephen (Steve) M. Zide (LAW’86) and Richard (Rick) C. Godfrey (LAW’79) will serve as chair and vice chair, respectively, of the new committee. BU’s Senior Diversity Officer Andrea L. Taylor (COM’68), a former trustee, sat down with Zide and Godfrey to discuss their commitment to these leadership positions; the need to proactively identify and address racist policies and practices as well as drive behavioral change; and the specific actions and responsibilities of the committee.

Andrea L. Taylor: Tell me a little bit about your background. What made you want to be a part of this committee?

Steve M. Zide: I’ve been a BU board member since 2010. Giving back to and seeking change at BU has been incredibly important to me ever since I graduated from BU LAW years ago. I can tell you that graduates today are entering a very different world than the one I experienced after law school. BU continues to play a critical role in preparing students, both undergraduate and graduate, for participation in what is an increasingly diverse workforce. We need to make sure that, as a university, we’re providing students with the resources and support they need to succeed, both during and after their time at BU.

Rick C. Godfrey: Like Steve, I’m also a BU LAW grad and have been a member of BU’s Board of Trustees since 2007. Echoing Steve’s point, we need to assess how the University is approaching diversity, equity, and inclusion issues; identify necessary improvements and changes; and think through what can be done better to prepare our students for the future. These changes are critical to the University’s future, and as a committee, we need to help the University ensure that it is providing an inclusive, respectful, and supportive environment for everyone in our community.

AT: What does it mean for the DEI Committee and its approach that you both are leading the charge?

SZ: If we are to bring about substantive change, we need to pursue a new form of allyship—especially white allyship. The meaning of this moment is not something that the DEI Committee took lightly. We believe that we are at an inflection point where new coalitions and different models for allyship are finally beginning to take shape. As an institution, we can no longer place responsibility for identifying, addressing, and eliminating discriminatory policies and practices solely on the people and communities that have been excluded or marginalized over time. The DEI Committee is focused on ensuring that all voices are meaningfully represented and heard in the work that we ultimately do. 

RG: That said, we were very intentional about ensuring that the committee itself represents the diversity of the Board of Trustees and the BU community. We think that the Board of Trustees has appointed a nine-member committee that reflects a diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences.

AT: Typically, the University doesn’t announce the heads of board committees. Why this time?

RG: Frankly, the events of this past year resulting from the pandemic and racial disparities—especially the protests following the brutal killing of George Floyd and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color—have reinforced our resolve as a university to do this work. We know that we’re not alone in this, and numerous organizations are dedicating resources to address these issues. By being transparent with the BU community about this committee, its leadership, and its purpose, I know we’ll be held accountable for the work we’re charged with doing. There is also an opportunity to align our efforts with previous diversity-related initiatives at BU, including the University’s strategic plan for 2030 that was adopted in 2019.  

AT: So what exactly is the DEI Committee’s role at BU? How does it differ from the Antiracism Working Group?

SZ: As a committee, our task is to ensure that University leadership addresses issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism. To achieve this, University leadership must be proactive in identifying and addressing policies and practices that perpetuate systems of discrimination. Rick and I are here to help develop the agenda of the committee and, even more importantly, ensure that any goals or milestones we set for ourselves are met.

RG: The DEI Committee is a permanent standing committee with a position slot on the executive committee of the governing Board of Trustees. We don’t often create permanent committees that report to the board, but the University sees an immediate need to allocate additional resources and time to address these significant issues. The committee also intends to build on BU’s related diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts from 2020 that engaged faculty, staff, students, and alumni. These efforts included the: 

  • June 2020 Day of Collective Engagement at Boston University
  • Appointment of Professor Ibram X. Kendi, founder of BU’s new Center for Antiracist Research
  • Promotion of Crystal Williams to vice president and associate provost for Community & Inclusion
  • Appointment of Andrea L. Taylor as the University’s senior diversity officer
  • Creation of the Antiracism Working Group as a permanent staff and faculty committee
  • Creation of the Community Safety Advisory Group

SZ: This new committee, like the Antiracism Working Group, is also part of the University’s strategic plan for 2030. As part of this strategic plan, all aspects of the University are dedicating significant resources to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. In terms of members, the DEI Committee will be made up of BU trustees, and the Antiracism Working Group will be made up of BU faculty and staff. However, both will report to the Office of the President and have you [Senior Diversity Officer Andrea L. Taylor] as a member to help coordinate and connect their efforts as they work in parallel.

RG: As the BU Board of Trustees launches this new DEI Committee, we will also be closely aligned with other campus-wide initiatives to address these issues, and create and sustain a campus community that values, respects, and supports all members of its community.

AT: In terms of next steps, what can the BU community expect from the DEI Committee?

RG: We’re looking to the future and to the changing demographics of the workforce and our student body. We are still in the early phases of the committee and will be able to share additional details on our specific goals and initiatives in the coming months. In the meantime, we hope that this committee demonstrates that the BU Board of Trustees is willing to both lead and be held accountable on these critical issues, as well as help other parts of the University achieve their goals around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

SZ: We also hope to have opportunities in the future for the broader University community to engage with us and the committee. More details to come, but an important part of this process is for us to learn from and listen to all members of the BU community, so that we can understand and address their concerns.  

If you have any specific questions for the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee or the Board of Trustees, please reach out to Senior Diversity Officer Andrea L. Taylor at Tayloran@bu.edu.

Discover how you can get involved or in touch with Diversity, Equity & Inclusion professionals, teams, and groups from across all three BU campuses.