An Open Letter to Chatham Administration about BLM

An Open Letter:
Chatham University identifies “diversity and inclusion” to be one of its core values, as one of the cornerstones of life at Chatham. However, it is time for the university to address its violent colorblindness. The reigning precedent of turning a communal blind eye toward the issues on this campus perpetuates violence toward Black students and faculty. At this time the climate at Chatham is uninhabitable for Black students and faculty. It is time to actively work to create a safer, more productive environment. Therefore, we, the Black Student Union, in conjunction with Chatham Student Power, and other BIPOC student contributors, demand an immediate assessment of current policies and procedures surrounding the protections and celebration of Black life at Chatham. We demand the creation and swift enactment of change to protect the Black and brown bodies on this campus. Our demands are from here listed in the following articles:

1) We demand that Chatham actively recruit and pursue Black and brown candidates for available faculty positions.

  • We recognize a need for a diverse financial aid counselor, in order to make guidance available for those without the same financial literacy and privilege that often adorns white students (See article 3c).
  • We demand that more professors of color are hired to teach subjects that speak beyond the white experience. Moreover, we demand that professors addressing Black issues do so with heavy consideration upon the current context they present these issues in.
  • We demand Chatham prioritize hiring Black and brown candidates for Chatham Counseling services. (See article 2c). Additionally, in the interim we demand that resources be made readily available to BIPOC students to seek out more appropriate providers.
  • We demand that Chatham’s Black History program be headed by a Black faculty member, and that this program is expanded to a major.
  • We demand a swift change to the complete absence of Black and Latinx faculty members.

2) We demand Racial Sensitivity Training and Racial Bystander Intervention Training be a required part of student and faculty orientations.

  • We demand this training, like Greendot, AlcoholEdu, and Title IX, be mandatory. b. We demand this training be offered several times a year.
  • We demand that student leaders (i.e. student athletes, student organization officers, and orientation leaders), be required to take these trainings as a requirement for their influence on campus.
  • We demand that current counselors and therapists be educated on the depth, breadth and diversity of racial trauma, and trained to practice cultural humility.

3) We demand a swift change to academic policy regarding racial violence.

  • We demand that Chatham swiftly enact a zero-tolerance policy for marginalized slurs against BIPOC, Latinx, and Asian communities from faculty and students. Furthermore, we demand this change be documented universally across syllabi.
  • We demand that students be protected for speaking out on the use of racial slurs, and for speaking against perpetrators of racial violence.
  • We demand that semester course evaluations include a section regarding classroom climate and professor behaviors regarding race (i.e the presence or lack of tokenizing, bashing, or enacting, facilitating, or being complicit in racism enacted in their classrooms).
  • We demand that Chatham contract BIPOC speakers and presenters for appropriate topics, rather than speaking on behalf of these communities.
  • We demand that Chatham amends its academic policy to include accommodations for those suffering from racial trauma, that these students may receive the same compassion and considerations regarding emotional and mental stressors.

4) We demand an intentional shift in Public Safety’s interactions with the student population.

  • We demand that Chatham Public Safety communicate openly with Chatham faculty and students (i.e. Public safety officers should introduce themselves during orientation).
  • We demand an increased transparency regarding the purpose of Public Safety on this campus and the reasons for certain procedure implementation. (See article 5).
  • We demand that Public Safety be marked on campus maps, rather than it being listed as Rea Garage.
  • We demand Chatham assess the disparate severity of disciplinary actions regarding alcohol, smoking and drugs, and the disproportionate use of these disciplinary actions on Black and brown students.

5) We demand checks and balances for the various departments and organizations on campus.

  • We demand a Citizen’s Review Board for Chatham Public Safety.
  • We demand transparency in the pathology of reports made to Public Safety, and its decision-making process.
  • We demand that Chatham Student Engagement provide diversified resources to Student Leaders, specifically those which utilize Black run organizations in Pittsburgh.
  • We demand the promotion of Black Voices through education, events, and leadership positions be practiced as a set precedent for student organizations.
  • We demand more intentional research provisions, which include Black led organizations, be promoted in Career Development.
  • We demand a faction of the Diversity and Inclusion Council be allocated to receive, and review cases of racial violence on this campus.

6) We demand an immediate end to Chatham University’s complacency to and inaction against racism on this campus.

  • We demand the swift creation of a student and faculty Racial Violence Review Board (details forth coming).
  • We demand that students wearing racist costumes, including but not limited to prisoners and gangsters, be subject to review and sanctioning by the aforementioned review board.
  • We demand a faction of this board be dedicated solely to violence against black women. This position will advise those finalizing the additional curriculum to be added to the NCAA mandated Title IX training, as well as racial violence.
  • We demand more staff be hired to support the efforts of the office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and a more appropriate office space be given to Dr. Randi Congleton.
  • We demand that Chatham intentionally hire Black and of color DJs for various school dances, we demand that use of racial slurs be censured from songs at these dances, as well as any other Chatham event.
  • We demand public transparency regarding the Cheryl Olkes Collection and including it online.
  • We demand a review of all current marketing materials that exploit Black and brown students to misrepresent their presence at this school. We posit that Chatham advertisements document organic scenarios.
  • We demand that campus demographics explicitly document BIPOC student identities.
  • We demand that BIPOC voices be amplified across campus by Chatham Administration and Chatham Students, with resources provided by and for RISE, SDE, public forums, and the creation of the aforementioned Review Board and Council.

In conclusion, we acknowledge Chatham’s interest and intention to improve campus climate. We commend those privileged voices, which have spoken in rooms where we go unheard. We implore that this document be understood as a work of great personal cost and distress for those of us who carry the weight of our race into every classroom. Our race is an inherent piece of each of our beings, which cannot be ignored and should not be simply a topic of discussion. We understand the weight of these demands, and furthermore beseech its readers to not allow a single article, or demand overshadow the true sentiment of this document.

The time for specific, swift and accurate modification to policy to occur has arrived with urgency. The purpose of this document is to present tangible and definite courses of action to create a habitable environment for the black and brown bodies on this campus. We can no longer be silent and compliant with the convolution, and abandonment of “diversity and inclusion,” which Chatham claims to be a cornerstone of this university. We intend to be a driving force for change; we will advise; we will participate; we will continue to move forward, so that no future students at Chatham will have to endure that climate which has plagued each of this letter’s contributors.

We thank you for reading and taking great consideration to these demands. Finally, we look forward to collaborating with administration, faculty, and fellow students on the changes to be made.