Aoun lays out anti-racism plans in 9-point email


File photo by Dylan Shen

Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun speakers on the creation of the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion in 2013.

Charlie Wolfson, news staff

President Joseph E. Aoun announced a set of measures Monday meant to confront anti-Black discrimination and improve the experiences of Black students at Northeastern. A new advisory board for the Northeastern University Police Department, an emphasis on the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion, a promotion for a Black associate dean and plans for anti-racism training were among the nine “actionable steps” Aoun laid out in an email to the community.

“You have urged Northeastern to take a deep and honest look at itself, to do more to confront anti-Black discrimination, and to achieve our ambitions for diversity, inclusion, and equality on our campuses,” Aoun wrote. “I have listened to your ideas and your calls for action.”

Aoun pledged to elevate the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion, which was created in 2013. 

“If anyone in this community feels that they are not full members of the Northeastern family, that is unacceptable,” Aoun said in his 2013 speech announcing the council. 

Monday, just over seven years after that speech, Aoun wrote that the work of the council will be elevated with a focus on community input and promoting scholarship that advances social justice. The council is led by Deans James Hackney and Uta Poiger.

The new community advisory board for NUPD comes while calls are growing across the country for police reform and even the defunding of police departments. The NU Student Government Association’s Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion called for defunding NUPD in a statement from June 4.

“We cannot breathe,” wrote the director, Sade Adewunmi, a rising fifth-year criminal justice major. “Not in the streets and not in our own university.”

The new advisory board would be composed of students, faculty and staff, but Aoun wrote Monday that most of the details are still to be worked out by Senior Vice President Ralph Martin.

Aoun announced that Associate Dean Robert Jose has been promoted to dean of cultural and spiritual life and will be a member of Aoun’s cabinet. After adding Jose, who is Black, the cabinet is 11 people with a white majority. 

“Dean Jose brings a wealth of experience to this role, most notably a proven track-record of working with, and empowering, students of color,” Aoun wrote.

Aoun wrote that he has charged his top two officials, Provost David Madigan and Chancellor Ken Henderson, with increasing the diversity of the students, faculty and staff. He said his goal is for Northeastern to reflect the diversity of the United States by 2025. 

According to Forbes, 3.6% of Northeastern students are Black. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 13.4% of Americans are Black. The president’s email did not name specific steps toward making Northeastern’s enrollment reflect the makeup of the nation. He wrote that he has asked his senior vice presidents to develop plans to increase representation in departments and the plans will be “developed and updated on an annual basis.”

Aoun also charged his cabinet with some other broad mandates, such as working with employer partners to promote diverse hiring, engaging with minority-owned businesses in the community and improving the student support afforded to Black students on campus.