Anti-racist campus task force convenes for first time

Lena Kerest

The ad hoc anti-racist campus task force, created by President Maud S. Mandel and Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leticia S. E. Haynes ’99 in November, convened for the first time on Feb. 10.

When the task force’s creation was announced in fall 2022, Mandel wrote in an email to the College community, “We have had multiple incidents this semester involving racist words and phrases written on college or personal property on campus. They also fit into a longer lineage of problems with racism here.”

In an interview with the Record, Mandel said the task force articulated three goals in its recent organizational meeting. The first goal is to understand the nature of racist incidents that have gone officially reported and unreported at the College in the last five years. The task force will review data provided by the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Campus Safety Services, as well as accounts of individuals who have experienced racism at the College that have been shared through other mechanisms, such as anecdotal reports, as it considers how the College can foster an anti-racist campus culture, Mandel wrote in a follow-up email to the Record.

“Second is to review what [the College] does in those instances and to ask the question of whether we’re taking the right steps to support our community in such moments and approaching the problem of racism in the right way,” Mandel said.

Lastly, the task force hopes to ensure that all members of the College community feel supported and safe by broadly examining the College’s racial equity and anti-racism work, she added.

“The task force isn’t charged to get [Williams] from A to B,” Mandel said. “It’s about how we think through what the next steps are for the campus… it’s taking a focused look at our anti-racist efforts in order to ask if we are doing all we can for our campus.”

Finally, Mandel shared the understanding that a single committee cannot address the complicated and expansive nature of racism in the United States or even within the College community, and it cannot ensure that the campus never experiences another racist incident. “It is still 100 percent our responsibility to do everything in our power to make sure that everybody in this community feels that the institution is doing what it can to support them and to take this on,” she said. Mandel also noted her hope that all students are “thinking about how to eradicate the structures that prevent everybody from being wholly supported at Williams.”

The task force is composed of students, faculty, and staff who are committed to issues of anti-racism and equity. The group will meet seven more times throughout the spring semester and will then evaluate future plans. Until the task force has met several times and its membership is solidified, Mandel will omit the names from future communication. Once she is certain of the group’s full participation, she will share its roster with the campus community.