The SUNY Black Faculty and Staff Collective's Call to Action
June 19, 2020
Dear Chancellor Johnson:

We, the State University of New York's (SUNY) Black Faculty and Staff Collective, in order to transform SUNY into an Anti-Racist community of two and four year institutions, are writing this open letter to draw attention to SUNY's insufficient and ongoing lack of care and concern for Black lives within and beyond its campuses. Recent national protests around the murder of George Floyd, the tragic death of SUNY Dutchess Community College (DCC) student Maurice Gordon, and the multitude of lives of Black women and men lost must be made central to our academic and administrative labor. We are writing to demand that SUNY take immediate and meaningful action to deconstruct the present system and rebuild an academic space that is rooted in Anti-Racist ideology. As Angela Davis astutely noted, “It’s not enough anymore to not be racist, we all must be anti-racist.”

In light of the George Floyd protests and the enduring anti-Black racism in the United States, globally, people are calling out white supremacy and demanding institutional change. We, the SUNY Black Faculty and Staff Collective, join this lament and demand that SUNY address its own systemic racism and involve SUNY’s Black faculty and staff in all its decision-making processes. We demand that the SUNY system ensures that we are as diverse, equitable, and inclusive as we vocalize. There is no room for hollow platitudes. People’s lives are at stake. Our students' lives are at stake.

On May 23, 2020, Maurice Gordon was unarmed when pulled over in New Jersey and killed by New Jersey State Trooper, Sgt. Randall Wetzel (https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/06/08/maurice-gordon-shooting-video/). SUNY DCC provided a statement in response to Maurice Gordon's death (https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vR2ivYr0Vbysx8H4owpLTajIM-90NP-QZjQWyfP7Ar0zgFCLqj4-mwzj8OUKWU67ob4NCHCBrC70INy/pub?urp=gmail_link, which came nearly two weeks after the event and a day before the dash cam footage was released. The statement concluded with the following lines:

“Dutchess Community College must be a place where all students, faculty and staff are welcome and free to thrive, a safe space in which diversity, equity and inclusion are fostered and embraced, and a model community that values every life. I am sorry to have to share this very sad news with you today. Please do something kind in Maurice’s memory.”

To be asked to “Please do something kind in Maurice's memory” does not accomplish the goal of improving the lives of Black people, not just in our relationship to policing, but also on SUNY’s campuses. This statement serves as a microcosm of SUNY’s inaction and failure to center and value Black lives. Moreover, this statement does not communicate value of Black lives. It “values every life,” which is colorblind rhetoric that is another way of saying all lives matter when this is not in question. SUNY’s response misses the primary focus of this moment in which movement towards Anti-Racist culture, practice, and investment is needed and sorely lacking on SUNY campuses.

This failure is not exceptional; various SUNY’s public responses to current racial upheaval are fraught with colorblind rhetoric that refuses to directly center Black lives. This is evidenced by the joint statement from all SUNY community college presidents (https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vT3YLj7n5xL96KvqWz-o5U_mcXnKtXLyuwwPBvk9pjCqaAvVILzwtxXR820l5YZb7nKRiG_R8qcjuID/pub). While race is mentioned, the letter fails to focus on the specific needs of this time: The preservation, upliftment, and growth of the Black lives that have and will call SUNY campuses home. This erasure of Black life, Black concerns, and Blackness in general can be seen by the fact that the literal words "Black" or "Black people" were not specifically mentioned in either SUNY Community Colleges’ collective response to George Floyd’s death nor DCC's response to Maurice Gordon’s death. How can SUNY claim to create better spaces for Black students when Blackness is not even directly discussed in our most public statements concerning the murder of Black lives, especially when those Black Lives belong to our students’? This refusal to discuss race, specifically Blackness, is at the heart of our concern. Too many non-Black people, especially white people, consistently refuse to discuss Blackness even when Blackness is central to the concern and solution.

We, the SUNY Black Faculty and Staff Collective, demand the following immediate action at SUNY:

ADMINISTRATION:
--Ensure that racial representation on all college Boards of Trustees throughout the system mirror the demographics of SUNY campuses.
-- Direct each campus to have a Chief Diversity Officer restricted from holding any other position on campus in order to solely collaborate with students, staff and faculty. The CDO’s office must intentionally collaborate with Race Studies Departments throughout SUNY engaging in concerns as they relate to race. Further, each campus must provide the CDO’s office with a fixed budget of no less than 50K per year as well as the necessary support staff to sustain the office's mission.
--End all SUNY contracts with prisons for all school supplies, such as the current SUNY contract with prisons for school furniture and strengthen prison education programs dedicated to degree or trade acquisition (https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/02/14/public-universities-several-states-are-required-buy-prison-industries).
--Provide direct funding to each campus for the targeted hiring of Black faculty. This initiative must be separate from PRODiG. It is unacceptable that this is the only mechanism in place to recruit Black faculty. We demand that SUNY immediately create an initiative to recruit and retain Black faculty must be prioritized.

CURRICULUM:
--Direct SUNY System to revise General Education Categories, to replace “Other World Civilization” with “Racial Equity” and require all SUNY students to take and pass at least one Gen Ed course in anti-racism or racial equity.
--Create more diverse course offerings that engage issues of race throughout, such as “ENG 102: the Latinx Lens,” “Introduction to Racial Literacy in Contemporary American Literature,” “History and Culture of Colombian Indigenous Traditions,” "Black and Latino Experiences," and "Black Girlhoods."
--SUNY colleges must accept a wider range of diverse course offerings in their transfer agreements, countering current limited and Eurocentric seamless 64 transfer options. For example, core requirements can be changed in criminal justice programs so that future police and district attorneys can take more racially centered courses to improve their racial literacy. In addition, provide mandatory diversity classes for students.

CAMPUS LIFE:
--Fund programs dedicated to the social-emotional and academic development of Black students.
--Grow Black-led student clubs and organizations with independent dedicated budgets and faculty sponsors; develop learning communities such as the Umoja program in California Community Colleges (https://umojacommunity.org) that support the success and degree completion of Black students at SUNY Colleges through classes centered on Black students’ needs and provide faculty coordinators proper release time and access to dedicated support staff.
--Create more opportunities for students of any race or ethnicity to learn about Black worldviews outside of Black History Month. Lines about Blackness must be added to extended course outlines in traditional course offerings.
--Strengthen staff in programs like EOP, CAMP, and Student Recruitment and Support Services by interviewing and hiring Black candidates.

The time has come for SUNY to move beyond symbolic shows and solidarity, and into cultural and structural changes that deeply improve the material quality of life for Black students, faculty and staff on its 64 campuses in order to address its systemic racism. In the SUNY Black Faculty and Staff Collectives’ urgent desire to concretize structural change at SUNY, we specifically call for a meeting with SUNY’s (interim) Chancellor, Kristina Johnson, and SUNY’s sitting Board of Trustees by June 30, as well as SUNY’s new chancellor by September 30. During these meetings, we will contribute to making policy changes, budgetary decisions, and plans of action that center Black lives on all 64 SUNY campuses. Furthermore, we would like Gov. Cuomo to fully fund SUNY in support of constructing and maintaining an Anti-Racist SUNY.

SUNY’s Black Faculty, Students and Staff,

Jordan Bell-SUNY DCC-Faculty
ALBERT MURPHY-SUNY College at Old Westbury-Faculty
Cecil Foster-University at Buffalo-Professor
Henry Taylor-University of Buffalo-Professor
Taylor Charles-SUNY Canton-Staff
Angela Jones, Farmingdale State College
Willie Morris- SUNY DCC-Faculty
Laura Arias- SUNY New Paltz- Student
Francia I. Reed - SUNY Polytechnic, Faculty
Anthony S. Dandridge - SUNY New Paltz-Faculty
Keisha L. Goode, SUNY College at Old Westbury-Faculty
Betty Wambui- SUNY Oneonta-Faculty
Karen Zaino
Kim Rybacki
Keith O'Neill
Laura Murphy
Shinelle L. Espaillat
Carolina Heredia
Taylor Charles
ALBERT MURPHY
Dr. Ron Stewart
Katie Entigar
Noel Holton Brathwaite
Simone Kolysh, PhD
Andrea Becker
Abena Ampofoa Asare
Hamad Sindhi
CRISTINE KHAN
Elizabeth Bittel
Stephanie Bonvissuto
Kyle Green
Mark Pingree
Francesca Spedalieri
Shruti Mukherjee
Çağlar Çetin-Ayşe
Erin MOrris
Eduardo Ayala-Mendez
Kathryn Silverstein
Timothy August
Farah Ishaq
Laura Limonic
Bryan J. Field
Melis Umut
Bibi Calderaro
Keith Griffler
August Smith
Daniel Freberg
April Earle
Nic Rios
Kushya Sugarman
Ancy Skaria
Carla Shedd, PhD
Stephen Brier
Marianne Madoré
Robert Kunicki
Lehdis Zomerfeld
Carlos M. Camacho
Carmen M. McGill
Nicholas Catino
Matthew Roth
Timothy Decker
Jennifer Aponte-Paez
TiAna Jones
Joanna Dressel
Gary Bolduc
Juliet Young
Leah M. Akins
Camilo Rojas
Navina Hooker
Kathleen Hanlon O'Connell
Pablo Lopez
Holly Isenberg
Mary Nell Trautner
Leigh Williams
Jason Bishop
Christina Jantzen
Lacie Reilly
Margaret Craig
Melanie Klein
Erin Braselmann
Mark Braselmann
Anna Potter
Steven Posada
Michael Oil
Tommy Wu
Wesley J. Lee
Audrey Gillant
Anne Fearman
Melissa Y. Rock
Elizabeth Anne Wood
Clare Forstie
Jane Quinn
Georgiann Davis
Mandi Wood
Michael Hall
Ariana Mangual Figueroa
Dr. Megan Carroll
Valkiria Duran-Narucki
Efrat Levy
Beiyi Hu
Lain Mathers
Greg Hummel
Mehmet Kucukozer
Carla A. Pfeffer
Melissa McCollister, PhD
Pathy Leiva
Eileen R. Black
Chandra Palmer
Dr. Kyle Kusz

The complete list of signatories can be found at the following link:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1oYsYm0jbhsGypIZ7LdPiRrVPF7h9OOG3hAfVjyNsebw/edit?usp=sharing

***ALL INTERESTED PARTIES MAY SIGN BELOW TO SHOW THEIR SUPPORT FOR THIS EFFORT***
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