Racial Equity Task Force Discusses Steps Forward, Learning From Past Recommendations

The public session of the University’s Racial Equity Task Force occurred virtually Friday, over one month after a group of Black student activists and the Black Student Alliance sent separate lists of demands to the task force. The session was split into three parts — a description of their approach, an open forum — during which members of the public submitted questions displayed over Zoom — and a time for task force members to answer questions that had been submitted by participants before the session began. More than 450 people attended the event.

The University’s Racial Equity Task Force was created by President Jim Ryan June 3 with the goal of developing a concrete list of actions for the University to take to further racial equity efforts on Grounds. The task force includes Kevin McDonald, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion; Ian Solomon, dean of the Batten School; and Barbara Wilson, an assistant professor in the School of Architecture and faculty director of the Equity Center. 

The most common question from community members was a request for the task force to act on Assistant Professor Paul Harris’ tenure case, which has received national attention over the last month. Harris received a negative tenure recommendation from the Curry School Promotion and Tenure Committee after years of positive annual reviews and has spoken out about the many errors that occurred throughout his tenure confirmation process. Solomon responded that the task force was not planning to address any specific personnel cases.

“We as a task force are not going to weigh in on individual tenure cases or pending personnel matters,” Solomon said. “We very much hear this and we very much welcome ideas related to tenure policies, tenure practices, tenure goals, because I suspect we will have recommendations related to the appointment promotion, tenure and retention processes for faculty.”

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