June 5, 2020
Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students of the Jacobs School,
These are trying times. We find our society rent asunder by the senseless, horrific killing of George Floyd and the deplorable violence which has taken the lives of so many people of color throughout our nation’s history. This is compounded by the most serious public health crisis in a century, which disproportionately impacts the black community and has upended our daily lives. As a result, we find our sense of creative and professional identity challenged in ways we perhaps never imagined.
The tragic refrain of violence against Black Americans and other minorities in the United States has been repeated too often in recent memory. We need to take a stand in support of the black community, and denounce the acts of racism, bigotry, and prejudice that destroy all of our lives.
Let us, then, be absolutely clear about the values that we as an institution and a community uphold. At the Jacobs School of Music, we denounce racism and racial violence of any kind. We insist upon justice and equality for people of color. We believe we are made stronger by a culturally diverse faculty, staff, and student body, and we strengthen our commitment to providing equal opportunity for all persons. We will continually strive to welcome, support, and learn from faculty, staff, and students who reflect the gender, racial, and ethnic diversity of our nation.
These last statements originate in our school’s Diversity Strategic Plan, the document we adopted in 2018 to guide our actions toward diversity, equity, and inclusion for faculty, staff, and students. This strategic plan outlines our goals:
- to foster a community and academic environment in which musicians, scholars, teachers, staff, and administrators of all races, genders, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientations, and religions have support to thrive personally, creatively, and intellectually;
- to embrace opportunities to cultivate diversity within individual departments, and, in turn, increase discourse about inclusiveness within all fields of music study; and
- to ensure that the top musicians, scholars, and teachers whom we identify and attract represent the diverse world from which we draw our talent.
And the plan offers a roadmap to achieving these goals. Under its guidance, we have in recent years adopted best practices for the recruitment and retention of faculty from underrepresented minorities, and our efforts have already had a positive impact. We have begun the process of establishing relationships with certain Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and performing arts high schools to recruit students and establish faculty exchanges. We have created a professional staff position for a Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator, who, among other duties, will be charged with addressing the climate of inclusion and equity at the school. (We will share this position with the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, and will complete the search when the current hiring freeze is lifted.) We have presented performances celebrating diversity as part of our official calendar of events, and we have committed ourselves to increasing the areas of study offered to our students to include the music of cultures outside of Western classical traditions.
The work called for in our Diversity Strategic Plan is extensive and will have a lasting impact on our school. This present moment calls for additional, immediate action, and toward that end our school Diversity and Equity (D&E) Committee is planning a number of events and activities to address the pressing needs the current crisis has laid bare. In the immediate future, we will offer a series of online programs entitled “JSoM Community Conversations,” which will address issues of diversity and equity and offer support and strength through conversations that share unique perspectives. We will also plan and host our second annual Celebrating Diversity competition, which challenges JSoM students to research, learn, and perform music from beyond the western canon. Additional offerings from the D&E Committee are being planned, and we will share more soon.
We know we have not yet reached our goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Jacobs School. We can see the path before us, and we are moving forward. In this moment, when hearts are breaking and voices are rising in protest against yet more violence and oppression against Black Americans, we feel the importance of renewing our commitment to building the kind of world everyone deserves. We all stand together as one.
Eugene O’Brien Bicentennial Executive Associate Dean