About Antiracism

Student antiracism march

Since 1831, the mission of Denison University has been “to inspire and educate students to become autonomous thinkers, discerning moral agents and active citizens of a democratic society” and to provide all students the tools to live successful and fulfilling personal and professional lives.

Denison has produced generations of alumni who boast about the impact of their Denison education on their lives. Denison’s distinct liberal arts, residential experience prepares students to thrive after their time at Denison and should not be limited by identity markers.

Starting from the first-year experience and continuing years after graduation, Denison provides students with the skills, knowledge and habits to be an architect of their own lives. Denison students are able to communicate, listen, collaborate, innovate, take responsibility, to apply discernment, solve, adapt, and lead.

We remain committed to the transformative power of a rigorous, diverse liberal arts education and all of the many benefits that it has for our educational community. A Denison education exposes students to innovative ideas, as well as classic ways of understanding the world.

We recognize that our diverse living and learning environment situates students among a community of peers and faculty and staff who come from different life experiences and whose evolving identities interact with others. This learning experience is intended to inform the skills and habits graduates will carry into their spheres of influence.

The current state of our world brings us to a moment of introspection and action. At Denison, we are being called to respond from our students, faculty, staff and alumni to racial injustices that have occurred on our campus. Denison must reaffirm the notion that an antiracist, diverse living, learning, and working community is essential to its educational mission. We have both an opportunity and an obligation to address long-standing issues on our campus.

Historical Context

Denison University holds a distinct space in the American higher education context. Denison was one of the earlier colleges established in the “Northwest Territory” during the Andrew Jackson presidency. The college achieved great success during the early years of its founding as the United States was also facing fast growth as a nation. During this time, many Denisonians were heavily involved in the antislavery movement and supported women’s education. By the Civil War, men and women (although White) were being integrated in the classroom. In 1970, Denison was one of the first colleges in the country to establish both a Black Student Union and a Black Studies Program and slowly started to see some diversity within the student body.

In 2001, Denison committed to becoming a more diverse college and faculty, staff, students, administrators, alumni, and others set to the work of making Denison more diverse in its faculty and staff, its student body, and its curricular and cocurricular offerings. In 2008, the university started to affirm its commitment to diversity and inclusion by diversifying its faculty (tenured) of color. In 2015, students drew attention to financial hurdles arising from economic differences across our student body, which disproportionately affected students of color. Denison responded by becoming one of the few colleges in the country that meets the full demonstrated financial aid need of every student accepted.

Denison has opened its doors and welcomed groups previously excluded from its student body, faculty and staff communities, but our current time causes us to revisit these efforts at a critical point in our institutional history.

A Call for Action

On June 11, 2020 President Adam Weinberg committed the university to adopting a sustainable antiracist framework. “If we want to advance in this historical moment, we need to take actions informed by a paradigm that seeks actions that are different and that take us in a new direction. We need a new conversation and set of goals.” Specially, we must:

  • Examine past and present institutional racism and discrimination
  • Learn structural and historical roots of racial inequality
  • Find and confront institutional racism
  • Analyze unequal social power and privilege
  • Understand the effects of racial inequity on individuals and on communities
  • Strive for change, by a plan for action
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