Mount Holyoke College’s anti-racism action plan

The College worked through the summer of 2020 to develop an action plan to begin the vital work building an anti-racist Mount Holyoke.

August 27, 2020

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke community,

We are confronting twin pandemics — those of COVID-19 and of racism — and in ways that are intertwined, laying bare the many inequities and social injustices that have taken and continue to take a grim and growing toll on individuals, families and communities of color. The most recent incidents in Kenosha, Wisconsin — the shooting of Jacob Blake and the subsequent, brutal murders of protesters — add to that toll, and to the call for a national reckoning. We strongly oppose anti-Blackness and police brutality, and believe the unrelenting anti-Blackness we are witnessing to be a failure of humanity and a failure of action. 

Mount Holyoke must be persistent and uncompromising in addressing the challenges that members of our community who identify as BIPOC — Black, Indigenous and people of color — have brought to our attention, and that we see in higher education and in society more broadly. We must identify and address all forms of implicit and explicit racism, bias and discrimination on our campus. And we must do the work, as individuals, in departments and as a college,  to better support our BIPOC students, faculty and staff, and to ensure that this is a just, safe and welcoming community. 

We acknowledge that we must do more, and we shall. To that end, we have worked through the summer to develop an action plan. Leaders across the College have identified strategies and made commitments to demonstrate our will for change. This is an ongoing effort: The actions listed below are the bridge between our current strategic plan (The Plan for 2023), the needs identified through the activism of our BIPOC community, specifically the student leaders of the Association of Pan African Unity (APAU), and further actions that we have ascertained and will continue to establish as a result of this ongoing work together. This will be a living, growing effort toward an anti-racist Mount Holyoke. 

As part of this effort, the Board of Trustees has established its own action plan

As of today, August 27, these are the commitments that we make:

Faculty and Curricular Actions

1. The College will establish a new faculty grants program to support the development of courses, projects and collaborative research proposals that focus on race, racism and anti-racism, including active collaborations with students in research or course development. The goal of this $50,000 program will be to inform teaching, learning and research practices, and to build an academic culture that seeks to understand, analyze and challenge systems of oppression. Priority will be given to proposals that demonstrate the integration of research and teaching. Guidelines and applications will be available in October 2020.

2. The Dean of Faculty and Division of Academic Affairs will further invest in efforts to hire faculty who are BIPOC in the following ways:

  • Further to the Five College Mellon award of $2.5 million in January 2020 for Gathering at the Crossroads: Building Native American and Indigenous Studies at the Five College Consortium, Mount Holyoke will conduct a search for a position in Native American history to begin in fall 2022.
  • The College is a member of the Consortium for Faculty Diversity, which exists to recruit BIPOC faculty to liberal arts colleges. The College will recommit resources to further our relationship with this vital program, hosting and supporting at least two postdoctoral fellows each year as a part of our academic program and community. We see our participation in this program as essential to diversifying our faculty, and the academy more broadly, and our commitment in this regard stands firm.
  • The College will become an affiliate partner of the Southern Regional Education Board’s Doctoral Scholars Program, which exists to increase the number of BIPOC students who earn doctorates and pursue academic careers. We see this partnership as integral both to increasing the number of BIPOC faculty in the pipeline for jobs at Mount Holyoke and other institutions, and to improving access to future funding opportunities for our current BIPOC students, as they aspire to and pursue doctoral studies themselves.
  • The Dean of Faculty, with the support of the Teaching and Learning Initiative and the Office of Diversity, Equity and inclusion will, beginning in fall 2021, engage all academic departments in creating their own statements and action plans related to becoming anti-racist.
  • The Dean of Faculty will continue to offer workshops on inclusive search practices for those academic departments that are authorized to hire new faculty and staff in order to address implicit and unconscious bias in the hiring process. While we expect to hire only a small number of faculty members over the next three years, every vacancy will be considered an opportunity to diversify the Mount Holyoke faculty, and the Dean of Faculty, in collaboration with the president, Board of Trustees and other College leaders, will identify specific goals and metrics to guide and evaluate recruitment efforts.
  • The Dean of Faculty will reimagine the Faculty Affirmative Action Committee (FAAC) to ensure that all efforts to recruit and retain faculty who are Black, Indigenous and people of color are documented and communicated through an annual report. The committee will work directly with the Office of the Dean of Faculty to share information about recruitment and retention efforts. Current faculty demographics are available online.
  • The support, retention and advancement of existing faculty who are BIPOC will be an explicit focus of the Dean of Faculty, department chairs, and faculty peers and mentors. The Dean of Faculty, in collaboration with the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, will make available additional mentoring opportunities and programming for BIPOC faculty. Retention of BIPOC faculty is also very much a charge of the Faculty Affirmative Action Committee, mentioned above in 2.f. The new faculty grants program (No. 1 above), is also designed to provide additional support for the scholarship and teaching of BIPOC faculty and students.

3. The College will expand diversity education and curricula that directly challenge anti-Blackness and white supremacy.

  • The annual community-wide Common Read will be dedicated to the interrogation of racism for the foreseeable future. While it is currently a focus for new students, and of First-year Seminars, it will in the future be more fully integrated into the curriculum. A committee of faculty, staff and students selected The 1619 Project as the fall 2020 Common Read. This critical work, created by Nikole Hannah-Jones at The New York Times, addresses the ongoing systemic effects of the impact of chattel slavery. At Mount Holyoke, we view the examination and discussion of The 1619 Project’s findings as core to understanding the history of racism, white supremacy and the cultivation of anti-Blackness. Students are engaging with the project as part of Orientation programming, a campus keynote will be delivered on September 7, 2020, and the Board of Trustees, the President’s cabinet and other senior leaders will participate and engage in facilitated dialogues about the readings.
  • In the fall of 2020, the Dean of Faculty will task a committee to review the existing multicultural requirement, and to present its recommendations to the Academic Priorities Committee no later than the spring of 2022.
  • Building On Our Momentum! (BOOM): Community Day is central to our efforts to expand diversity education across the College. The fifth annual BOOM! will be held this spring, and our goal is that every member of the campus community be required to participate.
  • Faculty in the Program in Africana Studies are currently engaged in conversations about the future structure and curriculum of the program, and in deep collaboration with faculty involved more broadly in critical gender and ethnic studies. Once their conversations have concluded, the Dean of Faculty will share a plan with the community.

4. Professional and Graduate Education (PaGE) will build on its anti-racist strategies by: 

  • Working to make College anti-racist programming and learning opportunities more accessible, both to adjunct faculty and to students who study at a distance. 
  • Integrating anti-racist and anti-bias topics into the curriculum. 
  • Implementing strategies to hire more BIPOC faculty and guest speakers, and to bring more diverse perspectives to its advisory boards and committees. 

PaGE will also continue to participate in efforts that support the diversification of the teacher workforce, including:

  • An ongoing regional partnership with Diverse Teacher Workforce Coalition/Paradigm Shift to support paraeducators of color to become licensed teachers, and so to ensure that the diversity of communities is reflected in its teachers.
  • PaGE will continue to support the training of anti-racist educators. For example, the MAT Mathematics and Mathematics Leadership programs have formed a steering committee that is supporting the launch of an anti-racist teaching task force for mathematics education. This task force will work with the PaGE faculty and administration to evaluate all courses and redesign them, explicitly addressing issues of access, equity and racism and assuring that the program overall has a coherent structure for this work. 
  • Providing scholarships, such as our Sonia Nieto Diverse Educator Scholarship, to support BIPOC students in our teacher preparation and leadership curricula.
  • Being vocal public advocates, and serving on committees that are dedicated to action, advocacy and policy change.

Education, Training and Professional Development

1. Orientation of all new members of the Mount Holyoke community will be revised, and in some cases expanded, to include tailored diversity and inclusion education, training and professional development:

  • In fall 2021, new student orientation will feature a range of diversity and social justice education opportunities, including a specific module focused on anti-racism (“Race, Racism, and Racial Oppression”). Expert social justice educators will facilitate these sessions, and the program will include small group dialogues organized around racial affinity groups.
  • All new faculty will participate in required professional development that builds upon the pre-established work of the Teaching and Learning Initiative. These include: addressing racial trauma in teaching, trauma-informed pedagogy, challenging anti-Blackness in the classroom, and additional interrogative work on race and racism.
  • The College will establish a comprehensive new employee orientation managed by the Office of Human Resources and effective in the fall of 2021. The focus of the new employee orientation will be to provide a holistic orientation to the College, an important element of which will be mandatory anti-racist education and an introduction to supporting gender diversity at Mount Holyoke. 
  • The First Gen Network, in collaboration with the First Generation and Low-Income Partnership (FLIP), will enhance the existing pre-orientation program as soon as in-person campus operations resume. In order to continue providing support to students beyond Orientation, the First Gen Network and FLIP will host a series of monthly virtual sessions for first-generation and low-income students to build a sense of community, while also providing resources tailored to individual needs.

2. Effective fall 2020, all student organization leaders are required to participate in training that includes an intergroup dialogue framework, focusing on understanding how institutional, cultural and structural oppression may manifest itself in student organizations. Organizations will also receive assistance in developing and implementing action plans detailing their efforts to become inclusive and anti-racist.

3. The College will bolster the Division of Student Life’s MoZone Peer Educator program by compensating all fellows, effective fall 2020.

4. In August 2018, we hired an inaugural chief diversity officer for Mount Holyoke and established, in September 2019, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, with three additional staff members. The College will continue to resource the work of this department and its intersectional approaches to education by hiring an Assistant Director of Campus Diversity Programming and LGBTQ Initiatives in fall 2020. The individual in this role will continue to expand the training, education and professional development of all students, staff and faculty, with a focus on: 

  • Gender-based violence prevention and programming to meet Title IX compliance and regulation obligations under the new Office of Civil Rights guidelines.
  • The furtherance of anti-racist curriculum development and implementation.
  • Continued virtual programming for all campus community members, and especially for our queer and trans BIPOC students. 

5. The Alumnae Association and the College are working together to finalize a community standards statement to which all volunteers must adhere. On July 1, 2020, the Association also announced a new role, Director of Inclusion and Events, intended to:

  • Better support the needs of BIPOC alums.
  • Place greater emphasis on and provide more robust diversity, equity and inclusion training for the Association, its Board of Directors and its volunteers.
  • Develop anti-racist strategies, including ongoing education and programming for the alum community.

6. The College will convene local community leaders to discuss furthering efforts toward anti-racism in South Hadley and surrounding areas. This will include expanded opportunities for education and dialogue, focused on ensuring that:

  • Students, faculty and staff at Mount Holyoke — particularly Black members of our campus community — are less likely to experience anti-Black racism.
  • The communities in which our students and employees live and work have access to resources to further their own anti-racism work.
  • Cross-collaborative efforts are focused on eradicating racism, including but not limited to public visibility campaigns, such as signage on and around campus, public events and on-the-ground work with local officials.

Resources and Equity

1. The College has, with the financial support of individual members of the Board of Trustees, added resources to continue the Student Safety Net Fund to assist students most likely to experience financial hardship.

2. The President’s cabinet and the Board of Trustees are committed both to immediate actions and to conducting a full review of financial aid policies and practices, with specific emphasis on the following: 

  • The College will, with immediate effect and as a pilot in 2020-2021, suspend financial holds on registration for any student with an outstanding current semester balance, so that financial circumstances are no longer a barrier to students pre-registering for the following semester’s classes alongside their class cohort. The Vice President for Enrollment Management will review the impact on all parties, with a view to continuing and/or modifying this new policy (see 2.c, below).
  • In addition to participating in campus-wide diversity, equity and inclusion professional development and education programs, beginning in September 2020, the enrollment division, including staff in the Office of Admission and Student Financial Services, will participate in additional anti-racist and anti-bias training with an external consultant specialized in college access and affordability.
  • In 2020-2021, there will be a full examination of the use of all holds — registration, transcript and loan payment — in order to identify policies and practices that best support student success.
  • In 2020-2021, the College leadership, in consultation with the Board of Trustees, will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the financial aid program in order to identify programmatic changes that will provide additional financial support for FLIP students in 2021-2022 and beyond.

3. The College will further invest in the cultural centers by:

  • Increasing staffing and access upon the return of regular residential operations.
  • Studying each space and securing resources for capital improvements, starting with The Zowie Banteah Center, which will be relocated by fall 2021. This honors a direct request from Indigenous students to identify a new space.

4. The College is focused on increasing the enrollment of BIPOC students in its undergraduate programs. To this end:

  • The Division of Enrollment Management has established an Admissions Diversity Working Group. The group is focused on building anti-racist strategies to increase the enrollment of BIPOC students at the College. In 2020-2021, metrics will be identified by the College leadership, in consultation with the Vice President for Enrollment, who will report on progress on an annual basis.
  • The Division of Enrollment Management has, since the late spring, been working with two new program partnerships that will be instrumental in the recruitment of BIPOC and first-generation college students. In addition to the American Talent Initiative, which we joined last year, we are now partnering with College Greenlight and College Horizons.These organizations specifically focus on helping BIPOC students gain access to institutions of higher education. College Greenlight supports first-generation and BIPOC students, and College Horizons is a nonprofit organization that supports Indigenous students.

 Planning and Accountability

1. This fall, the College will finalize plans already underway to launch a Bias Education Response Team. Overseen by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and  connected to Title VI and Title VII, all reports of bias will be managed through this key response team, which will conduct investigations, adjudicate reports and determine actions and responses to incidents. An annual summary of the complaints received by the Bias Education Response Team will be presented to the College’s leadership for review each spring.

2. The College will ensure that participation in professional development related to diversity, equity and inclusion, and efforts toward building an anti-racist Mount Holyoke, are included in annual conversations and performance reviews, and that such efforts by staff are appropriately valued in opportunities for professional advancement

3. Building upon the efforts in the faculty hiring processes — and notably the existing requirement that all candidates for faculty positions submit a statement on their commitment to and experience in mentoring a diverse student body — the Office of the Dean of Faculty will work with faculty governance bodies in 2020-2021 to ensure that faculty anti-racism efforts and professional development are evaluated in the holistic review of teaching and form a part of academic review processes in the future. 

4. The College is also launching Employee Affinity-Based Dialogue groups and events in the fall of 2020 to support the wellbeing of faculty and staff. We recognize the distinctive needs of BIPOC faculty and staff and will offer specific programming to encourage affinity-based dialogues as support mechanisms. These will be facilitated by the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  

5. Following the move of Campus Police to the Division of Student Life in January 2020, and as a result of the more recent and continuing work of a cross-campus committee, the College is reimagining campus safety. In July 2020, in order to better reflect our needs and intent, the department was renamed Public Safety and Service. Public safety staff will continue to participate in ongoing, mandated training focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. To address the concerns expressed by BIPOC students, the following changes are effective immediately:

  • With the exception of campus emergencies, Public Safety and Service will no longer post outside campus buildings.
  • Implicit bias and other social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion training will be reviewed and assessed in the performance evaluations of all staff members. 
  • New policies and procedures are being created to define when students might anticipate the presence of Public Safety and Service in residence halls.

6. We will continue to expand the Counseling Service’s capacity to support and treat BIPOC students. Building on existing recruitment efforts, the College and the Counseling Service reaffirm their shared commitment to recruiting and retaining BIPOC counselors and further reaffirm the following:

  • Annual in-service training for counseling professionals will be dedicated to the support and treatment of BIPOC students.
  • Annual performance evaluations will continue to incorporate measures of growth related to anti-racism.
  • In all future searches, the Counseling Service will continue to optimize opportunities to hire counselors representing the lived experience of our BIPOC students, and who have expertise in working with BIPOC individuals and communities.

Understanding and Acknowledging College History

  1. The College will establish a history and legacy task force charged with uncovering past histories with regard to race, racism, xenophobia and other forms of bias. Working closely with Archives and Special Collections, this committee will undertake the research necessary for Mount Holyoke to understand and acknowledge such legacies and recommend actions, and share an annual report of the findings of this group. In the first instance, the task force will review naming of awards, buildings, monuments and historical figures associated with Mount Holyoke. A formal set of recommendations related to namings will be presented to the cabinet and to the Board of Trustees for review in the summer of 2021.
  2. The College will acknowledge its past history with Indigenous communities in Western Massachusetts, with a statement on land acknowledgement posted to the College’s website. In fall 2020, and in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the College intends to conclude its longstanding efforts to repatriate the remains of an Indigenous ancestor to the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, returning to the earth a tribal member who was for so long rendered culturally unaffiliated by the original collection process and a lack of proper documentation. A public recognition and redress will take place soon after the burial. 
  3. The College will establish an Indigenous Histories, Legacies and Student Support Services Working Group led by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Division of Student Life to build a stronger relationship with Indigenous communities and further our work with other Five College institutions. 
  4. Effective fall 2021, the College will acknowledge the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in an effort accurately to reflect the significant histories and legacies of Native peoples. 
  5. The College will recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday, beginning on June 19, 2021. Juneteenth commemorates what has also been referred to as “Freedom Day,” which honors the emancipation of African people who were enslaved in America. 
  6. In the fall of 2021, the College will conduct a comprehensive campus climate assessment to better understand and document the experiences of BIPOC community members. All future data collection efforts will be analyzed and shared as part of a final report from the College to ensure that ongoing work is informed by those data. One important component of this will be an oral history project focused on Mount Holyoke’s Black alums, led by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and which will become a part of the permanent collection of Archives and Special Collections.


We have taken some time to reflect on the experiences shared by the BIPOC community of Mount Holyoke, and to respond to the demands presented to us. We have thought deeply and carefully about what should come next and about how we honor the work of so many at the College, past and present, who made possible the progress we have made to date, while also challenging ourselves to be better, to do better, to be relentless in the pursuit of anti-racism, to do more to dismantle systemic injustice, to advance equity, and and to increase the diversity of identities and lived experiences in our Mount Holyoke community. We believe that these actions will renew, advance and deepen our ongoing efforts, charting our course for the next three years, during and after which we will continue to challenge ourselves and the Mount Holyoke community to set new and ever-more ambitious goals toward becoming the anti-racist community we want to be and embodying the inclusivity to which we here commit. 

We welcome your reactions to and feedback on this action plan and seek to be in continued dialogue about racial injustice and equity with all members of our community. As a first step, we will host a number of listening and feedback sessions with students, faculty and staff. These have been scheduled for different groups.

Whether or not you attend one of these sessions, we invite you to share your reactions and ideas with us by writing to

Our progress will require continued attention and unrelenting effort, as well as consistent and frequent reports to the community, and we, the undersigned, with responsibilities for all areas of the College, hereby commit to this, and to working toward delivering the change that is not only possible but imperative for the Mount Holyoke community’s collective success and wellbeing.


Sonya Stephens, President
Shannon Gurek, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer
Marcella Runell Hall, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students
Kassandra Jolley, Vice President for Advancement and Acting Vice President for Communications and Marketing
Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer
Dorothy Mosby, Interim Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs 
Robin Randall, Vice President for Enrollment Management