Colgate’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Updates and Long-Term Planning

Back to University Correspondence

Dear Colgate Faculty, Staff, Students, and Alumni,

I write to update the Colgate community on new and continuing steps we are taking in service of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Colgate. Even as we are addressing the significant challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to continue to communicate to all members of the University about these crucial efforts. I also want to use this occasion to speak about Colgate’s commitment to long-term planning.

When Colgate adopted The Third-Century Plan and the Third-Century Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan (the DEI Plan) in 2019, and when the University adopted its first multi-year sustainability plan (the Sustainability Plan), we committed ourselves to the long view and to pursuing excellence across all areas of the University in deliberate and robust ways. Our diversity steps must be understood as being foundational to this pursuit of excellence.

The following message, therefore, is designed to offer an update on all of our University plans but with particular and significant emphasis on our efforts to combat racism and to achieve a diverse and equitable Colgate. We open with a description of new and continuing DEI efforts. At the end of this message, for those who wish to see how the University is moving along all of its plans, we offer links to the University Report, Colgate’s first comprehensive annual review of its planning activities.

DEI Initiatives at Colgate

While many of these actions are detailed in the DEI Plan, several are new initiatives about which the Colgate community should be aware.

Administrative Changes:

There will be a number of administrative changes designed to ensure that diversity, equal access to opportunity and experience, and institutional equity are infused in all of our endeavors.

  • The Chief Diversity Officer (the CDO). Colgate has begun a national search for a CDO. This new position will report directly to the president and will sit on the president’s Cabinet. The CDO will be charged to both implement and update the DEI Plan and to work across all divisions to ensure that Colgate is pursuing its mission of academic excellence in such a way that racism is addressed, justice pursued, and equity of opportunity ensured.
  • New Campus Space for the Chief Diversity Officer. We are currently reconfiguring space within the academic quad to provide visibility and accessibility for the incoming CDO and associated colleagues. In addition to office space, this new space will provide conference space to support our DEI work.
  • Creation of New Accountability Structures. To support and sustain the work of the DEI Plan, it is important that we have representation across departments and divisions to ensure accountability against our goals and intentions. To that end we have created two new University-wide committees. We will work through this year, through campus-based and Board-based governance processes, to make sure that these committees are properly constituted and charged:
    • The DEI Advisory Group. The DEI Advisory Group, composed of DEI practitioners from across the campus, is charged with overseeing the day-to-day operations surrounding implementation of DEI initiatives while also providing a network of mutual support for fellow DEI practitioners. The DEI Advisory Group will work to connect department and student program efforts with the DEI Plan and the University’s Third-Century Plan and will oversee the process through which the DEI Plan is updated and communicated to the campus.
    • The DEI Coordination Group. Functioning as an expanded outreach of the Office of Equity and Diversity with membership from all University divisions, the DEI Coordination Group will be charged with ensuring that the University remains compliant with its legal, regulatory, and other commitments in relation to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This group will also serve to carry information, updates, and policy decisions from the CDO to all employees in the University.

University-wide Initiatives

There are three University-wide initiatives that are either newly developing or ongoing and essential to our long-term goals. These are:

  • Residential and Social Life Investments. During the 2019–20 academic year, the Board of Trustees began to formally consider the physical and social needs of Colgate juniors and seniors as part of a review of their residential life experience. The aim was to see how best to provide appropriate residential and social space for all Colgate students. In conjunction with this effort, Colgate engaged the planning firms RAMSA and WXY — the firms engaged to develop plans for the University’s Middle Campus — as well as the Sasaki Group to consider the current conditions of the housing and social spaces available to Colgate juniors and seniors. While these planning efforts necessarily slowed down in the spring as a result of COVID-19, these firms will be charged to continue this work in collaboration with the administration during this academic year. First, they will be asked to consider the numerous studies conducted in past years on residential life at the University, and they will also be charged to consider housing and social options available at peer and national institutions. This review work should be completed within the fall semester, allowing for the development of a long-range plan of the upper-level residential and social experience and the provision of new residential and social opportunities for all Colgate students. As previously stated, this planning will be done as part of a comprehensive effort consistent with the goals and objectives of The Third-Century Plan and the DEI Plan.
  • The Harlem Renaissance Center–Sophomore Residential Seminar. We will support plans for new programming and improvements to Colgate’s long-standing Harlem Renaissance Center, located in the Bryan Complex on the upper part of the campus. Further, faculty and the Residential Commons directors will work to develop a dedicated Sophomore Residential Seminar associated with Hancock Commons and the Harlem Renaissance Center.
  • The Colgate History Project. With the commencement of the new academic year, we will engage Colgate faculty and students, as well as national scholars, in a comprehensive review of Colgate’s history, with particular emphasis on the histories of non-majority groups at the University. This project will build in important ways on the bicentennial explorations of Colgate’s mission and history.

New Financial Support and New Programs

With the generous support of alumni and trustees, I am pleased to report that Colgate has three new sources of funds to allow us to move quickly to further develop and support DEI efforts. These are:

  • The Henry Livingston Simpson Fund. Named after Colgate’s first Black graduate, this new endowment fund, valued at $500,000, will be used to support diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and will be managed by the incoming CDO.
  • Alumni of Color Third-Century Fund. The newly established Alumni of Color Third-Century Fund will provide new support for our ongoing and developing DEI initiatives.
  • President’s DEI Discretionary Fund. Through a remarkable gift from trustee Giovanni Cutaia ’94 and his wife, Maree, we have created the President’s DEI Discretionary Fund to support new diversity efforts and programs. Immediate allocations from this fund will support the following new programs for Colgate students:
    • Internship Funds for Students of Color. New funds will be allocated to ensure students of color have the support needed to pursue summer internships.
    • Funds to Support Graduate Fellowships and Graduate School Applications. Applications to graduate school or national fellowships have high costs that can discourage students of color and low-income students from applying. New funds will be allocated to defray these applications and related costs, expanding these opportunities to students of color and low-income students.
    • Peer-to-Peer Program Funding. The ALANA Cultural Center provides programming for all students. New funds will allow ALANA to support student-developed efforts across campus.

National Partnerships and Programs

Colgate has now joined three national consortia that will enhance our admission efforts, increase access to our form of education, and help diversify our faculty. These are:

  • Questbridge. Founded in 1994, QuestBridge is a national nonprofit organization based in Palo Alto, Calif., that connects the nation’s most exceptional low-income youth with a select group of leading colleges and universities. By working with these students — beginning in high school through college to their first job — QuestBridge increases the percentage of talented low-income students attending the nation’s elite colleges and supports them to achieve success in their careers and communities. Colgate was invited to join this group this year and will admit a first cohort of students in our current academic year.
  • American Talent Initiative. The American Talent Initiative works with select colleges and universities toward a shared goal of graduating 50,000 high-achieving, low-and moderate- income students. Colgate joined the consortium this spring.
  • The Consortium for Faculty Diversity. Consortium for Faculty Diversity (CFD) partners the premiere research universities in the nation with a small number of leading liberal arts colleges to appoint scholars of color who have recently completed their doctoral degrees. Colgate has now joined this consortium. CFD scholars will come directly to Colgate through new post-doctoral fellowships and will immediately teach in the University’s curriculum.

Alumni Programming

Thanks to the work of the Consortium for Racial Progress, a group of alumni of color who seek to enhance life at the University and promote a sense of community and connection among Colgate graduates, I am pleased to announce the following:

  • New Mosaic Program Funds.  Mosaic connects multicultural alumni with current Colgate students, providing them with an opportunity to learn from alumni experiences on careers and on navigating life during and after Colgate. President’s DEI Discretionary Fund dollars will be provided to enhance this program.

The Board of Trustees DEI Steps

The Board of Trustees will undertake the following steps to support the University’s DEI goals:

  • General. The Board will be working closely with the administration to provide oversight of Colgate’s efforts to more fully integrate our DEI principles and objectives into The Third-Century Plan. These efforts will include working with the administration to develop clear goals, objectives, and metrics to measure success with respect to the execution of Colgate’s DEI Plan. The Board has also committed to continue allocating the appropriate resources to enable Colgate to move forward expeditiously with efforts outlined in the DEI Plan.
  • Board Membership. The Board and its Nominating, Governance, and Trustee Development Committee are keenly focused on improving the overall diversity of our Board membership as promptly as possible. According to its charter, Board membership is limited to 35, and during the next two years very few positions will be opening up. In order to accelerate our efforts to diversify Board membership, Board leadership will petition the New York Board of Regents to expand the Colgate Board to 38 members. This will allow us to diversify the Board faster than normal trustee turnover would allow.
  • Board of Trustees Training. Trustee development will be expanded to include diversity and implicit bias training. Trustees will also engage in other educational programs in order to inform the Board and better align Board and campus DEI efforts.
  • Board of Trustees Ad Hoc DEI Committee. The Board has created a new Board DEI Committee that will coordinate Board efforts to improve its diversity, operations with respect to diversity and inclusion, and those programs designed to enhance both Board and University DEI efforts.

The University Report (2020)

For those who wish to see more detailed updates on The Third-Century Plan, as well as the DEI Plan, and the Sustainability Plan, please follow this link to see the inaugural University Report, which offers a great deal of information on all of our University planning efforts.

Colgate is very rightfully absorbed in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and is acutely focused on following the DEI steps outlined above. Importantly, however, we are committed to continuing to take a long-term view. Every summer, therefore, Colgate will continue to report publicly on its progress in implementing its strategic plans.

In Conclusion

We are living through remarkably complex and difficult times. In addition to the challenges brought on by this health crisis, we are as a nation confronting the long-standing effects of racism and injustice. We are also facing economic conditions that are especially hard on institutions of higher education. The nation’s colleges and universities are thus entering a period of great trial and testing.

I believe that those colleges and universities that are willing to confront these challenges and to seek to improve themselves in the face of them have the chance to ultimately meet their mission with greater purpose and commitment. To do so will surely be difficult at times. Not to do so, however, is a greater risk.

I look forward to working with the Board, the faculty and staff, our alumni, and our students to pursue the new initiatives that we have outlined above. I look forward with even greater anticipation to those many moments to come, when we see our determination and collective commitment leave the printed page and become realities on our campus.

Thank you for all you have done and will do to advance these worthy efforts.


Brian W. Casey