September 7, 2020
Dear Furman Community,
This past spring our nation experienced tremendous upheaval as it confronted a legacy of racism and exclusion that had long existed in our country. The high-profile deaths of Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement continued through the summer. From this came a reckoning of America’s problematic past and a confrontation with our present that illuminated the idea that our beliefs about equality and opportunity did not reflect the reality experienced by all of our citizens.
It is within this context that many of our alumni and students sought to tell their stories of how they had experienced life at Furman. Through social media, we heard heartbreaking stories that reflected a host of experiences tainted by acts of racism that were painful and called into question our commitment to creating an inclusive environment that emphasizes respect for all persons. Further highlighting these issues, a group representing our Black alumni put forth a petition that called on Furman to take steps to facilitate change. Our response was a set of commitments that emphasized Furman’s promise to embody anti-racism in ways that aligned with previous commitments to a just and equitable campus culture.
To advance these commitments, I am announcing the creation of an Ad-Hoc Committee on Black Life at Furman. I have asked Dr. Idella Glenn ’84 and Dr. Michael Jennings, Furman Chief Diversity Officer, to co-chair the 16-member committee, which consists of alumni, faculty, staff and students. The committee’s initial organizational session will be held this Friday and they will meet regularly with an expectation to produce a series of recommendations this fall to address the concerns that have been raised about the experiences of Black faculty, staff, students and alumni at Furman. This group’s work will support our efforts to advance a broad and comprehensive Strategic Diversity Plan that will be implemented in 2021.
While Furman has made strong progress in addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in recent years, we realize that we still have a great deal of work to do and that it will take time to gain the trust of those members of the Furman community whose identities have led to painful experiences. We are committed to doing that work and ask the entire Furman community to join us in supporting this effort.
I look forward to receiving the recommendations of the committee and am grateful for their service. I know that the work they are undertaking will result in a stronger future for Furman University.