Looking Ahead to Anti-Racism Work

On July 31, 2020, President Sean Decatur provided an update on Kenyon's anti-racism action plan.


Dear members of the Kenyon College community,

Earlier this summer, I joined many of you in expressing sadness and anger at the senseless loss of more Black lives to police or vigilante violence. Over the last two months I have watched with renewed hope as people and institutions across the nation have not only raised their voices in dissent but engaged in critical self-examination and begun to take concrete actions to combat structural racism. There have been calls for Kenyon, as well, to embark on this challenging and important work. I write today to share our plan of action for the year (and years) ahead. 

With the full support of the Board of Trustees, Kenyon College will: 

  1. Provide meaningful anti-racism education and professional development for all members of the community. This part of our program will focus primarily on anti-racism education and professional development for faculty, staff, students and members of the Board of Trustees. It also will include education and training on the College’s discriminatory harassment policies, with the goal of encouraging members of the community to report incidents to the Office for Civil Rights. These programs will be developed in consultation with campus constituencies. Rollout will begin in fall 2020, with a full set of programming complete by the end of the 2020-21 academic year.

  2. Revisit the relation of local law enforcement to campus life to the broader Knox County community. We will establish a staff, faculty, student and community group concerned with the campus relationship with law enforcement. Our focus here will be on helping make anti-racism education part of law enforcement training and on building trust within the community. We will seek connections beyond campus to Gambier Village Council and staff, local businesses and the Mount Vernon community.

  3. Focus on the mental health and well-being of Black students and students of color. We have established a working group with representatives from the Health and Counseling Center, the Dean of Students, the Dean of Academic Advising and Support, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life to develop more resources focusing on the mental health of Black students and other students of color. These plans, too, will be developed in consultation with campus constituencies. One goal is to make expanded in-person and remote resources available for students beginning this semester. This group also will explore pilot programs to help us learn to process racial trauma more effectively and build a stronger community for students, staff and faculty, as well.

  4. Establish an advisory committee to help prioritize the allocation of College resources toward anti-racism initiatives. This steering committee of students, faculty, staff and alumni will make recommendations on projects to be funded from a presidential discretionary account. Projects could include speakers or programming; educational or training activities; funding toward specific staffing needs or research projects; new initiatives to support student-centered research projects; or other activities. I anticipate allocating significant new investments for this part of Kenyon’s plan.

I have asked Ted Mason, Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Senior Advisor to the President, to report on the progress of this work to our community each semester. 

What we now undertake will build on similar ongoing initiatives at Kenyon, such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence Grant in the Science Division, the programming of the Center for Innovative Pedagogy, and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. However, the path forward does not rest in any one department or division, and it will not involve any fast fixes or easy tweaks or investments. This work requires a broad, institution-wide commitment to change; it requires a willingness to look critically at ourselves; it requires creativity and openness to looking at very new ways of thinking and operating; and it will involve courage, humility and leadership on all of our parts.


Sean Decatur