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LIFT SU and the Commitment to Lead for Racial Equity and Antiracism

October 16, 2020

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Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

As we recommit ourselves to educating the whole person at the start of the academic year in this watershed moment, I extend my deepest gratitude for your efforts and courage. As a follow-up to the President’s Welcome and Provost Convocation, I write to share my hope and determination that as Seattle University we will move forward with greater intentionality and collaboration to make racial equity and anti-racist education more than a stated value of our Jesuit Catholic character, but transformative and sustainable institutional practice. The clarion call for change has been steady and clear. LIFT SU, the action plan for racial equity and antiracism, offers a beginning response further evolving our university commitment to inclusive academic excellence.

To realize the aims of LIFT SU, strong leadership is vital. I offer the Commitment to Live and Lead for Racial Equity and Antiracism which has been endorsed by each Cabinet member and Dean, a model I aim to pursue more broadly on campus. This is a renewed commitment of the executive and senior leadership to live into our Jesuit values, to advance inclusive excellence, and specifically to support and partner in actively pursuing the five priorities of LIFT SU.

To be clear, leadership stance on racial justice must be more than symbolic; it must enable and empower accountability. This commitment conveys neither superficial conversion nor special expertise by those signed on. Importantly, however, this leadership commitment reflects how we, as administrative leaders, enter relationship with our SU community for the good of our students, and take seriously the sign of the times and social movement for Black lives. The commitment acknowledges that leading on racial equity requires both ongoing personal development and strategic systematic action to address those aspects of our institution that impact belonging, achievement, and thriving for all who live, learn, and work here. The statement reflects our commitment not only to help prepare students to make a difference in the world more broadly, but also to directly address ways and places in which institutional, structural racism, and white supremacy are present in our systems, processes, and culture.

It is important to note that the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Final Report makes clear the importance of engagement by senior leadership in ongoing awareness and development to strengthen diversity leadership capacity. Notably, the report and recommendations underscore:

The university community looks to the senior leadership to model inclusion, to focus attention on and prioritize diversity, and to lead in a diversity arena that can change quite rapidly. 

Senior leaders must personally embody the values of diversity in their decision-making, individual behavior, and interactions with others. 

And, [h]aving leaders acknowledge where they need to grow makes it safe for others to do the same, which opens up possibilities for authentic learning and, ultimately, for serving students and the institution more effectively. Read more here.

I appreciate President Sundborg, Provost Martin, Cabinet colleagues, and the Deans’ Council for joining in this leadership commitment, particularly in these critical times. As we seek to enhance our campus climate and culture, as well as the student and workplace experiences for faculty and staff, I look forward to what this commitment and the LIFT SU action plan can mean for advancing inclusive academic excellence and strengthening working relationships at all levels across the institution. I will be in touch soon with additional information on operationalizing the plan.  

Notwithstanding the challenge of the times, I remain buoyed by your dedication to our students and one another. I also thank our students including the Black Student Union and many other allies for calling on us to be better . . . to do better. I look forward to you joining in this commitment as we work together to move forward LIFT SU and our shared responsibility to create a university that is inclusively excellent for all.

I extend my hands and heart to each you. As we continue to grapple with our profound realities in the days, weeks, and months to come let us continue to listen, learn, and yes, love furiously.

In solidarity,

Natasha Martin JD
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

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