Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert has appointed nine people to a newly formed Civil Rights Commission, designed to provide informal social conflict resolution. Nearly half of the appointees consist of University employees.
Lempert told The Daily Princetonian that the Civil Rights Commission is charged with making policy recommendations to Council, coordinating educational and other outreach programs in the community, and offering voluntary dispute resolution.
Past and current University employees appointed by Lempert include Molly Chrein and Afsheen Shamsi, both of whom served on the Princeton Board of Education; Kiki Jamieson, former director of the University’s Pace Center; Susan Fiske, a University professor in the department of psychology; David Campbell, clinical psychologist at University Health Services; Donna Tatro, member of the LGBT Employee Resource Group and the University's Transgender Advisory Committee; and Tommy Parker, Co-chair of the Association of Black and Latino Employees at the University.
Other appointees in the commission include Pastor Karen Hernandez-Granzen of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Trenton and Leticia Fraga, chair of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
"I’m excited about the launch of this important commission, and I’m especially thrilled with the diversity of residents who have volunteered to serve, and the expertise they bring to the table," Lempert said.
Councilman Lance Liverman commented on the majority of the commission’s members being associated with the University.
“It just happened to work out this way,” Liverman explained, according to Town Topics. “It wasn’t that we went and looked for University people. These are people who have an interest in serving and the expertise to do it.”
The commission will strive to develop respect among racial, religious, cultural, and ethnic groups in Princeton, according to the Princeton Packet.
Fiske, who currently researches stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination at the University, told The Daily Princetonian that as a field, social psychology research has much to offer.
“We’ve learned that bias is more automatic, ambiguous, and ambivalent than people think,” she explained. “But mutually respectful, constructive contact for shared goals can make a difference. And the support of Mayor Lempert and community leaders is essential.”
Princeton’s former Civil Rights Commission was active from 1968 to 1998, according to Town Topics. A subcommittee of the Human Services department introduced an ordinance last October after working for its re-establishment for two years.
Lempert said that bringing back a civil rights commission was an important accomplishment in 2016, according to the Packet. She expressed her excitement for the future of the commission.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of people to bring best practices to our government and to make all residents in our community feel like they belong,” Lempert told the Packet.
Lempert and Tatro were not available for comment at the time of publication.