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Addressing Racism on Our Campus

Friday, April 12, 2019

Dear Undergraduate Students,

As many of you are now aware, last night a black Columbia College student was the victim of a disturbing incident at Barnard College in which the student was confronted by Barnard’s Public Safety officers.

We recognize there is a continued legacy of anti-black racism that has existed in our country since its founding. The more recent climate of racism and inflammatory rhetoric in both the country and the world at large continues to demonstrate a rising trend that targets marginalized populations. We are disturbed that such incidents continue to occur so close to home, and share in the hurt and pain many of you may be feeling.

A number of you have been in touch with individuals in our offices to express the disappointment, anger, sadness and threat to safety caused by this incident, now one of several that our campus has grappled with during the academic year. As many of you are aware, there was a reflection session which took place in Lerner Hall earlier this evening. While we understand the importance of these times to gather, reflect and heal, we know that much more must be done and everyone must be engaged, not only those immediately impacted.

Our community offers many opportunities to take action, and we encourage you to connect with Multicultural Affairs and Multicultural and Social Justice Education Programs to engage further with these topics and the ways in which we can continue to improve the experiences of students from all communities. We also encourage you to share your ideas for what more we can do to address these issues at Each email will be read and responded to and we commit to providing the community with an update before the semester ends.

Words will never be enough to address the injustices that affect the world and, as a result, our campus community. We also recognize that we cannot fully comprehend the pain of the black community that arises from this incident and others like it that have occurred elsewhere.

We can, however, work together to build a community on campus in which all members feel safe and welcome. This can only be achieved with the combined effort of every member of our campus community — staff, students, faculty. It is a goal fundamental to the values of the education we provide, and a goal that we collectively must work towards each day. We encourage each and every one of you to join us in reflecting on the ways in which our efforts can be elevated.

We realize this incident raises questions about ideas of safety on campus, what safety means and how it feels for students in different communities, particularly those in the black community. All of us move through the world with different experiences of access and privilege, and though no one individual action will adjust for these inequalities in their entirety, we are determined to continue the difficult work to better our community.


Mary C. Boyce
Dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science

Lisa Rosen-Metsch
Dean of the School of General Studies

James J. Valentini
Dean of Columbia College and
Vice President for Undergraduate Education

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