Message to Elon students from Jon Dooley and Randy Williams

This message was sent to Elon University students on June 9 by Jon Dooley, vice president for student life, and Randy Williams, associate vice president for inclusive excellence and civic engagement

Dear Students,

We are following up on President Book’s message of last Friday with more details about actions Elon is taking to enact change at the university and in our communities. Many of you have been raising your voices in support of a more just and equitable world, and it will take each one of us making a sustained commitment in order to make that a reality.

We want to start by being unequivocal. Black Lives Matter. To quote the President’s message of last week, “all Black members of our community have lives that not only matter, but are vital to our community.”

As a university we will host a series of dialogues in the coming weeks on racial equity at Elon. The first one will be this Thursday and we hope you will watch these conversations and then continue the discussion with other members of the Elon community. For more information on this series, view the information for Authentic Dialogue Toward Real Change.

We also want to share additional information about work that is already underway at Elon – please take time to read all of it. While this list is not exhaustive, we hope it gives you a sense of the university’s commitment to change.

Immediate Actions

In addition to the launch of the Dialogues series, President Book has charged the President’s Advisory Council on Inclusive Excellence to identify additional anti-racist and anti-bias programs we can implement for all members of our community to complement efforts already underway.

New Student Orientation this fall will incorporate anti-racist and anti-bias education and the Office of Student Involvement has been charged with expanding that training for all campus organizations this year.  The Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education (CREDE) will continue its work through the DEEP social justice program and other racial equity education.

In response to recent events, President Book has asked Elon University’s police chief to engage with local law enforcement agencies to carefully examine all intervention and restraint protocols, along with the training in those procedures.

The Belk Library staff has collated and distributed anti-racist resources to the campus this week and will continue to provide new resources to further the education and development of our community.

Inclusive Excellence at Elon University

Elon prioritizes the advancement of the Black students, faculty and staff because we recognize the disparities these valued members of our community experience on and off campus. These efforts are ongoing and are captured on the university’s Inclusive Excellence website that was launched in April.

Earlier this year, President Book established the President’s Advisory Council on Inclusive Excellence led by Dr. Randy Williams, Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence and Civic Engagement, to coordinate progress on our goals and benchmarks and increase the transparency of this work. Subcommittees of the council are led by Dr. Matthew Antonio Bosch, Dean of Student Inclusive Excellence, and Dr. Leigh-Anne Royster, Director of the Center for Equity and Inclusive Excellence.

The progress to create a more inclusive campus community over the past decade includes (but is not limited to) the list of work at the bottom of this email.

Academic Programs

The African and African-American Studies (AAASE) program was developed in 1994 and offers a robust array of courses with an interdisciplinary approach to the study of African Americans, Africa and the rest of its diaspora. Courses can be taken independently or can lead toward the minor. The AAASE program sponsors programming and research focused on the Black and African diaspora narrative and experience.

The university also maintains a diversity course database to help students find courses with a specific focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, and will be developing new tools to further enhance this resource in the coming year.

Many of these courses have openings and are available for registration this fall.

Diversity learning outcomes are embedded in the university Core Curriculum, including the Common Reading program, and that work has been enhanced in recent years under the leadership of Dr. Amy Johnson, Executive Director of the Core Curriculum and Associate Professor of History. Dr. Naeemah Clark, Professor of Communications, is in a new role as Coordinator for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Initiatives in the Elon Core Curriculum with a specific charge to continue to strengthen the focus on these efforts throughout the student experience with the Core.

Acknowledging Elon’s History

In 2018 President Book appointed a committee on History and Memory at Elon to find and tell the untold stories of Elon, help us learn from a comprehensive history of the university and advance a more inclusive environment.  A subcommittee of the group is focused on examination of race and anti-Black racism and Elon has joined the Universities Studying Slavery initiative. A final report and recommendations from the History and Memory Committee is expected this fall.

Scholarships and Support

One of the ways to increase the enrollment of Black students is through endowed scholarships, which is a priority for Elon’s fundraising. President Book often reminds us that, “when you provide an education to someone, you have seeded permanent change in the world.” This commitment to transformation is our mission and a university priority. Scholarships are the central goal of the current Elon LEADS campaign and the annual Elon Day. Over the last seven years, generous donors have established more than $180 million in endowed new scholarships for students. We will continue this critical effort and ensure that an Elon education remains financially within reach of students from all socio-economic backgrounds.

Among the many scholarships are those that support first-generation students through the Odyssey Program. To date, the program has produced 270 graduates, and we look forward to enrolling 43 new Odyssey Scholars this fall. This program continues to expand, and we look forward to further growth over the next decade as new Odyssey scholarships are added.  This program is simply remarkable, and if you are not familiar, we encourage you to read more about it here.

Elon Police Department

Last September, the School of Communications, in partnership with the CREDE, El Centro, and the Truitt Center for Spiritual and Religious Life, hosted Elon’s inaugural National Day of Reconciliation event, a nationwide initiative to promote communication and healing between police and people of color in Turner Theatre. Elon held a forum on policing with area law enforcement agencies after screening the film “Walking While Black.” Dr. Prudence Layne, Associate Professor of English, is a scholar on policing and has provided leadership in the searches and ongoing professional development for area police chiefs. Last year, Elon University’s police force was awarded the top accreditation standard for university policing and has diversified its police force. Annually, campus police engage in continuous improvement training.

Moving Forward

We aren’t finished with this important work and never will be. That is why the university community and the Board of Trustees have made this effort a priority in its strategic plans. The new Boldly Elon strategic plan includes a theme titled “Thrive.” Built by our community over 18 months, we have formalized diversity, equity and inclusion goals for the next decade, including:

  • Strengthening support networks and increasing staffing dedicated to the success of historically marginalized groups
  • Establishing and achieving specific benchmarks regarding increased representation and retention of students, faculty and staff from underrepresented groups
  • Advancing the intercultural competency of all students, faculty and staff
  • Advancing inclusive classrooms and pedagogies

Our strategic plan is more than just words, as our advancements from our last strategic plan demonstrate. With leadership and support from the Board of Trustees, we are taking action and investing our resources.

Your Role as Students

We are encouraged by the number of students, including many White students, who have been asking what they can do. We offer a few suggestions:

  • Educate yourself.  A good place to start is to pay special attention to this year’s Elon Common Reading selection, Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do. We hope you will read it along with our new students. You could also take one of these classes designated as diversity-rich, participate in one of the many CREDE-sponsored educational opportunities throughout the year, or seek out other programs and experiences that will expand your understanding. Keep up with current events and if you find that you are getting all your news and information from similar sources, find ways to diversify your news feed.
  • Engage in constructive dialogue. We have experienced a recent increase in bias reports related to social media posts, which have served to highlight the limitations of these platforms to meaningfully engage in important issues. The free exchange of ideas and critical thought are encouraged in our university – indeed, they are at the core of our mission. But that comes with the responsibility to think beyond racist stereotypes and consider the damage words can have on people and our community. Take some time to review the university’s Commitment to the Values of Free Expression and Inclusivity and embrace the challenge it offers us. It is essential that we all lift up and exemplify the values of our university Honor Code, including Responsibility (being accountable for your actions) and Respect (civility and valuing the dignity of each person).
  • Speak up. Through the university’s bias response system we address accountability and will continue to provide comprehensive responses to issues of violence, bias, harassment and hate. Yes, the university will do its part to address offensive behaviors. But as we work every day to educate students, it is clear we each need to do more to influence what is in students’ hearts, and that will take every one of us. So today, we are challenging each of you as Elon students to pause for some serious reflection and think of your peers with the kindness and respect they deserve. We hear disturbing stories of marginalized students who do not feel they belong or who experience racism on large and small scales. This unfortunate reality needs to change. And it needs to start now. How will you be an agent of this change?
  • Register to vote. Taking a stand against racism is not a partisan position. Students are encouraged to be active in the political process to support candidates across political parties who will enact legislation and policies to address racism at multiple levels of society. Elon makes it easy to register to vote and acquire absentee ballots through the Elon Votes! platform – a single location for voter education, awareness, and registration:

We have much more to do. That’s why Elon’s senior staff and university leaders continue to make advancements in this area a university priority, every day. We are committed to the amplification of Black voices and experiences through our students and colleagues.

Thank you for allowing us to share this list of actions and goals with you. At Elon, we stand against the scourge of racism and injustice and will continue to put these values into action. As we continue to advance the efforts already underway, we are open to and actively seeking new ideas and look forward to working alongside all of you to make the changes necessary for Elon to be a better living and learning environment for all people.

Thank you for helping to create a better Elon and a better world.

Dr. Jon Dooley, Vice President for Student Life

Dr. Randy Williams, Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence and Civic Engagement


Examples of progress on inclusive community work at Elon over the last decade

  1. In 2016 we adopted the goals of a Presidential Task Force on the Black Student Experience and worked to realize those benchmarks. You can find a 2019 update of those ongoing efforts here.
  2. We have hired and continued to increase the number of staff who support Black students and first-generation students at Elon.
  3. Elon hired additional admissions counselors to support enrollment of Black students and joined the Common Application to lower the barriers to applying to Elon. This action has resulted in a 100% increase in applications from Black students, and this fall we are looking forward to welcoming the largest number of new Black students since 2011.
  4. Merged the former Multicultural Center and El Centro to create the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education (CREDE), with a renovated and expanded footprint on the second floor of the Moseley Center, a specific focus on race and ethnicity, and additional staff and programming.
  5. Embedded diversity learning outcomes into the Common Reading and in the required first year course The Global Experience. Executive Director of the Core Curriculum, Dr. Amy Johnson, provides leadership in this area and her scholarly work is on slavery.  Additionally, we created a new faculty leadership position to ensure diversity learning outcomes are met.
  6. Established a Black Life Advisory Council composed of Black parents, alumni and friends for continuous improvement.
  7. Established the Intersect Diversity and Leadership Conference, a partnership between the Center for Leadership and CREDE, and supported the Black Student Union in the development and enhancement of Black Solidarity Day and the Black Solidarity Conference for students and Black allies.
  8. Established the Black Employee Resource Group to support Black faculty and staff, who are vital to the success of students and community building.
  9. Enhanced faculty and staff professional development to tackle bias and racism through initiatives like the annual Race-nicity Series and the Race, Reflections and Discussion Series.
  10. Created a designated curriculum to teach students intercultural competencies, including an Intercultural Learning Certificate Program coordinated by the CREDE.
  11. The four-year graduation rate for Black students eclipses that of White students, as does their acceptance into graduate programs and national and international fellowships.
  12. Our universal commitment to 100% access to study abroad and career services is having a significant impact on the Black student experience.
  13. Diversified our counseling services to ensure Black students can visit with professionals dedicated to their mental health and well-being that fully understand their experience.
  14. Dr. Jean Rattigan-Rohr, Vice President for Access and Success and Professor of Education became the university’s first Black vice president in 2018. In her role she provides essential leadership on the university Senior Staff, leads Elon’s partnerships with the Alamance Burlington School System, and provides oversight for the nationally- and internationally-recognized Odyssey Program, Elon Academy, and Village Project.