I write today to make you aware of a despicable racist incident that occurred Friday afternoon and the steps we are taking in response—and to state in the strongest possible terms that such incidents will not be tolerated at Tufts and will not discourage us from our work to promote and foster racial justice.
As part of the School of Engineering’s Colloquium on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dr. Karl Reid, executive director of the National Society of Black Engineers, delivered a presentation on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the field of engineering. The event, in keeping with the spirit of inclusion, was open to both the university community and the public. During his presentation, someone gained control of the screen and scrawled a racist term across his slides. Dr. Reid shut off his screen share and completed his presentation.
Dean Jianmin Qu, of the School of Engineering, and I each have contacted Dr. Reid to express our deepest apologies and to assure him that we are doing all that we can to determine who did this and to put in place policies and practices to prevent it from happening in the future. We sincerely appreciate Dr. Reid’s graciousness given the distressing circumstances. I also want to take this moment to apologize to all of those in attendance who had gathered in the cause of racial justice only to witness graphic evidence of how far we still have to go to realize our goals. The pain of this incident is compounded by its occurrence only days after we gathered as a community for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium and as we celebrate Black History and Black Legacy Month.
The Tufts University Police Department has launched an investigation and is reviewing all available data in an attempt to determine who is responsible. It is unclear at this time whether the culprit is a member of the university or someone unaffiliated with it; both were in attendance at the event, the openness of which might have contributed to its exploitation. If we are able to identify the perpetrator, we will impose the severest penalties available to us as a university and pursue all avenues available to us under the law. Meanwhile, Tufts Technology Services, which is assisting TUPD, is reviewing the incident and our online event practices to reduce the likelihood of this happening again.
We invite you to join the leadership of the School of Engineering, the Chief Diversity Office, the University Chaplaincy, Student Affairs, and the Division of Student Diversity and Inclusion for a community meeting focused on healing, reflection, and action, on Monday at 4:00 p.m. Please click here to register in advance.
As you know, the university has committed itself to being an anti-racist institution, and our students, faculty, and staff are deeply involved in this hard and important work. As we move forward together, we will, sadly, encounter those who attempt to keep us from our goals. We cannot let their hate deter us. We cannot let their ignorance discourage us. We must stand together at difficult times like these to continue our fight to eradicate racism from our community and never stop working to make our university a more just and equitable place tomorrow than it is today.