Taking a Stand Against Racism

November 13, 2015

A message to the community

Dear WPI Community,

This week the issue of persistent racism on college campuses has been making headlines nationwide. Although some members of our community may be of the mindset that this issue is “out there” and “not here,” WPI is not immune.

Racism is everywhere, it hurts everyone, and we must continually work against it being tolerated - in any form or fashion - on this campus. To that end, WPI will continue our work to foster an inclusive environment – one where all people can feel safe and supported and can focus their energies on their important work without having to worry about their safety or inclusion.

Yesterday the WPI Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers organized a demonstration of solidarity in support of students at the University of Missouri, Yale University, and other colleges who are experiencing backlash because of recent racially charged events. Many WPI students, faculty and staff wore black in solidarity against racial injustice everywhere.

That peaceable demonstration was, unfortunately, followed by a few instances of anonymous discriminatory posts on social media platforms. While, frustratingly, we have no control over those posts and cannot remove them, the response to those offensive comments was immediate. Students called out their peers in a meaningful, effective and ultimately powerful way. I am proud of those individuals who chose not to be bystanders, but empowered agents of change.

Diversity really matters; at WPI this is especially true because this community is focused on nothing less than addressing the world’s greatest challenges, and the innovative thinking that will be required for us to do so arises from inclusively bringing diverse minds together. Collectively we have the power to effect positive change so that all members of our community experience a safe and respectful campus environment. We can only achieve this through ongoing healthy dialogue and focused action.

To that end, we will begin a set of conversations about the topic of race and diversity at WPI. The first of those conversations will happen next Thursday, November 19, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. in Alden Memorial. That discussion will include sharing thoughts and experiences from members of our community, as well as discussing actions to address this specific incident, and other initiatives that are underway to make our community more diverse and inclusive for everyone.

This is a moment when members of our community may need to express frustration, marginalization, or worse, to let us know that they feel unsafe. Please know that there are multiple support systems in place to help right now. Anyone desiring help or information is encouraged to contact the Dean of Students office at x5201 or the Office of Multicultural Affairs at x5796.

And to all members of the community, I ask that if you see an instance of racism to speak up against it – either to the person who is being offensive, or if that’s too intimidating, then to a member of the WPI faculty and staff who can help.

Thank you for your efforts to continually work with me to make WPI the inclusive community that it must be for us to thrive.

Sincerely,

Laurie