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RBC Task Force on Racial Justice and Equity

A Message From RBC President Debbie L. Sydow

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Richard Bland College opened in 1961, the same year that 13 Freedom Riders boarded a Greyhound bus in Washington, D.C., to tour the southern states in protest of segregated bus terminals. Violence ensued when a mob brutally attacked the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Images of the violent killing of George Floyd are fresh in our minds, but we must not forget the long history of structural racism and violence against African Americans. Racism and discrimination persist throughout our country. Racism and discrimination persist in our commonwealth. Racism and discrimination persist on our campus. And racism and discrimination, like all forms of hatred, are a clear and present threat to our educational mission and all that we hold dear at Richard Bland College.

We cannot combat racism by remaining silent. Likewise, we cannot combat racism by doing nothing. The Richard Bland College leadership team is committed to working alongside every member of the College family to actively identify, confront and alleviate racism and discrimination. We are committed to boldly articulating and communicating our identity as a multicultural institution of higher education that values, supports and lifts up every individual. To that end, I am assembling a group of campus and community leaders to form a Task Force on Racial Justice and Equity.

The Task Force will be charged to:

  • Conduct an honest assessment of Richard Bland College’s historical record as it pertains to racial inequality in higher education in Virginia in order to unpack those elements of oppression and privilege that have influenced its trajectory, and to chart a new course forward.
  • Generate a vision statement that outlines concrete action to be taken, and an assessment plan, to ensure that the institution conforms to its articulated anti-racist, multicultural identity.
  • Publicly articulate Richard Bland College’s identity as a multicultural institution committed to anti-racist organizational development and commit to perpetual, periodic training and evaluations of how the faculty, staff, and administration are progressing toward the manifestation of this identity.
  • Evaluate policing on Richard Bland College’s campus to identify and, as needed, rectify policies and practices related to accountability, racial bias, and use of force that do not align with RBC’s articulated anti-racist, multicultural identity and Vision Statement.
  • Enlist outside experts on diversity and inclusion to provide training for faculty, staff, and administrators.
  • Establish relevant, long-term service learning activities in Petersburg and surrounding communities of color.
  • Take steps to make the faculty, staff, and administrators more racially and ethnically representative of the communities they serve.

I am delighted to report that Richard Bland College’s academic leaders have already committed to:

  • Having a faculty-wide listening session this summer to evaluate how we have done in being a welcoming, inclusive, multicultural, anti-racist environment and how we could do better.
  • Working on a faculty statement/commitment to propose to Faculty Assembly for formal adoption after the faculty listening session.
  • Providing faculty development that focuses on inclusive, anti-racist pedagogical approaches.

W.E.B. Du Bois famously said, “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” Now two decades into the 21st century, the same problem remains. At Richard Bland College, we are committed to confronting the problem and doing everything possible to combat racism and discrimination now and forever. Regular updates from the Richard Bland College Task Force on Racial Justice and Equity will be communicated to all College stakeholders.

Debbie L. Sydow, Ph.D., President
Richard Bland College of William & Mary

RBC Task Force on Racial Justice and Equity

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