From President Leshin: Action plans for racial justice work at WPI

DEPARTMENT(S): 
June 24, 2020

By now I hope you’ve had the opportunity to read the letter from our Board Chair Jack Mollen on our institutional commitment to actions to increase racial justice. I am writing to share my own support for his words and for this critical work we must do as a community.

I accept the responsibility to oversee the implementation of the actions articulated in Jack’s letter and commit to seeing them to fruition at WPI. However, I cannot succeed alone. I will need the help of every member of our community to make meaningful change. And so I am asking for your support in this journey. 

We have much to do together and, as we begin, I urge everyone reading this letter to spend time this summer engaging in individual learning and reflection to consider how you can personally contribute to making our systems more equitable and just. There are many resources available for learning (look here for some resources put together by our Gordon Library, or search “anti-racism resources” and you’ll find many online resources).

As you pursue opportunities for learning more, I would like to share a resource that is personally meaningful for me. As a new leader at NASA nearly 15 years ago, I was fortunate to be trained (as all supervisors were) in issues of bias, discrimination, and privilege. One person involved in our conversations had a huge influence on me. Peggy McIntosh, who is still on the faculty of Wellesley College, did groundbreaking work on privilege some 30 years ago, and she shared her efforts with us at NASA. Her work provided a valuable lens to help me see how we all experience both unearned advantage and unearned disadvantage within our current systems. It is these systems of unearned disadvantage that we refer to when speaking of systemic racism. You can read her short article here, and see a video of a TED talk she gave a few years ago here.

We had a powerful conversation about McIntosh’s work yesterday morning at Management Council. These discussions, and the actions we need to take, are going to be difficult. They will challenge what are, in many cases, deeply held views based on personal experiences within the existing systems. With full knowledge of the scale and scope of the challenge, I have great hope for WPI as we walk forward together. We have the opportunity to be a leading light for equity and justice within the STEM community. I look forward to collaborating with you as we find our way to making a positive difference through our actions.

Respectfully,

Laurie