This semester, a group of graduate students at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs has been working to improve diversity and inclusion at WWS as part of a new organization, Students for Educational Equity and Diversity. This organizing culminated in a letter, signed by 71.7 percent of all WWS graduate students and 79.7 percent of Masters in Public Affairs students, that was sent to the WWS administration and offered several proposals toward SEED's goals. The letter was shared with the Wilson School's Dean, and SEED members are in open and productive communication with the administration regarding the letter's contents. Moreover, over the past two weeks, two op-eds have been published by members of SEED referencing these efforts. In the spirit of openness and accountability, the full text of the letter is available here, and an abridged version is reproduced below. Faculty, alumni and undergraduate allies are welcomed to express their support by signing this support letter.
Dear Dean Rouse,
We write as a group of Woodrow Wilson School graduate students to call attention to the urgent need for further progress in creating a safe, supportive, and fair environment for marginalized students.
While we recognize the pressing need for improvement, we also acknowledge recent progress. The renaming of Dodds Auditorium for Arthur Lewis is an important step in recognizing the contributions of people of color at Princeton.
These efforts are in the context of campus-wide conversations about improving diversity and inclusion. The university community was urged to “recognize the importance of providing the resources necessary to achieve meaningful changes in campus climate and culture.” It is in this spirit that we write to you today.
I) Woodrow Wilson’s legacy is connected to concerns about diversity today at the WWS.
Many people, including the Wilson School Naming Committee, emphasized Wilson's role in establishing the Federal Reserve and creating international diplomacy after World War I. Those are not the parts of Wilson’s legacy that feel most salient to us.
We remember that [Woodrow Wilson] re-segregated federal workplaces; screened a film at the White House promoting the Ku Klux Klan; and that he ordered the occupation of nations, like Mexico and Haiti, that some of us call home. We realize that Wilson would not have admitted many of us to this school because of the color of our skin or our gender identity.
II) Student concerns and grievances indicate much work remains to make the WWS a safe, supportive, and fair environment for students.
Unfortunately, our experience as students leads us to believe the WWS bears the legacy of white supremacy both in name and practice.
Students from historically marginalized backgrounds and particularly students of color have been subject to microaggressions, discouragement, and invalidation of their concerns by program administrators. The MPA core curriculum does not sufficiently incorporate diverse perspectives, thereby failing to prepare students to be effective policymakers in diverse societies.
III) Institutional diversity and inclusion at the WWS can be improved by increasing the administration’s capacity, expanding curricular offerings, and diversifying its faculty.
a) Expand the position of diversity and inclusion coordinator to a full-time administrative position.
b) Incorporate into this role the responsibility of planning twice-a-year diversity trainings for students.
c) Coordinate regular professional development opportunities for all WWS staff related to diversity and inclusion.
d) Solicit feedback on bias, discrimination, and harassment experienced by students and develop a consistent, transparent process to address those concerns.
a) Make a new required MPA course analyzing systemic and institutional frameworks of power, such as race and colonialism, that explores their impact on public policy.
b) Expand pre-approved, cross-listed courses to include graduate classes offered in other departments, including but not limited to, African-American, Latino, Asian-American, and Gender & Sexuality Studies.
c) Add courses that address identity, power, and privilege in the domestic and international context.
a) Develop a faculty pipeline plan to prioritize the hiring and retention of lecturers and faculty who add racial, gender, and national diversity.
b) Incorporate opportunities for student representation and feedback in the faculty hiring processes.
You accepted us to this program because you believed we wanted to make the world a better place, to “be in the service of humanity,” and to lead. You chose well, for that is also what we want. But we need our institution to provide us the tools to not only respond to the world as it is, but to build the world as it should be.
132 Master of Public Affairs, Master of Public Policy, and Ph.D. Students