A Message from Dr. Kahan Sablo,
Dean of Inclusive Excellence
Thank you for the warm welcome extended to me during my inaugural semester at Bard College. This is the first of several updates that I will share, highlighting progress on diversity/inclusion initiatives during this challenging time in our nation’s history. It is my goal that everyone who lives, works, and/or visits Bard be unapologetically empowered to bring their “whole self” to campus - honoring their unique calling to be change agents in their local, regional, and/or national community.
Please know that I am working diligently to connect with as many people as possible, while simultaneously honoring COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. As a recent addition to the College’s COVID-19 Response/Planning Team, I am pleased to observe the genuine concern for the holistic needs of a diverse community. In response, I commit to partnering with campus colleagues and local municipalities to proactively address the many racial and socioeconomic disparities of this plague. However, I do feel compelled to share my opinion that the Coronovirus attacked us when our country was already suffering from a “pre-existing condition” - systemic racism.
I’ll begin by explaining that in my vernacular “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) is a full and complete sentence that requires no editing. This movement was never named “ONLY Black Lives Matter.” Therefore, I do not spend significant energy debating the language of a historical movement (i.e. “All lives Matter”) when Black and Brown bodies are the primary ones being assassinated in the street by those who took an oath to “protect and serve.”
Bard College Announces President’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice
President Leon Botstein has announced the President’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice at Bard College. “Every institution in American civil society, particularly colleges and universities, must play a part in creating fundamental change,” wrote President Botstein in a letter to the community. The commission is charged with conducting an audit of Bard’s past, reporting on the present state of affairs, and recommending a plan of action for the future. It is made up of 30 members drawn from the college’s faculty, students, and staff. It will be chaired by Kahan Sablo with Dinaw Mengestu and Myra Armstead serving as vice chairs.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force
President Botstein has appointed a standing task force of Bard administrators to work with the Council for Inclusive Excellence (CIE). This group will keep the community informed on a regular basis on the steps being taken.
2020–21 Plan of Action
Phase 1: Caring for the immediate emotional needs of the campus community
Meeting the needs of people in distress remains a priority. The acknowledgment of pain (both verbally and in writing) and the provision of emotionally safe healing spaces must both occur in order for people to move forward in a productive manner.
Recent Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Activities at Bard
- A campus-wide Candlelight Vigil for Justice, Love, and Solidarity
- A letter from President Botstein
- A letter from Counseling Services
- A letter from the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts
- A check-in session with Professionals of Color, a group of (nonfaculty) employees from historically marginalized ethnic identities who are committed to enhancing the campus experience for students and employees of color
- Library: Creation and dissemination of an Anti Racism Resources and Statement
- Reflecting on the Moment: a video series on community activism and engagement in the name of racial equity and justice
- Student Reading Initiative: Black Playwrights
- Black Talks: Student Panel
- An invitation from the mayor of Tivoli offering a community conversation in response to constituent concerns about local policing policies
- Reflecting in the Moment: Black and Blue All Over
- What the 1960s Can Teach Us About Today in the Wake of the Murder of George Floyd
- A Student of Color Debriefing Session: A Forum to Aid the Healing Process
- In the Moment: The Power Behind Revolution, an essay series
- A meeting between College officials and the Dutchess County Human Rights Commission
- Statement from the Center for Civic Engagement
- Men of Color Emotional Check-In (Brothers at Bard)
Given COVID-19’s compounding of existing financial disparities, a request was approved for the Bard Student Emergency Fund to remain an ongoing initiative under the auspices of the Council for Inclusive Excellence (CIE). With the support and leadership of the College’s development professionals, we will continue to solicit financial contributions to support students experiencing unforeseen financial challenges. This funding complements the institutional and government resources already allocated to support this effort.
Phase 2: Empowerment, Preparation, and Education for Action
This phase includes solidifying the educational, human, and fiscal resources needed to sustain long-lasting change.
Bard College Gospel Choir
Phase 3: Evaluating and Strengthening Successful Systems and Incentives
2019–20 Progress Report
New Dean of Inclusive Excellence
In January 2020, the College successfully concluded its fall 2019 search to fill the six-month vacancy in this post by hiring Dr. Kahan Sablo. Dr. Sablo brings to the position over 20 years of experience in higher education administration, most recently at George Mason University where he was assistant vice president for university life. He has headed diversity work at two public universities in New York State, Canton and Fredonia, and at another state institution, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, where he was senior administrator of student life. His background in equity and inclusion work in postsecondary institutions is extensive and varied. Dr. Sablo has been charged with creating a strategic plan for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Bard, and is heading the recently named President's Commission on Racial Equity and Justice, which will report on its findings by January 2021.