President Brown on Plans for Advancing Social Justice at FIT

Dear FIT Community,

The voice of the 19th-century abolitionist Frederick Douglass is a great inspiration. He said and did many things of importance, but the two statements that, for me, speak the loudest are: “Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.” And “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”

In other words, without struggle there is no progress.

The yield from the current agitation is seen all across America and many parts of the world. We were encouraged and hopeful in the sixties—but this is truly a movement—it is authentic and it feels as if we will be able to measure and track progress and celebrate change.

Earlier this year, we began a conversation on campus about our own experiences with racism here at FIT. It was a sobering moment for me personally, and as a result of many conversations and town halls with students, faculty, staff, and alumni, it became clear the many issues plaguing our community.

Many of you have asked what FIT will do, how will we use our voices to make a difference and contribute positively to our progress as a people. Realistically, what we can do is figure out how best to channel our creativity and our caring and our outrage into meaningful actions.

Because I believe that collectively we can envision creative ways to make a difference I am scheduling a series of discussions with students, faculty, and staff to hear both your concerns and your ideas for actions that we, as a community, can realistically undertake. Among the things that we are currently doing and planning is our work to develop a scholarship in the name of George Floyd to help us to recruit and support more minority students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to attend our college.

We have raised over $100,000 for emergency funding for students impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting financial straits they and their families are experiencing. Students will receive information on eligibility and how to apply for these funds shortly. In addition, we applied for and now await the receipt of CARES funding from the federal government, for those students who filed a financial aid form at the start of the academic year and were eligible for federal financial aid.

We will use our communications platforms to dialogue with those who can speak about discrimination and the deliberate actions that have marginalized or in other ways have negatively impacted their progress—and to hear their unique perspectives on ways industry must change in order to ensure equal access for designers and entrepreneurs of every race and ethnicity.

We are planning to build a Social Impact Collaborative with a special focus on Social Justice. This can be a vehicle to expand our reach into the national dialogue about equity and inclusion in America. I am anxious to hear from you about the topics you believe should be showcased and investigated in this format with experts who have devoted their professional careers to examining these issues and suggesting solutions. The time has finally arrived when the world is poised to listen.

We will mount a major voter registration campaign so that every voice in our community will be heard in the 2020 elections. The most empowering thing that we can do is vote. We have an obligation to ensure that every member of our community is registered to vote. By your vote—or lack thereof—you invest the power in the locally elected officials to recruit, train, promote members of the police departments and their programs in your community. By your vote—or lack thereof—the presidency will be retained or transitioned to new leadership in November 2020.

These are just some of the ways that FIT can be a strong voice at this pivotal moment in our history. We have to keep the dialogue and the ideas for reform out in the public arena. I need to hear your ideas about the additional ways that we can act.

Much of what needs to be done includes changing the hearts and minds of many people in America. But the urgency of this moment requires that we act quickly. Individually we can mobilize for action, we can support change-makers that we endorse, we can demand new legislation that ensures that we never witness the atrocities of 2020 again. Justice demands nothing less.

Dr. Joyce F. Brown
Fashion Institute of Technology


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