Dear Colleagues and Students,
Last spring, Dean Jones and I engaged a conversation with members of the Black Student Union, at their invitation, concerning the Black student experience at Franklin College. They shared concerns and made substantive suggestions and requests. It was an enlightening meeting, and we all looked forward to a series of follow-up planning sessions through the end of the semester. Ultimately, of course, the COVID situation intervened.
As the events of the summer brought the issue of racial justice to the forefront of everyone’s consciousness, we continued a discussion on campus about how we can, should and must make a better effort to create a welcoming, respectful, supportive environment for our Black students, faculty and staff.
A concerted institutional response requires that we avoid our too-frequent reaction of, “This is a project for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.” While CDI and its director, Terri Roberts-Leonard, do wonderful work for members of all underrepresented groups within the campus and for our community as a whole, it is unfair and unwise to ask Terri and her limited staff to shoulder all the responsibility for ensuring that the institution responds appropriately to meet the needs of our Black students. This is a mission to be shared by the entire community if Franklin College is to become the institution we all want it to be and our Black students deserve.
To that end, I asked each Cabinet officer to work with their respective staffs and develop a list of objectives for the 2020-2021 academic year focused on improving the Black student experience on our campus. Specifically, how do we create the same enjoyable, rewarding and successful experience for our Black students that so many of our majority students find here? How do we ensure full inclusion of our Black students in the breadth of opportunities that allow investment in and engagement with the Franklin experience? How do we better address the unique needs of our Black students so they genuinely feel that Franklin College is their home?
You will find the results of that effort in the list of 2020-2021 objectives at: https://franklincollege.edu/about-fc/diversity-equity-inclusion/. This is not intended to be static nor comprehensive, but it represents an important next step in our institutional action plan. We will be guided in both direction and progress by the students affected, and I have established a monthly meeting protocol with an advisory group of our Black students for that purpose. The President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion (PCDI) will share the same task to add another layer of scrutiny and contribution.
Finally, I am working with Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett and other city leaders to collaborate toward a more inclusive climate within the broader community. Mayor Barnett has taken a serious approach to the issue and has become a valued partner in this endeavor. The ad (linked here) that will run in Saturday’s local newspaper, the Daily Journal, which reflects our collective commitment and initial action steps, along with those of the local school corporation. Our hope is to use the opportunity before us to make progress for the entire community.
I thank everyone in advance for their commitment to and collaboration in this important work throughout the coming academic year. Franklin College will indeed be the very special institution we describe with justifiable pride only when it is so for every single member of the campus community.
Kerry N. Prather │ President
101 Branigin Boulevard, Franklin, Indiana 46131-2623
FranklinCollege.edu │ 317.738.8010