November 2, 2020
Dear Members of the Eastman Community,
This past June, I invited twenty members of the Eastman Community—students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community partners—to serve on the Eastman Action Commission for Racial Justice. At that time, I wrote, “The time is now for Eastman to take bold and decisive actions that do more than demonstrate our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access—our actions must also provide clear evidence of our stance against racism, bigotry, and discrimination.”
It is a privilege for me to release the full Report and Recommendations of the Eastman Action Commission for Racial Justice. This is a powerful and comprehensive report, for which I encourage every member of the Eastman Community to read carefully. I am extremely grateful to the members of the Commission, and especially to co-chairs Jean Pedersen, Associate Professor of History, and Lee Koonce, Artistic Director of the Gateways Music Festival and Senior Advisor to the Dean. It is clear that every member of this Commission devoted a remarkable amount of time, energy, and care to examining objectively and critically many elements our school and our community.
The first overarching recommendation of the Commission is widespread distribution of the report to the entire Eastman Community, followed by Town Hall meetings to discuss the Commission’s findings and recommendations, and to begin a school-wide conversation about racial justice.
I am eager to work with the members of our community to implement the Commission’s recommendations as we are able in the coming years. Some of the recommendations that I am implementing immediately include:
- Creating an ongoing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council to help guide the school in its efforts to become an anti-racist institution based on recommendations from this report, and to advise the School in its efforts toward inclusion of other marginalized and/or under-represented populations.
- Developing Eastman-specific education workshops for all faculty, staff, and students to be offered this academic year.
- Bolstering recruitment efforts to increase the number of BIPOC faculty, staff, and students.
- Assigning responsibilities to senior-level leadership for specific Diversity, Equity, Access, and Belonging initiatives, in collaboration with the university-wide Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
- Committing to ensuring that every person is treated fairly and equitably upon entering the Eastman campus and using any Eastman facility.
- Commissioning Black composers to write new compositions as part of Eastman’s upcoming Centennial celebration.
As I stated when forming this Commission, Eastman’s commitment to the enrichment of community life is steadfast. As artists and educators, it is our responsibility to create and model the world as we desire it to be within our own community—free of racism, discrimination and oppression. Tangible change will occur as a result of meaningful actions.
The Eastman Action Commission for Racial Justice fulfilled its charge most admirably. This report will serve as the foundation upon which we will build our future, and it represents a significant step in our ongoing effort to be a community that is fully inclusive and supportive of every member within it. Together, we will cultivate the environment and school we aspire to be in the near and long-term future.
Jamal J. Rossi
Joan and Martin Messinger Dean
Eastman School of Music
Eastman School of Music | University of Rochester | 26 Gibbs Street | Rochester, NY 14604