Adler University President Raymond E. Crossman, Ph.D., reflects on efforts over the last year to address racial injustice inside the University and shares the need for and commitment to ongoing work to ensure that Adler University is a welcoming and inclusive learning environment for Black students, faculty, and staff, in a message to the Adler community.
Nearly a year ago, the activism following the murder of George Floyd contributed to a heightened awareness of racial injustice in many organizations that was long overdue.
At Adler University, we already knew much about racial injustice inside our university, but we were not acting sufficiently or expeditiously on this knowledge. With gratitude and humility, the Cabinet, Board of Trustees, and I received the Black at Adler 2020 report last summer from Chicago faculty member Dr. Nataka Moore. This report, in many ways a replication of its 2016 predecessor, documented concerns of Chicago Black students, staff, and faculty at Adler University. In 2016, senior leadership and the University attempted to address the findings of the report, but the trainings and initiatives implemented were insufficient to address or improve the experiences of many Black students, staff, and faculty at Adler.
Adler University is based on the teachings of Alfred Adler, who said that a community can only be as well as the least well members of the community. The Adler community has been unwell for members of its Black community, and that means our community is not, cannot, and should not be well until everyone is well.
It is important to me that we identify clearly what we have heard and what we are moving toward in our work together at the University. I have described what I have heard in conversations with many of you across the past year in meetings and in University Updates, and I believe it may be useful to share these observations again now as we move forward. I hear that many Black students, staff, and faculty have struggled to engage fully in their studies and work at Adler University. We have not consistently championed Black leadership, and our classrooms and offices have not centered the talents and needs of Black students, staff, and faculty. Due to a lack of critical consciousness, we have failed to understand, and therefore have historically minimized, the concerns of Black community members. We have taught and perpetuated the myth of the white savior in some of our instruction and communications. We have not regularly provided the depth of learning opportunities to allow students, staff, and faculty who do not identify as Black to learn and work with Black community members effectively and collegially.
Our work over the past year, now, and in the coming years is to ensure that Adler University is a welcoming and inclusive learning environment that centers the gifts, talents, contributions, and needs of Black students, staff, and faculty. This past year, the University has made many changes to make this happen – and will continue to do so – but I also appreciate it will take time for these and subsequent changes to be felt and trusted by our Black community. Last summer, with gratitude, we received the Black Community Demands and Expectations, and we are pursuing and implementing all 48 demands. In addition to the advancement of these demands, half of the senior administration of the University is now BIPOC (40 percent Black), and 68 percent of staff and faculty hires this year are BIPOC (41 percent Black) – but more importantly, we are revising how we are hiring, how decisions are being made across the University, and how supports are accessible and available to Black stakeholders. We have begun a multi-year curriculum transformation process which will de-center whiteness. By year end, the Board of Trustees will have appointed its Anti-Racism and Inclusion Committee with trustee, student, staff, and faculty representation, and the Board will approve a multi-year Anti-Racism and Inclusion Plan to continue our work.
But my intention here is not to enumerate progress. Instead, I am writing to describe the need for ongoing work at Adler University and to share my commitment to the work ahead.
Repairing harm, developing structures to prevent future harm, and creating an environment to support and center Black stakeholders is an imperative for us to address fully and in perpetuity. This foundational work will both benefit us all and ensure concomitant dialogue, understanding, and practices to support our Asian, nonbinary, Latinx, Indigenous, and other historically disadvantaged communities to fully engage, study, and work at the University. The dream of Alfred Adler, of our founders, and indeed of all of us who have chosen Adler University as our professional and educational home is for this place to be a harbor in which justice is advanced through our collaboration with one another and with the world. I’m grateful to Black leadership for their commitment to ensuring that the University lives up to its fullest potential, and I expect our trustees and the Adler community to continue to hold me and us all accountable for this important work.