Dear Members of the Princeton Community,
In response to recent tragic events, over the past several weeks our University—along with the rest of our nation—has been engaged in a conversation about racial injustice in America and the ongoing reality of oppression and violence against Black Americans. Individually and collectively, we have asked how we can do our part to confront racism honestly and effectively. We have begun identifying and taking steps—but we must do more.
We must think broadly and ask hard questions of ourselves. We must reflect on our place in the world and challenge ourselves to identify additional steps we can take to fight racism. As a University, we must examine all aspects of this institution—from our scholarly work to our daily operations—with a critical eye and a bias toward action. This will be an ongoing process, one that depends on concrete and reasoned steps.
Building on past work, our community has begun to take action. The University has already announced an initial series of new funding initiatives—the first, immediate steps in an ongoing effort to bring to bear the research, teaching, and service-focused mission of the University on the critical issues of racial injustice.
Through the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, we have established a new grant program (“Princeton RISE”) that provides immediate resources for undergraduate and graduate students who want to engage in work over the summer to address racial inequalities and injustices. We have put out a call for faculty-led projects to engage undergraduate students in research or scholarly work that addresses racism, including systemic racism and racial injustice. We have identified funding to support faculty members who want to create or expand course offerings related to systemic racism, racial injustice, anti-racism, and the history of civil rights or anti‑racist movements.
We obviously need to do even more. We have therefore been asking ourselves and our community how Princeton can best respond to this moment as an institution. As part of this process, I have formally charged the members of Princeton’s Cabinet—the senior academic and administrative leaders of our University—to identify specific actions that can be taken in their areas of responsibility to confront racism in our own community and in the world at large. Today, I am sharing with you the charge I have given to them.
As I told the Cabinet, Chair of the Board of Trustees Weezie Sams and I have also initiated a conversation within the board about these topics, beginning with individual conversations with every trustee. The full board will convene in a special meeting later this month to continue discussing how the University can help fight systemic racism.
This is one step in a long journey, and we will continue to need input from all of you—students, faculty, and staff—to determine where we can do better and where we can do more. If you have input that you would like to share with the full Cabinet or individual members, we invite you to send suggestions to email@example.com.
I want to thank all of you who have raised your voices in the past weeks, and who have stepped up to the task at hand. We all share this responsibility to one another and to justice.
Message to Cabinet Regarding Anti-Racism Initiatives
Dear Cabinet Colleagues,
Recent events have demonstrated yet again how this nation’s long legacy of racism continues to damage and destroy the lives of Black people. The heartless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis occurred soon after the unjust shootings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and was followed by the wrongful killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. It coincided with the appalling harassment of Christian Cooper in New York’s Central Park, an incident that demonstrated how easily a racist complaint could put a Black man in danger. The COVID-19 pandemic itself has killed Black and brown Americans at higher rates than other groups, magnifying disparities in healthcare and economic well-being.
These events, chapters in an ongoing history of oppressive violence against Black Americans, have brought renewed focus to the role we all must play in confronting racism. I want to thank the many of you, and other members of our community, who have stepped up in the past weeks to identify opportunities for change here at Princeton, who have lifted up the voices of our scholars, and who have helped launch new initiatives to tackle these important issues. But we must do more.
Princeton University has a responsibility to stand up against racism and to bring its scholarly and teaching resources to bear to create a more just and equal society. We have convened several task forces during the past decade to study issues of diversity and inclusion at Princeton University and made progress by implementing changes they recommended. We have not, however, focused on eliminating racism. That is the charge I give to you now. We must seize this tragic and searing moment in American history to ask how we can more effectively fight racism—through our teaching and research, through our operations, and through our interactions and partnerships with those around us.
I am accordingly asking all Cabinet members to submit reports to me by Friday, August 21 that specify a set of actions that could be taken within your areas to identify, understand, and combat systemic racism within and beyond the University. Additionally, Chair of the Board of Trustees Weezie Sams and I have initiated a conversation within the board about these topics, beginning with individual conversations with every trustee. The full board will convene in a special meeting later this month to continue discussing how the University can help fight systemic racism.
We will come together as a Cabinet in late August to discuss the results of our work and develop clear plans for implementation and accountability. This initiative will require input and meaningful engagement from members of our community. I ask that you determine how best to engage a diverse range of constituencies—including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members—in this urgent work, both in the preparation of your reports and on an ongoing basis.
In structuring your reports, please consider how the following questions apply to your units and areas of responsibility:
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of Princeton University’s scholarly, co‑curricular, administrative, and other efforts to eliminate racism on its campus and beyond?
- What should Princeton University do to more effectively stand against racism and for equality and justice?
- How can Princeton University learn from and partner with institutions, organizations, or communities in the surrounding region and throughout the nation to cooperate productively to fight racism?
Confronting the realities and legacy of racism, both in our own community and in the world at large, requires commitment at every level of our institution. This will be an ongoing effort, one that will require our collective attention and the input of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
We must be relentless in our efforts to eliminate the scourge of racism and strive for equality and justice.
I look forward to receiving your reports.
With best wishes,