June 9, 2020
Dear Pratt Community,
The recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, Maurice Gordon, Dion Johnson, Manuel Ellis, and so many others have yet again shown in graphic detail the blatant disregard for Black lives in America. I was appalled and furious watching the video of a white police officer looking directly into a phone camera with his hands in his pockets, while he calmly and callously killed George Floyd in broad daylight by kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes. These tragic incidents keep happening without any accountability, and we unequivocally stand in solidarity with the protesters who are demanding justice for all of the Black people unjustly killed by the police and racist vigilantes.
As a tall, dark-skinned, Black woman with long dreadlocks, I am acutely feeling and coping with the pain and despair of this moment, like many in our community. I have personally experienced the fear and anger from being racially profiled, followed by security in stores while shopping, or being pulled over by the police for driving while Black on countless occasions. I was a victim of a very public racist incident when I was a graduate student in business school. I have also had my intelligence, credentials and experience challenged or questioned on a regular basis because of my race. Being a Black person in this country and having to prove your worth and value every day is completely and totally exhausting. I have also been deeply saddened by the disproportionate number of Black people who are losing their jobs, getting terribly sick and dying prematurely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout my career, I have been a champion for diversity, equity and inclusion and a passionate advocate for underrepresented identities. When I joined Pratt in July 2018 as the inaugural Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), I was tasked with establishing our Office of DEI and expanding the vision of our Center for Equity and Inclusion. I hired three team members and we established Pratt’s DEI Council, a committee of fifty staff, faculty and students, to implement Pratt’s DEI Strategic Plan and create an infrastructure for accountability across the institute. We also established a DEI Chair position on the Student Government Association and launched the Student Diversity Advisory Board and the Staff Council. The Bias Education Response Task Force was also reconvened and we created an online Bias Incident Report Form to better track and investigate complaints of racism, sexual harassment, and discrimination. We developed and administered several DEI trainings and workshops for students, staff and faculty. Our office also provides administrative and financial support for Black Lives Matter Pratt and collaborates closely with our Black Student Union, Latinx Student Alliance, Queer Pratt and The Black Alumni of Pratt on various events and initiatives. We will continue to partner with these groups and other campus allies on next steps to improve the experiences of our Black students, staff and faculty.
We understand that many community members outside of the DEI Council may be unaware of these efforts, so my team will be releasing a detailed report this summer about our progress on the DEI Strategic Plan, as well as the results from the fall 2019 Campus Climate Survey. We are proud of the accomplishments made over the last two years, yet understand how much more work we have to do and how much time it will take to make real cultural change at Pratt. While we have dramatically improved the diversity of our senior staff and deans, we need to continue efforts to increase our numbers of Black students, staff and faculty, while also ensuring that everyone has equitable opportunities for success and advancement while they are here. I will continue to partner with President Bronet, Provost Pillow, and the rest of senior staff to host additional dialogues and town halls on community concerns, where we will listen and use these conversations to develop new action plans for the upcoming academic year.
The hardest part of my job is hearing the painful and traumatic stories from students, staff, faculty and alumni about racist incidents they have experienced during their time at Pratt. We cannot dismantle centuries of systemic oppression, institutional racism, and white supremacy unless we work together to find solutions and hold each other accountable. In the meantime, our office is compiling a list of resources to get involved, do anti-racist work, and support the Black community that will be available on the DEI website shortly. We must seize this moment in history to fight injustice, renew our commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and make the investments and policy changes needed to become a better Pratt for all of our community members.
Nsombi B. Ricketts
Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion