To all members of the Northeastern Community:

One week after we paused to grieve and reflect on the brutal killing of George Floyd, and the systemic racism and injustices that exist in our society, I have had the opportunity to hear from and meet with many of you—students, faculty, staff, and alumni. 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.

I have listened to your ideas and your calls for action. Our initial work as a community is meant to achieve two goals: First, create a purposeful approach that will improve the presence and experiences of all under-represented populations, with particular emphasis on Black Americans—in purpose and effect, all Americans of African descent. Second, to make this the work of everyone at Northeastern who is in a position of influence and leadership.

While there will be many more opportunities to share your experiences and perspectives, today I am announcing several actionable steps that we can undertake immediately:

Community Advisory Board for NUPD: The mission of the Northeastern University Police Department is to enhance public safety, provide service, and build community. To this end, we will establish an NUPD community advisory board comprised of students, faculty, staff, and a member of the Boston community. This board will help guide, inform, and strengthen NUPD’s relationship with the community—both within and outside Northeastern. I have asked Senior Vice President Ralph Martin to review best practices around this structure, and he will announce details later this month. In addition, to engender mutual understanding and enhance trust, NUPD Chief Mike Davis will continue to hold a series of direct engagements with members of our community.

Representation: I am charging Provost David Madigan and Chancellor Ken Henderson, and all senior vice presidents, with increasing diversity at all levels—students, faculty, and staff. This will include increasing the number of Black American students enrolled in our undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs, and increasing faculty and staff of color. Our goal is for Northeastern to reflect the diversity of our nation and society by 2025.

President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion: We will elevate the work of this council, which has been led by Deans James Hackney and Uta Poiger. A key focus will be continuing to seek community input and recommendations on how Northeastern can be more diverse, inclusive, and equitable across every dimension of what we do. In collaboration with the Provost and the Chancellor, this work will include actively promoting scholarship and curricular innovation that advances the cause of racial justice.

University-wide Accountability: I have asked each of Northeastern’s senior vice presidents to work with their departments and senior managers to develop specific, measurable goals to increase black and brown representation in each of our academic and administrative units. These plans will be developed and updated on an annual basis.

Appointment of Robert Jose to the President’s Cabinet: Effective immediately, Associate Dean Robert Jose is promoted to the role of Dean for Cultural and Spiritual Life, and will become a member of my cabinet. In this expanded role, Dean Jose will serve as a special advisor to the president on diversity and inclusion. Dean Jose brings a wealth of experience to this role, most notably a proven track-record of working with, and empowering, students of color.

Student Support: A message I have heard repeatedly in recent weeks is that our Black students, in particular, need to receive better student support. They must feel valued, included, and safe at their university. In addition to appointing Dean Jose to the cabinet, where his background and expertise will be essential, I have asked the Provost and the Chancellor to place special emphasis on the experience of our Black students. This should be reflected in our work to recruit and retain academic advisers, co-op coordinators, career coaches, and health care professionals.

Cultural Competency and Anti-Racism Training: Every member of the Northeastern community must feel that they are full citizens of this university. To ensure awareness of both conscious and unconscious biases—and to eradicate it—we will institute universal training for our community, focusing on “cultural and racial literacy” in every corner of the university.

Community Engagement: We have an opportunity to emphasize, deepen, and enlarge our ongoing efforts to be actively engaged in Boston and in communities surrounding all our campuses. Whether it be educational programs for local youth or strengthening ties with minority-owned businesses, we can and must do more. I have asked Senior Vice Presidents Ralph Martin and Tom Nedell to lead these efforts.

Amplifying our Impact through our Employer Partners: We will team up with our broad range of employers in developing best practices and expectations to promote the recruitment and advancement of people of color, particularly from underrepresented groups. As our partners seek to become more diverse and inclusive, Northeastern can serve as a beacon and lead by example. I have charged the Provost, Chancellor, and our academic deans with developing a specific plan and leading this effort.

Achieving change will require resources and an unwavering commitment. As we undertake this important work, transparency will be paramount to all that we do, and university leaders will provide regular updates on our progress.

Let us continue to work together toward these shared goals. Our efforts will do more than transform a single institution. Through the impact of our mission, we will also contribute to a more just and equitable world.


Joseph E. Aoun