By Olivia Bowman
A document entitled “Commitment to Anti-Racism at TCNJ” has been circulating throughout the College’s faculty, alumni and students since it was created on June 18.
The document has garnered over 4 pages of signatures since a professor in the College’s psychology department, Joanna Herres, started it after seeing an open letter from Bryn Mawr and Haverford College students stating the accounts of discrimination they, as Black students, have experienced at their colleges and the action steps that they believed could be taken by their institutions.
After seeing this, Herres, a Bryn Mawr graduate herself, began to adapt the demands she saw into steps that could be applied to the College.
“Several of my colleagues in Psychology … joined me in drafting the document,” Herres said. “This became a list of 13 actions TCNJ could take to fight anti-Black racism at the College.”
The document has since been shared with College administrators and was formally presented to President Foster on July 30. It was well-received, according to Herres.
The document states that the College’s “diversity and inclusion” narrative has been put in place to make white allies feel better while actually doing very little to support the Black community.
“Diversity and inclusion initiatives must acknowledge how academia both benefits from and is complicit in white supremacy, the problematic history of predominantly white institutions (PWIs) and include a specific anti-racism agenda that extends beyond theory towards ongoing praxis,” the commitment states.
As mentioned above, the statement is a list of 13 action steps to be taken on how to fight racism at the College.
These steps include the need to implement administrative positions tasked with cultivating an anti-racism environment.
Before circulating the commitment at the College widely, credit and compensation were given to the original writers of the Bryn Mawr and Haverford documents. They are mentioned in the footnote of Herres’ commitment.
The statement says the College community “must commit ourselves to creating an anti-racism standing committee that operates as part of faculty governance,” citing the University of Michigan as a primary example of how committees are already being implemented.
“It emphasizes action and structural change rather than empty words,” said Rajbir Toor, a senior biopsychology major who signed the document. “The changes are contextualized to TCNJ, such as the commitment to creating an anti-racism governance and requiring an anti-racism course at TCNJ.”
The document states that the anti-racism committee will be responsible for ensuring the dedication to and carrying out of the rest of the action steps as well as developing additional initiatives.
“Our hope is that (the anti-racism committee) will be addressed and implemented by governance and administration in the months to come,” Herres said.
Other steps laid out in the commitment include evaluating the College’s racist practices and biases, holding required courses on white supremacy and privilege, and annual faculty diversity training, among others.
The College’s ‘Policy Prohibiting Discrimination in the Workplace/Educational Environment’ is also mentioned as a reference point to hold the College accountable for individuals in violation of this policy.
At the end of the commitment it states that the anti-racism committee should release a timeline of completion for these action steps.
“We hope (the commitment) continues to reach those in the TCNJ community, past and present, who support an anti-racism agenda,” Herres wrote.