Letter to the Editor: Ad-Hoc Committee on Cultural Competency response to student protest and Lowrie memo

Written in response to a student protest of college discrimination against students of color last month and to a memo sent to the Emerson community by Faculty Assembly Chair Anthony Lowrie, which called for a private investigation into student claims of discrimination.

Dear Emerson Community,

On October 24, students once again joined in protest at Faculty Assembly to call our attention to the persistence of racism on our campus. Their protest included a petition with a clear list of demands. In response, Anthony Lowrie, the Chair of Faculty Assembly, sent a personal letter to the campus community that profoundly mischaracterizes the student protests as well as the efforts of the College to address those concerns. As the Ad Hoc Committee on Cultural Competency, we disavow and repudiate the Chair’s assertions in the strongest terms. Over the past two years, we have collaborated with students, administrators, staff, and faculty to respond to the concerns raised by student protests in April 2015 by finding ways to shift Emerson’s culture and curriculum. We have made important steps forward, and yet we recognize that there is still much work to be done. With our students and our fellow faculty, we reaffirm our commitment to this labor of bringing together our community going forward.

To the students: Thank you for having the courage to speak truth to faculty once again. In expressing your love for the college together with your sadness and exhaustion, you demonstrated a commitment to this institution and to the students who will follow you in years to come. Every day, we faculty ask you to learn, to push yourselves, to grow. With your protest and with your petition, you reminded us that we, as members of this educational community, have promised to learn, to push ourselves, to grow, as well. Your protest and your vision for what this college might yet be reminds us why we love Emerson as well.

On Thursday November 2nd, the Ad Hoc Committee on Cultural Competency held an open meeting to review student demands and map a plan forward. Over 130 faculty, administrators, staff, and students worked in small teams to address the objectives students presented in their petition. We were heartened by this dynamic engagement between participants from across the College. To us, the meeting served as an example of one good way forward as an institution: in dialogue with each other, facing problems with a focus on concrete goals, and with the belief that we can create a better place to work and to learn. This meeting will help us generate actionable steps for as many of the student demands as possible. Now Emerson faculty, staff, and administrators need to take those ideas and action steps and build on them so that the College will fulfill its promise and commitment to our students–and to ourselves.


The Ad-Hoc Committee on Cultural Competency