For SUA to create a detailed plan of action to support and protect their Black students
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As you are aware, there has been a large and appropriate response to the murder of Black Americans by police officers taking place over the last few weeks. These murders have highlighted bigger problems that affect our country: systemic and institutionalized racism. We mourn and simultaneously seek justice.
Our society is continually damaged by racism that pervades the systems and structures that govern our country. As a result, that racism trickles down into facets of our everyday lives, including our schools and communities. There is a wealth of information on the negative impacts of racism on black, indigenous, and other communities of color. Now, there is an undeniable call to action for all Americans to start making a difference. We ask that you answer that call for current and future Black students at Saint Ursula Academy.
As concerned students, supporters, and alumna of SUA, we are disappointed with your late response and lack of action to publicly support your current Black students. Black students deserve more from an institution that undeniably benefits from having their dynamic community represented. You have a responsibility to Black students to openly affirm that they are safe from racism and discrimination in their academic environment. The email you sent to the community did not state that Black lives matter to SUA.
We need to hear your specific plans to address the following:
1. Mental health resources for students and faculty:
How are you addressing the mental health concerns of your current Black students? What resources are available to them? Have the president and principal reached out personally to each of your Black students to check in on them to offer support?
○ Faculty and staff should receive annual on-site racial bias training to properly support Black students. This style of training is commonplace in corporate cultures.
○ SUA should invest in an on-site Black therapist as a mental health resource for students and faculty of color. This new hire should be seated organizationally within the Diversity Department led by Toilynn O’Neal Turner.
- Provide proactive counseling at least 4x a year for all students
2. Investing in Black representation:
How are you committing to investing in SUA’s underrepresented Black community?
- Cincinnati is 45% Black. Currently, SUA has 1 Black faculty member, 2 Black staff members, and a shrinking Black student body. Saint Ursula should, at minimum, attempt to reflect Cincinnati’s racial demographics.
- SUA must commit to accepting more Black students and hiring more Black faculty to support them.
- Create a branch of Bulldog Ambassador program run by Black faculty and students alongside White allies. SUA should seek out schools with significant Black representation in recruitment.
- SUA should invest in more scholarships and financial assistance for Black students to be able to afford the cost of attendance.
- Outlined timeline and plan for how SUA’s staff will reflect Cincinnati’s demographics (Black, POC, LGBTQ+, etc.)
- Provide visibility to hiring criteria (job descriptions and requirements) as well as interviewing and hiring process
- Widen scope of where open positions are advertised, intentionally seeking more diverse faculty and staff
○ Increase funding to the Diversity Department
- SUA must adequately fund the Diversity Program to aid in preparing Black students for the entrance exam. This program should extend to continued academic support during their tenure at SUA.
- The Diversity program needs enough funding to expand hiring and programming.
○ Presence on the SUA Board of Trustees
- Place Director of Diversity Toilynn O’Neal Turner as a voting member role on the Board of Trustees.
- Make transparent the roles of Board of Trustee members. Other than alumnae status, it is not clear if they are faculty, staff, important donor, or community advocate.
3. Black history as mandatory curriculum:
How are you planning to incorporate Black history as a required course? What anti-racism and Black history books are required reading?
○ Explicit Discussion of Race and Black contributions across curriculum
- It is imperative SUA students are taught about our country's systemic racism and learn how to contextualize that history for a modern world. Slavery, lynchings, redlining, mass incarceration, and the Civil Rights Era are a few topics that need to be thoroughly covered in order to prepare women to change the world.
- Add Black authors to Reading Lists. Expand curriculum with the option to study Black Literature, not solely British Literature.
- Update literature and writing classes with additional texts authored by Black voices (as well as POC voices and LGBTQ+ voices)
- Update religion classes to include the history of the Catholic Church’s evolution on its stances concerning race, women, LGBTQ+
○ Staff training
- Teachers should be provided with training and resources to properly address topics like social justice and racism in literature, religion, and history classes.
4. Renounce and replace Marge Schott:
When will you renounce SUA's connection to Marge Schott and rename Schott Hall and Schottzie Field?
○ Marge Schott has a recorded history of demeaning the Black and LGTBQ community, using the slurs "n-gger", "japs", and "beady eyed jews", and showing support for Adolf Hitler. Consider the pain a minority student endures to attend class or play sports on a field named after such a nefarious woman.
- Related, a petition to remove Schott. Sign after you're finished signing this petition. : http://chng.it/yJ7qRmRnzv
○ Replace Schott with a figure your students can model their life after.
- A suggestion, highlight influential faculty/alumni:
- Saint Ursula’s first black student
- Toilynn O'Neal Turner
- Pam Smith
- Coach Wilbur Scott
5. Instate a zero tolerance rule against racism:
How will you update SUA's code of conduct to include zero tolerance for hate speech and racial slurs?
○ Update the Code of Conduct
- Zero Tolerance for hate speech and racial slurs, which prepares students for the “real world” as most workplaces have this same practice.
- Institute a non-retaliation clause so that Black students who experience racism are not punished; rather, they are provided additional mental health services and support.
○ Create accountability for faculty
- Develop a protocol for disciplining faculty who make Black students feel unsafe. This may be through direct racism, using stereotypes to demean students, or microaggressions. All of these injustices should be covered in the annual racial bias training.
6. Ongoing and visible accountability:
How will you hold yourself accountable to make these changes? How will you use your available platform to actively drive out racism and help to break down the institutional structures that are detrimental to our community?
- Make the Long Range Strategic Plan publicly available for all to see what action items you deem important and what progress you are making. If diversity is one of the four major pillars, this will hold all involved accountable for reaching those action items.
- Instate a board of Black SUA alum to consult on issues of race and advocate for Black students.
- Plan and execute a listening tour with each of your black students and alumni. Document and share your findings. Use this research as a driving factor in planning your future disciplinary protocol and diversity efforts.
- Because SUA is funded by donations, you should communicate with its student population, alumnae, and “investors” on a quarterly basis.
- This would include a detailed email, social media updates, and a “quarterly call” where updates are provided and listeners may submit questions
To quote a powerful Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
This quote speaks volumes as it brings to light that we are all connected and therefore we must all do our part to ensure our country moves forward towards an equality for all.
This letter and your response is the first step towards making SUA, the city of Cincinnati, and ultimately our world a better place.
Ebony Smith ‘97
Asha Daniels ‘06
Tricia Saab ‘06
Tasha Johnson, MD ‘07
Shayna Smith ‘09
Ayan Daniels ‘10
Jovanni Railey ‘10
Leah Waller ‘10
Patrice Kirksey ‘10
Saige Clairese Smith ‘20
Yasmeen Porter ‘22
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