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Dean's Statement about Promoting Racial Justice at ILR

Dear ILR Community

On July 16, President Pollack sent the Cornell community a message announcing a series of actions to further the university’s efforts to promote racial justice. I wanted to provide you all with an update as to actions that ILR is currently taking to further these efforts to address the issues of racial injustice. 

Promoting racial equality and justice is a central issue in the world of work. As such, ILR needs to make it a central part of our academic work and to take a leading role in Cornell’s efforts to promote racial justice. We also need to prioritize promoting racial justice within our community, both through who is admitted or hired into our community and who is included within it. As in our society, this is a major challenge and a project requiring long term commitment. But it is important as well that we begin with immediate actions. 

Below is a brief list of some of the actions we are taking to date:

  • Our undergraduate curriculum is a central expression of our priorities in teaching. One of the priorities identified in the current curriculum review is to enhance the teaching related to issues of diversity and inclusion through a new course requirement. As the faculty move towards approving a new curriculum in the coming Fall, development of this course requirement is a priority, building on President Pollack’s call for new educational requirements on racism, bias, and equity.
  • We are also compiling a list of current courses that address racial equity and justice to assist students in finding coursework that explores these issues in our current curriculum and I am calling on our faculty to consider how they can incorporate these issues in their courses.
  • This year’s First-Year and Transfer Colloquium will have a focal theme of the dual crises of 2020: racial injustice and the impact of COVID-19.
  • Issues of diversity and inclusion are also important to include in our graduate programs and we will review our course offerings and requirements in this area, including in the MILR, EMHRM and MPS.
  • We will continue to make having a diverse student body a priority in our admissions. Among the colleges at Cornell, ILR has the highest proportion of underrepresented minority students in our undergraduate population. For our graduate programs, we have more work to do and will redouble our efforts in recruiting and admissions to increase the numbers of underrepresented minority students in these programs. The graduate office has begun these efforts including recruiting at graduate program fairs targeted for minority students. 
  • Efforts will continue to diversify the faculty and staff through the hiring process. The 15 new faculty we have hired over the past couple of years are the most diverse group of faculty we have hired at ILR and enhance the diversity of our areas of research and teaching strength. The reality is that the financial pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic will limit hiring opportunities in the next few years, but when we have opportunities to hire we will make diversity a priority in hiring.
  • We have made a priority in our development fundraising efforts to support students and academic endeavors that focus on diversity, inclusion and equity.
  • President Pollack has invited participation in a Campus Community Book Read of “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi. Students have been provided access to the book and ILR will purchase ebook access for any faculty or staff who request it. Discussion groups for the book will be launched in the fall. We hope this will foster deeper discussion and understanding of racial issues within our own community.

To assist with our progress and to ensure that we are being as inclusive as possible, I’ve asked the co-chairs of the ILR Diversity and Inclusion Council, George Boyer, Denise Brown-Hart and Kara Lombardi, to suggest ways that we can gather more input from around the school. They are working to expand the participation on the council as well as develop an intake process to gather feedback from our employees. They will also be analyzing the ‘Belonging at Cornell’ survey data to help guide additional actions. You will be hearing more from them directly over the coming weeks.

I want to remind everyone how important this initiative is to our school. We are in this for the long haul. We will not be satisfied with short-term measures at the expense of the long-term effort to address racial injustice. I want to thank each of you for your diligence and commitment to make ILR a better place, every day.


Alexander J.S. Colvin
Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean and
Martin F. Scheinman ’75, MS ’76 Professor