Responding to Racism in Our Community

April 5, 2021

At Albion College, we stand together against racism, hatred and injustice. The racist and anti-semitic actions taken on our campus over the last week are cowardly and will not be tolerated. We are outraged and angered that these incidents occurred within our community. In addition to caring for and protecting the students most directly impacted, and addressing the safety concerns of the broader student body, we are currently working with law enforcement to investigate who is responsible for racist graffiti on our campus and identify the person responsible for using racial slurs directed at our students from outside our campus community.

We are offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who can provide information that leads to the identification of those responsible, and we will seek criminal charges against those involved. If they are Albion College students, they will also immediately be subject to the student conduct process—including the potential for suspension or expulsion.

We strongly support the organizing that BIPOC students, alumni, and community members are doing to draw the community together and rally against this racism. It is our responsibility to continuously reaffirm our commitment to inclusivity and belonging. Our campus community shares the strength needed to overcome the fear these incidents create.

In addition to the above statement, Dr. Mathew Johnson, president of Albion College, shared the following message with the Albion College community earlier today.

Dear Students,

I am writing directly to you, Albion students, after a weekend of many face-to-face and phone conversations with students, staff, alumni, parents, and community members about the recent racist incidents on our campus. I have learned that some of you do not understand the College’s response and need more information to feel safe. I am sorry that the prior communications from Chief Belonging Officer Keena Williams, Campus Safety and other staff did not provide you with enough information about our response to these heinous acts. Our primary goals have been to protect targeted students while also sharing our response with all students in ways that did not retraumatize those targeted. We are actively addressing the situation with every resource we can bring to bear at this time.

I know long emails are usually ineffective but I ask you to please take the time to read this note so that you are aware of what the College is doing.

The College Response:

The Bias Response Team is actively making sure that students targeted by the racist and anti-semitic acts in our community are supported and have a say in the public response of the College. We know that most targeted students did not want the College to make a large public statement or create an event in the immediate days following being targeted. The College is trying to avoid the possibility of retraumatizing targeted students.

The College is actively investigating the recent issues and has offered a reward for information. The College has increased Campus Safety patrols in the impacted areas. Community Living staff have conducted floor and hall-wide meetings in the affected areas.

Dean Wright, the Student Development staff and other administrative staff and I are in strong support of the public event being organized by many of the students I have spoken with for later in the week. I have been available to students, staff, parents, alumni, community members, and others by phone and in-person throughout the weekend to explain the College’s response and will continue to prioritize student access to me so that I can be present to student concerns and be sure that they have accurate information. Other Student Development staff have also done the same.

Our responses to these incidents are different than our responses to other public racist and other -ist actions that we hear about in the media. We can respond more quickly to those public incidents that do not take place on our campus because we do not need to be focused on the protection, care, and wishes of directly targeted individuals in our community as we did in this case.

The Bias Reporting System and Bias Response Team are new aspects of Albion College as part of the new Office of Belonging, and are being led by a new Cabinet-level Chief Belonging Officer, Keena Williams. Here are a few other newer things you may have missed or that are in the works to support BIPOC and other students.

Adding Mental, Physical, Social, Financial Health and Wellness Resources

  • Partnering with TimelyMD to add new free access to physical and mental health care services through Albion Care to increase free 24/7 access to primary care and mental health care for students that allow students to choose practitioners with shared life experiences.
  • Partnering with Summit Pointe to provide additional and emergency mental healthcare services.
  • Partnering with both the Calhoun County Public Health Department and Henry Ford Allegiance to provide access to vaccines for all faculty staff and students before the end of this semester.
  • Partnering with the YMCA to bring health and wellness programming to the community and the campus, and to open our campus facilities for community use through the partnership.
  • Welcoming a new Financial Advisor, Freddie DeRamus, in the Cutler Center this fall.
  • Renovation of the library to create a top-of-the-line student success center that includes a new TRiO program.
  • Partnering with Mentor Collective to add a new service that will begin in the fall called AlbionMentors that will actively link current students to professional mentoring relationships with trained alumni who have been prepared to mentor all students.

Changing Policy

  • Strongly supporting policies that extend the Credit/No Credit options available to students, drop F grades from semesters impacted by COVID-19, simplify the process to add or drop a class, and that simplifies the process for students to charge their books to their student account among others.
  • Developing a new policy that requires faculty and staff searches to have at least 50% BIPOC candidates in the semifinalist round to be allowed to move forward.

Making Equitable Changes to Resource Allocation Systems and Structures

  • Adding resources to support more of the programming needs and desires of BIPOC students by combining CPO and ICA into a new unit called Campus Life that is now responsible for equitable resource distribution to all student groups.
  • Working to assure the AKA-Sigma Zeta Chapter has access to a lodge in the same way other Sororities do by Fall 2021.
  • We are working with the Divine Nine and other historically Black and Latinx fraternities and sororities to bring them to campus over the next academic year.

Diversifying the Staff and Faculty to Better Represent and Serve BIPOC Students

  • Adding diversity to the College administration. Positions at the Director-level and above (Director, Assistant and Associate Dean, Dean) have increased in non-white diversity from 8% to 13% since August and will likely be at 15-18% by September.
  • Diversifying the Cabinet from 5 white men and 2 PoC men prior to this administration to 3 white men, 3 PoC men and 1 PoC woman, and 1 white woman. 1 member of the Cabinet also identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Joining the faculty consortium on diversity to recruit BIPOC faculty, and advocating to the faculty that they need to diversify as fast as possible.

Creating new curricular and co-curricular opportunities connected to the wider community of Albion.

  • Working with Faculty to create a new Experiential Certificate and to add new resources to support increased engagement with the community.
  • Preparing to announce a new Institute on Race and Belonging named after James L. Curtis ‘44, a Black alumnus in the community as the newest institute.
  • Campus Life and the Office of Belonging is working on honoring new recipients of the Dr. James L. Curtis Student Excellence Award in partnership with and with leadership from the Black Alumni Association.
  • Announcing the redevelopment of the Washington Gardner School as an integrated art, music, theater, education, and fitness, community-and-college center which will have a YMCA, an Albion African American History Museum, and Wildcat Memorabilia in the building.
  • Addition of new tenure track professor role in Ethnic Studies.
  • Detroit ‘67 this fall was open to participation from community members.

Working closely with the City of Albion and the broader community to ensure we are being good citizens in the pandemic period and beyond.

  • Partnering to become one of the first communities with free community testing early in the pandemic.
  • Partnering with the City to erect a new community pavilion in Holland Park.
  • Partnering with the Albion Healthcare Alliance to renovate the basement of Wesley Hall and prepare for the Community Table of Albion to begin community food distribution out of that facility later this Spring.
  • Partnering with the Albion Community Foundation to explore the possibility of a retirement housing development in the city.
  • Partnering with the Marshall Public Schools to consider the building of a new elementary school adjacent to campus to replace and significantly upgrade from the current Harrington Elementary.
  • Opening of the Center for Community in the former bank downtown, which will be home in the fall to the Albion Community Collaborative and deeper community and campus collaboration.

I hope this information is helpful. It is supplemental to the recent note from Keena Williams explaining in more detail how we respond when students are targeted. I will be reaching out to all Umbrella organizations to make myself available for individual and group meetings.

Please do not hesitate to reach out via email if there is anything I need to clarify. In sum, I am horrified by these cowardly racist and anti-semitic acts and will do everything I can to protect and support the targeted individuals, to protect and support the wider BIPOC student body, and to continue sharing information with you as it is available.

Dr. Mathew B. Johnson