President Allen’s Response to “The Meredith Anti-Racism Effort, Part 1: BSU’s Role”

Note from the Co-Editors in Chief: The Meredith Herald is committed to examining all sides of every story. Not doing so would be an affront to journalistic integrity. As journalists who have pledged to report all the facts, we are also committed to acknowledging when we’ve made an error. Not including President Allen’s comments in the initial article was an oversight and we plan to be more vigilant in the future in order to ensure that The Herald’s work can be taken seriously and that we treat all parties mentioned by our paper fairly and equally. With that being said, here is President Allen’s response to our Oct. 21 article “The Meredith Anti-Racism Effort, Part 1: BSU's Role.”


In reading the Herald’s article on anti-racism initiatives at Meredith and subsequent interpretations of our work and conversations, I want to correct some inaccuracies. While I wish the writer had asked for my responses and recollections before publishing the piece, perhaps I can offer some perspective here.


Over the past several months, I have had several meetings with BIPOC students and alumnae (who contest the context and intentions of the quotations in your article) to build on work we have done for years at Meredith and, most recently, with our Administrative Management Council, Executive Leadership Team, leading diversity experts on campus, the School of Arts and Humanities, historians and archivists, and various other faculty and staff. The Executive Leadership Team (along with several faculty and staff) has recently participated in the two-day anti-racism work offered by the Racial and Equity Institute, and we have made an initial 100 slots open this past week for faculty and staff to participate in the Groundwater training that REI offers.


As for conversations with students and employees of color: we are in the working phase. Our campus climate survey that includes students, employees, and alumnae is in the field, and we should have results and analysis this winter. From those findings, we will be conducting focus groups with students, employees, and alumnae, bringing together a diverse cross-section that will allow us to dig more deeply into the particular experiences and potential solutions to address racism. At that point, if not before, we will also know the kind of Diversity Equity and Inclusion professional we need to hire to support this ongoing work at Meredith.


Meanwhile, our board-led task force on historical context and naming of buildings is wrapping up its work to present to the full Board of Trustees. Our faculty and archivist are working with the national consortium on Universities Studying Slavery and will be presenting preliminary findings in a meeting with me soon. The School of Arts and Humanities has launched a year-long initiative on “Belonging,” opening with an historical perspective on inclusion at Meredith and followed by a student panel who offered thoughtful insights on their experiences and solutions. Just last week, student affinity groups of all races (and nationalities) offered an excellent opportunity for students to voice their experiences and observations regarding race and issues at Meredith.


All to say, there is room for everyone in this important, ongoing work. Our work on diversity and inclusion is broadly focused in an effort to fully reach every corner of the campus’s culture where racism may exist. In that vein, I have been and remain transparent about our work. Our website https://www.meredith.edu/anti-racism-initiative very publically tracks all work and updates.


I know the pace is too slow for some and too fast for others. We seek to strike the right balance for full inclusion at every turn. Quick fixes, history teaches us, are rarely the key. Thoughtful, well-researched, collaborative exploration and problem solving are the more likely routes to lasting change. I hope that as we continue this critical work that we will be united by a commitment to inclusion and integrity.


Dr. Jo Allen, ‘80

President

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