Progress on the Mount Holyoke anti-racism act

A December 2020 progress report on the anti-racism action plan made during the fall semester.

The Mount Holyoke College seal

December 9, 2020

Dear campus community, 

Scholar Ibram X. Kendi notes that the role of higher education institutions in the fight against racism is to “examine racial inequity” and recognize that becoming an anti-racist community is a “journey of really consistently ensuring that we’re supporting anti-racist policies and policymakers.”

As a leadership team, a part of our ongoing work toward becoming an anti-racist community at Mount Holyoke College, is consistently to communicate and hold ourselves accountable for sharing information about our progress in implementing the anti-racism action plan, launched in August of 2020. The global pandemic of COVID-19, coupled with the ongoing public manifestations of violence against stereotyping of African Americans, led to a bolder declaration of our vision for the future. Today we write to share progress made during the 2020 fall semester. We look forward to providing a fuller update on other aspects of the plan in early 2021. 

Faculty and Curricular Actions 

  • The College has renewed or initiated partnerships with several key organizations, both to enhance faculty development and to support efforts to recruit and retain Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) among our faculty, as positions become available. These organizations include the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Doctoral Scholars Program, the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA), and the Consortium for Faculty Diversity (CFD). 

    In addition to being critical resources for achieving the goal of increasing our number of BIPOC faculty, these organizations also offer extensive training and feature guest speakers focused on anti-racist pedagogies. These tools help create a campus that affirms all identities and supports the success of BIPOC faculty, staff and students. We are excited to offer these new resources to our faculty.

  • Mount Holyoke’s Teaching and Learning Initiative, in collaboration with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, offered several sessions focused on strategies for becoming an anti-racist community throughout the fall semester, including “Racial Trauma: Supporting Black Students,” with clinical psychologist Thema Bryant-Davis, an expert on racial battle fatigue; “Challenging Systemic Racism: The Journey towards Racial Healing” with Anneliese Singh, an expert on racial healing; and “Creating Departmental Anti-Racism Action Plans,” led by DEI staff members. 
  • The College has hosted a significant number of events related to The 1619 Project, our Common Read, including a dialogue with Nikole Hannah-Jones for Orientation; a dialogue with Patrisse Cullors for Hortense Parker Day; a BIPOC scholar series featuring Rafael Ocasio, Martha Jones and Paula Giddings; and an important dialogue with June and Angie Provost on fighting systemic racism as experienced by Black farmers. The 1619 Project library reading guide and Moodle site continue to be available to members of the Mount Holyoke community. 

Education, Training and Professional Development 

  • The College has established compensation for all MoZone peer educators, beginning in fall 2020. 
  • Recognized student organization leaders are participating in intensive anti-racism training facilitated by Associate Dean of Students for Community and Inclusion Latrina Denson and Visiting Lecturer Molly Keehn, which began fall 2020 and will continue through January 2021. The training consists of two parts: “Foundational Anti-racism Training” and “How To Create An Inclusive Anti-racism Action Plan.” Student leaders will have access to additional resources for the creation of their organization’s anti-racism action plans. 
  • Gabe Hall joined the College in September as the assistant director of Campus Diversity Programming and LGBTQ Initativies. 
  • The College has worked extensively with the Alumnae Association to provide ongoing educational programming for alums of Mount Holyoke. 
  • Health Services staff are using “The Racial Healing Workbook” as curriculum for biweekly staff discussions. These are facilitated discussions by the Office of Community and Belonging.
  • The Counseling Service has organized biweekly in-service sessions for its staff members that run from August 2020 through May 2021 and include internal consultants, such as Chief Diversity Officer Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, as well as outside consultants.
  • An optional new-student session was piloted in September 2020 as part of the module 1 new-student experience, “Exploring The Foundations of Race and Racism — The 1619 Project & New Student Orientation,” facilitated by Jen Matos, assistant professor of psychology and education. 
  • Staff in the Office of Community and Belonging has facilitated multiple workshops focused on anti-racism, microaggressions, creating an inclusive environment, and action-planning for athletic teams. The staff is also participating in on-going professional development.
  • The College has joined the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts in order to engage in anti-racist practices and transform the surrounding communities. 

Resources and Equity 

  • The College has continued to provide resources to the Student Safety Net Fund and has now awarded more than $400,000 directly to students in need. 
  • The Division of Enrollment Management has continued ongoing education and training for the staff, with a specific focus on increased outreach to prospective BIPOC students and service to BIPOC students on campus. 
  • The student organizations First Generation Network and FLIP — First Generation and Low Income Partnership — have collaborated to sponsor an event or programmatic initiative each month to support first-generation and low-income students.

Planning and Accountability 

  • The Board of Trustees has formed a working group to focus on the execution of its anti-racism action plan, as well as on accountability for the execution of the College leadership’s commitments.
  • Public Safety and Service, in collaboration with the Reimagining Campus Safety Committee, developed, reviewed and revised several policies related to student interactions in the residence halls and on campus. 
  • The College launched a comprehensive set of affinity-based dialogues for faculty and staff across a variety of cultural, marginalized and vulnerable populations. 

Understanding and Acknowledging College History 

  • The president has appointed Head Archivist Leslie Fields and Chief Diversity Officer Kijua Sanders-McMurtry as co-chairs of a new History, Legacies and Memory Task Force. The goals and charge of this task force will be included in our next update, following the appointment of its membership and after its first meeting.

We remain stalwart in our convictions and welcome ongoing conversations related to these  action steps and the plan as a whole. We will continue to engage our campus community as we move Mount Holyoke forward. Please share your thoughts with us at

Sonya Stephens, President
Shannon D. 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 College Relations
Dorothy Mosby, Interim Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Robin Randall, Vice President for Enrollment Management
Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer