As prepared for delivery at the Council of the Princeton University Community meeting on Dec. 8, 2014, in McCosh Hall, Room 10
Recent events provide yet another painful reminder that, despite America’s foundational commitment to human equality and unalienable rights, racial injustice has stained our republic from the moment of its inception. The tragic deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, have again exposed the distressing gap that separates our aspirations from our achievements. Our Constitution’s promise of equal protection of the laws remains unfulfilled, and the American people’s dream of justice remains unrealized. Protests across the country and on our own campus testify eloquently to the anguish caused by the unfairness that persists within American society.
As a University committed to “the nation’s service and the service of all nations,” Princeton has a responsibility to bring its scholarship and teaching to bear on these urgent problems. We encourage our students and faculty to contribute to the national dialogue on these issues, and to help identify ways in which our republic can more fully live up to the principles on which it was founded. We must also push ourselves to uphold more faithfully on our own campus the ideals that define our academic community. The Council of the Princeton University Community was created more than four decades ago, during the turmoil of the Vietnam War, with occasions of this kind very much in mind. The Council serves as “a permanent conference of the representatives of all major groups of the University” where “they could each raise problems that concern them and … be exposed to each other’s views.”
I am accordingly today charging the Executive Committee of the CPUC to develop recommendations for improving the University’s policies and practices regarding diversity, inclusion, and equity on campus. I am also asking the Executive Committee to propose events in the upcoming months that will enhance public dialogue about racial equality, diversity, and other topics critical to the future of our University and our country. I will ask the Executive Committee to consider during the upcoming week whether and how it wishes to augment its membership to enhance its capacity to deal with these issues, and how to ensure that its processes will be appropriately transparent and consultative.
I would now like to open the floor to a discussion about any of your ideas that the Executive Committee might consider as it takes up this charge.