Students walking on campus
“At its core, the idea is simple. Society changes when we think and act differently.” Learn More

Message from Adam:

I shared those words above with the Denison community in January 2020 as the university embarked on a journey of candid and critical self-reflection. With racial tensions boiling over across the country, it was time for us to take a deeper look into the role we can and should play in correcting our country’s long and painful history of racism.

It was essential to begin at home — to recognize our achievements in diversity, equity, and inclusion and call out and address the places where we have fallen short. A college campus should be a supportive space to confront our past, delve into the structures that shape contemporary society, and find ways to work together to create a better future. Institutions like Denison, steeped in the values of fairness and equality, carry the responsibility and privilege of spreading positive change throughout society.

Denison Forward is our commitment to changing the way we think and act — and to spark, nurture, and demand that change in society as well.

We know that shifts in societal behavior, even our own, do not come easily. Progress rarely happens overnight. Denison Forward is a thoughtful, inclusive, and data-driven approach to understanding the road behind us and carving a better path ahead. Among other recommendations, our action plan calls for increasing recruitment and retention of a diverse community of students, faculty, and staff; including antiracism as a part of professional development efforts; and making sure our students, particularly those who may face obstacles due to structural racism, have the resources and opportunities to launch into their chosen career paths.

This plan is just the beginning. I am grateful for the hard work so many have put into developing Denison Forward, and I encourage our entire community to take part in this evolving plan to change — to improve — how we think and act. Together, we can shape a world based on human dignity and respect.

As Denisonians, we must strive to be part of the solution.

Adam Weinberg
President, Denison University

People

Invest in the people through training, development, improved skill sets, and capacity-building

  • Adopting inclusive recruitment and retention strategies
  • Provide recognition and development for staff who champion anti-racist efforts
  • Create intentional pipelines and succession plans to retain talent
Practices

Invest in institutional infrastructure, policies, and practices to address historical, structural, and institutional racism and other forms of inequity

  • Assessment, reporting, and responding to incidents of racism and other forms of bias
  • Adopt a university-wide learning framework for diversity, equity, and inclusion broadly
  • Reviewing university-wide policies, pedagogy, processes, and procedures through an equity-minded lens
Possibilities

Invest in campus-wide strategies and solutions for sustained institutional innovation, engagement, and excellence

  • A university-wide strategic plan for diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • An institutional review of programs, partnerships, and spaces using an antiracist, equity-minded lens
  • Cultivate strategic programs and community partnerships with internal and external organizations and communities

In Their Words

Pamela Prescod-Caesar

Pamela Prescod-Caesar

Associate Vice President for Human Resources, Chief Human Resource Officer

Denison's culture is described as "relational". The concepts of IDEA is foundational to cultivating engaging relationships in an evolving community.

When an institution values, respects, welcomes, and includes me, it allows me to be my best self. It feels good to contribute when I feel a part of or connected to that community.

Francisco Javier López-Martín

Francisco Javier López-Martín

Associate Professor of Spanish, Acting Associate Provost for Diversity

Investing, promoting, and engaging in diversity and inclusion help us learn new perspectives, explore different archives of knowledge, understand “difference” and, ultimately, embrace the complexities of our world. I am proud to walk this path together with our community.

Jaleel Poole

Jaleel Poole

Class of 2022

This work will inform Denison's academic, social, and institutional affairs, realizing racial equity in these dimensions and more across the university in days to come. More importantly, the socio-cultural landscape of Denison is evolving and adapting to meet the needs of its most underrepresented populations. I am hopeful that Denison's antiracist plan will lead to better academic and collegiate outcomes for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC).

It means that BIPOC students will finally get to see what generations of students before them have fought for. It means that students of color will no longer have to worry about safety, experience race-based violence or antagonism, or have to protest injustices that should never occur in the first place. It represents an era of opportunity to remove existing structures that are not encouraging the success of BIPOC populations within the Denison community--all while prioritizing the needs indicated by these student groups through policy and action, not just words.

Alexander R. Miller

Alexander R. Miller

Ed.D., Vice President of Student Life, Denison Forward Committee Member

It is essential to our mission that we are an academic community rooted and grounded in IDEA work. Centering ourselves around these principles allows our aspirations to be actualized in a way that differentiates us as a community grounded in excellence and inclusion.

IDEA work is understanding the world from the perspective of others. It also means listening with as much passion as I expect to be heard, discerning when empathy is needed, and acknowledging that this work is lifelong.

James L. Anderson

James L. Anderson

Class of 1985
Trustee, Denison University

Talent has always been equally distributed in society, but the opportunities have not. It’s imperative that Denison builds on its values and takes the actions needed to create an inclusive and equitable culture that is about listening and understanding, progress, not promises. Equity and Inclusion needs to be an integral part of our DNA if we are truly going to live up to our full potential of not only being a forward-thinking institution known for developing intelligent discerning citizens but also empathetic leaders who are making an impact around the world.

I only have to look in the mirror and reflect on my own time at Denison and in life to know the importance of this commitment. The work that is being proposed will require transparency, accountability and moments of grace but it gives me hope that with the right systems put into place Denison can help lead the change that is needed.

Nicole Ausmer

Nicole Ausmer

Associate Vice President/Dean of Student Life

Diversity, equity, and inclusion enrich the educational experiences here on The Hill. We learn and grow from those whose life experiences, beliefs, and perspectives are different from our own. Denison Forward is our chance to acknowledge that and work toward a stronger community.

Denison has taken a bold step forward by committing to doing antiracism work in the new Denison Forward plan. This is imperative because systemic racism is all around us and it is deeply embedded in our culture and our communities. We are born into it. This work will allow us to move forward, together, by addressing systems, policies, and practices.

Michael Supp

Michael Supp

Director of Facilities Operations

The IDEA framework is important at Denison. All students, staff, and faculty should be seen. Structural racism exists and it limits opportunities for groups of people. At Denison, our focus needs to be on ripping down structural racism where it exists and replacing it with systems that are equitable. At Denison, we should serve as a model for breaking down structural racism.

Personally, this work is important to me because structural racism exists and I have come to realize it is not something you can be neutral on. I have come to realize that neutrality or ignorance contributes to the problem of structural racism in housing, education, voting, and other aspects of American life. George Floyd’s murder made me realize that shocking brutality exists and examples like this perpetuate fear through communities. This is not fear I live with and that in and of itself is unjust.

Alex Pan

Alex Pan

Class of 2024
Politics and Public Affairs and Communication major

Denison isn't immune to experiencing ongoing conversations about systemic racism, racial equity, and quality of life for our entire community. As a relational place, we cannot fulfill our promise of helping students and faculty find belonging without zeroing in on antiracism, and Denison Forward struck me during my first year as a commitment to welcoming my membership in our campus community. Being antiracist institutionally, culturally, and sustainably requires a coordinated plan; this initiative is also a Denison-esque way of reflecting on our position as a University with an emphasis on dialogue and listening to our community. I believe Denison Forward provides that, and I'm excited to see policies and strategies outlined in the 2021 Antiracism Report be implemented!

Denison Forward and the work surrounding it makes me feel like Denison is listening. It's a solid step for our students of color, but I appreciate the acknowledgement that we still have a long way to go. As a Taiwanese-American in a predominately white institution, it comforts me to know that there is a feedback loop for these discussions and that the wheels are moving. One particular thought to emphasize is that it's difficult to find faculty and staff who share a similar background as myself, and I'm certain other students of color share that experience and want to ensure staff and faculty of color continue to be recruited and retained here. Denison's work on DEI is trying to say, "We should do more, we're listening, and we're trying to get the foundation built to make change happen". I see the potential in the recommendations produced so far, and I want to see this task force's work implemented in practice to better the experience of our community of color.

Nan Carney-DeBord

Nan Carney-DeBord

Class of 1980
Associate Vice President, Director of Athletics & Recreation, Professor of Health, Exercise & Sport Studies

“The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenging controversy.” –Martin Luther King

I first read that quote as an undergraduate student in the ’80s. To me, that symbolizes my Denison education. As we mentor through the platform of sport, we want to teach embracing difference, having a growth mindset, and learning from teammates who are different from you. We are leading through a values competency model, and IDEA is one of our division’s core values.”

To me personally, social justice has always been a core value. Whether it was gender equity, LGBTQIA, or antiracism, to live is to embrace difference.

Ray Walker

Ray Walker

Class of 2022
Denison Forward Committee Member

Denison is composed of students who come from a plethora of backgrounds and who embody diverse lived experiences. As an institution that continuously emphasizes the importance of leaning into not only equality but equity for all students — the work of Denison Forward is incumbent. This work tackles and raises awareness for issues such as active and passive racial discrimination. Minority students step into a world of disadvantages when they step onto The Hill. To meet the needs of multicultural students and to understand their struggles of navigating a predominantly white institution, this work informs the ways in which Denison can improve, accommodate, and accentuate their anti-racist practices for generations to come.

I care deeply about the stories of students of color. I care about being a listener and voice for the cultural student experience. It’s not easy being a minority trying to receive an education and not always knowing if you’re supported or if there are resources available to you. I am passionate about bringing these conversations to light and finding ways to create actionable steps forward. In my very first course at Denison, I was the only Black person in the class. I know what it feels like to exist in a bubble of social and racial isolation. Now, I want to use my platform to ensure other students feel like Denison is a place where they can feel both seen and heard.

May Mei

May Mei

Associate Professor of Mathematics, Denison Forward Committee Member

In some sense, the specific outcomes are secondary to the fact that a bunch of people got together and thought hard about what they wanted the institution to be and how to get it there. If it comes down to a decision between Policy A and Policy B, the fact that there is debate among smart, well-meaning people means that both policies are likely to achieve good ends. I often tell my students when they're faced with a major life decision that a difficult decision means that outcomes are likely to be equal. As such, the most difficult decisions are the least consequential. So the real importance of the work lies in the work itself.

My time on Denison Forward has foregrounded the messy nature of institutional policy and the art of compromise among multiple stakeholders. I think I spent about 200 hours over the course of the year between convening meetings, drafting documents, and most importantly having conversations with members of the community. As the New Radicals are fond of reminding us, "You only get what you give." The experience of giving my time to a project like Denison Forward has helped me get a deep appreciation for the way that all constituents love the college in a myriad of ways. That doesn't mean thinking the college is perfect, sometimes the best way to love something is to be unflinching in highlighting its flaws.

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