January 18, 2021
Dear Tulane Community:
These words were spoken decades ago by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, whose birthday we celebrate as a national and university holiday today. National holidays offer an opportunity for commemoration, celebration and reflection by all members of our society. They can also offer an opportunity for unity, collective action and purpose – all of which are needed in our country during these challenging times.
While COVID-19 restrictions have curtailed many of the service projects and other activities we undertake annually to mark this special day, our resolve to build a better Tulane and a better world is stronger than ever. Creating a campus environment where the ideas, viewpoints and leadership of all members are welcomed builds not only a more just community but a more vibrant and resilient one. We need each other’s creativity, discovery, innovation and dedication to address the complex issues that confront our campus and society.
If you would like to take part in a campus discussion created to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King, the Office of Multicultural Affairs is hosting a special reading project focused on reflection, dialogue and action. Throughout the early part of the spring semester, participants will read Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and three discussion sessions will be hosted in February and early March. The deadline to reserve a copy of Caste is Jan. 20, for more information click here.
It is my hope that Dr. King’s philosophy on education, as stated in the quote at the beginning of this message, and the example he set in a life devoted to justice, will inspire everyone at Tulane as we strive to create a more equitable, diverse and inclusive academic community. This is the goal of A Plan for Now which recognizes equity and diversity as fundamental to advancing intellectual rigor, learning and scholarship – and is a hallmark of a great university.
In the past months, we have moved forward on initiatives included in A Plan for Now. We are recruiting, advancing and enhancing support for students, faculty and staff in underrepresented groups, including people of color, women, persons with disabilities and veterans. We launched the Tulane University Leadership Institute and its two inaugural programs: the Anti-Racism Leadership Program and the Emerging Leaders Program. The Leadership Institute will provide professional development for a diverse cohort of faculty and staff from across our academic community. We launched Louisiana Promise, a new initiative that will make a Tulane University undergraduate degree more accessible and affordable for Louisiana residents from low- and middle-income families and increase access to higher education for all students in New Orleans. We are increasing support for equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives focused specifically on students, through the newly established EDI Initiative Committee. The committee is now inviting applications, for more information click here.
Last summer, I established and charged a Building Naming Task Force with developing principles to address the designations of halls and other spaces on campus and to provide a recommendation, based on those principles, regarding Hébert Hall. Moving forward, we will provide updates on the task force’s recommendations. You can learn more about A Plan for Now initiatives to promote racial justice on the President's Commission on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion website.
While we are making progress, we know that we must do even more to accelerate our efforts as we journey on the path toward a more inclusive, supportive and equitable Tulane. Through A Plan for Now and the commitment of all Tulanians, we will provide a “true education” that reflects Tulane’s values, as well as the values and the dream that Dr. King promoted throughout our nation and our world.