Date: June 17, 2020
FROM: William Berkley, Chair, NYU Board of Trustees and Andrew Hamilton, President, NYU

In Just Mercy – which will fittingly be the University’s common summer reading – Bryan Stevenson, the Aronson Family Professor of Criminal Justice at our School of Law, wrote, “We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated.”

Certainly, the repeated, harrowing, unjustifiable killing of Black people – George Floyd, and so many others – at the hands of police; the persistence of troubling inequities in our criminal justice system and so many other aspects of American society; the repeated violence directed at peaceful protesters in recent weeks; and the unchecked expansion of economic and social inequality implicate all of us. As a center for teaching and research in the USA and globally, NYU has a key role to play.

We must acknowledge not just the wrongness of it all, but also the toll it takes. Those in marginalized communities bear not just the sharp stab of these injustices, but the ongoing, day-in, day-out corrosion of their well-being, their equanimity, and their health.

This cannot go on. Change is needed. And we have a responsibility to recognize that at NYU we need to be part of that change.

And so, we wish to share with you some actions and steps we plan to undertake in 2020-2021 in addition to those shared with faculty by the Provost’s Office last week.

Doubling the MLK Scholarship Program at NYU

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholars Programs has for over 30 years recognized and provided financial support to students with a commitment to Dr. King’s legacy of social justice and change. Starting with an investment of an additional $6 million per year (secured from a combination of internal and philanthropic sources), we will double the size of the program to 60 students per class within a year and enhance the financial support. Taking the lead from other successful NYU scholarship programs – such as the AnBryce Scholarship and the Breakthrough Scholars – we will also substantially enhance the programming for MLK Scholars. In coming years we will seek to further expand this program.

Establishing the James Weldon Johnson Scholars Program

To recognize scholarship with far-reaching impact in the areas of social justice, inequality, criminal justice reform, and related topics, the University will establish 20 James Weldon Johnson Scholars – three-year appointments for faculty, selected by a distinguished committee for the positive impact of their work on society, that will be accompanied by $25,000/year in research support. The honor is named for NYU’s first Black professor, James Weldon Johnson, a civil rights activist.

Expanding Programs to Enhance Diversity and Mobility Among Administrators

The University will expand two programs that seek to promote internal mobility and enhance diversity among administrators – the NYU Management Fellows program, and a mentorship program run in conjunction with the Administrative Management Council.


The Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation (OGI) will sponsor an event this Thursday in honor of Juneteenth, the annual commemoration of the end of slavery on Friday, June 19th. Managers, supervisors, and others should make it possible for those who wish to use Friday as a day of personal reflection to do so (OGI has created a page of resources to explore) without loss of vacation time.

New Mandated Learning Modules for All First-Year Students

Incoming first-year students will be required to participate in new online learning modules, including a model specifically focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

New Anti-Racism Trainings and Activities by the Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation (OGI)

Anti-racism work is an ongoing practice of engagement that requires education as well as systemic and systematic efforts at individual and organizational levels. OGI will provide increased training, guidance, and resources across the University as individuals, schools, units, and departments engage in sustained anti-racism, anti-bias, and related work, research, scholarship, teaching and dialogue within their specific context.

The Launch of NYU-BeTOGETHER

Building on the lessons learned from Being@NYU (the campus climate survey conducted in 2017-18), OGI will launch NYU - BeTOGETHER to discuss and implement the action steps that follow from the major themes of Being@NYU, as well as new issues and disparities that have come from the pandemic.

Expanding Funding for NYU’s University-wide Cross-Cutting Initiative on Inequality (CCII)

The University will expand funding for CCII to support faculty whose work addresses the profound, pervasive, and corrosive disparities that currently challenge our society.

Fostering Reflection, Discourse, and Engagement Across the University

OGI will offer a suggested reading list and will seek to foster student, faculty, and staff participation in reading groups that meet over the summer. This will be in addition to this summer’s “NYU Reads” selection, Just Mercy, and the Big Ideas Course Series announced by Provost Fleming that include courses focused on social justice, such as Michael Lindsey’s and Cybele Raver’s course on Race & Inequality, and Pamela Newkirk’s and Deborah Willis’ course Black Lives Matter.

Some Concluding Thoughts

Today there is finally a growing awareness of the iniquitous nature of our society, and of how great a burden has fallen on those – communities of color, marginalized communities, the poor – who have borne the worst of it. Focusing our broad collective attention is an important step, but there is much still we can do at NYU to advance these goals. What we have outlined here are just a few indications of what we can do. So let us do the work, the hard work, and take action together.