We gathered last week to mourn for the Black lives that have been lost due to racial injustice and police violence and to begin a much-needed conversation about the actions we need to take to end the systemic racism that exists in our country, in higher education, and at Tufts University itself. It was clear even before that gathering—but became even more urgent upon hearing from students, faculty, and staff—that we all need to look at what we can do as individuals and as an institution to contribute to substantive change. This Friday, June 19 offers us an opportunity to continue our process of remembrance and reflection and to further our community dialogue about the next steps to advance diversity, inclusion, and equity at Tufts.
Historically, June 19 has been known within the Black community as Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. This year, in the context of national attention to racial injustice, Juneteenth has a special resonance for all of us. Accordingly, I am announcing that the university is designating this Friday, June 19, 2020 as a Day of Reflection, Commitment, and Action for Racial Justice. Classes will be canceled, administrative offices will be closed, and only essential staff will be expected to report for work. Faculty and staff will be given a bonus day to observe Juneteenth. Essential employees who need to work on Friday will be able to use the bonus day on a different date to reflect on these issues.
As we take this opportunity to step back from our daily routine to focus our attention on these critical issues in our national and university experience, I sincerely hope you will consider joining us in a special series of programs this Friday, beginning at 9:00 a.m. In addition to reflections on the historical and current context for this year’s Juneteenth, there will be opportunities to reflect on how our mission as a university aligns with the lived experiences of our students, faculty, and staff. We will close with a session from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. in which senior colleagues and I will discuss some of the steps we envision taking to move our university forward. This closing plenary session will be the beginning of a process that will include opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to share their input as we consider with renewed focus how we can root out structural racism within our institution and implement anti-racist policies.
I am grateful to our chief diversity officers, Dr. Rob Mack and Dr. Joyce Sackey, for developing the programming for the day. A full schedule is forthcoming. In the meantime, I hope you will plan on joining us on Friday.