President Nathan Hatch emailed this message to students, faculty and staff on May 13:
As another academic year comes to a close and we break from our normal rhythm, we have an opportunity to reflect on our experiences. First, let me extend my congratulations to the Class of 2019 for their many accomplishments and contributions to our community. We look forward to celebrating with you in the coming days.
Wake Forest remains a work in progress. I have learned a great deal over the course of the year as I have sat with students, faculty and staff, especially those from underrepresented groups. I have listened intently about their lives at Wake Forest, including explicit examples of discrimination and overt racism. I am grateful to so many for their honesty and courage in sharing these painful experiences. These conversations have deepened my understanding of how, together, we must move forward, and I feel it is important to conclude this semester with definitive actions toward improvement.
Let me affirm for you what I hold to be true.
I will do everything possible in my role as president to move our institution in a direction that actively honors these beliefs, understanding that there is a recognizable difference between our reality and our aspiration.
To that end, I am establishing the President’s Commission on Race, Equity and Community. The commission will be comprised of a representative group of students, faculty, staff and external community members convened to examine the realities of our current situation, in light of our past, and where we need to focus our attention moving forward. It is charged with presenting specific, actionable recommendations and will meet at least monthly during the academic year 2020, with the inaugural meeting being held in September 2019.
In the meantime, we are working across campus to take immediate action where we can. For example, we have dedicated the lounge at Kitchin Hall to the Black Student Alliance, and we are enhancing our unconscious bias training for all faculty, staff and student organizations. We have reshaped the exploration into the University’s history regarding slavery and racial inequities into a new committee on Slavery, Race and Memory. Additionally, I have asked our team to share the ongoing work of the commission and related committees to allow for transparency about what is being done. There are many more areas in which we can make a difference immediately, and we are committed to seeking those and acting on them.
Wake Forest belongs to all of us. We shape it every day with our actions and our commitment to one another. In a society where tolerance, empathy, compromise and forgiveness are undervalued, we will continue to nurture those virtues for our common good.
Real change will ultimately come when we understand and appreciate one another for who we are. In my experience, that happens when people, with genuine relationships, work alongside one another toward common goals. I remain committed to making Wake Forest a better place for all.
Nathan O. Hatch