Justice Equity and Inclusion

Union Theological Seminary is absolute in its commitment to be an antiracist, anti-oppressive social justice institution. To this end, The Justice, Equity, and Inclusion (JEI) Committee are committed to the unrelenting work of addressing the interpersonal, institutional, and structural dynamics that perpetuate racism and all forms of oppression.

Origins

On May 20, 2020, Black faculty, students, and staff convened a virtual town hall to hear the experiences and concerns of Black students while at Union. Afterward, the Black Caucuses jointly submitted formal recommendations to the seminary’s administration. One of the recommendations was for ongoing antiracist and unconscious bias training. A small and diverse committee of faculty, staff and students interviewed potential consultants during the 2021-2022 academic year. Majors Leadership Group was selected, and in the Fall of 2021 the JEI initiative was formally launched.

Vision

Grounded in radical faith and justice, our vision is for Union to be a diverse and inclusive institution where all people (regardless of race; ethnicity; national or geographic origin; religious, philosophical, or political beliefs; gender identity; sexual orientation; age; ability; family structure, socioeconomic status, life experience or any other marginalized group with which they identify, are equipped with the knowledge, support and tools to thrive academically, professionally, personally, and spiritually; as we move toward the embodiment of a beloved community.

Mission

Guided by our traditions of ethics and justice, our mission is to hold Union Theological Seminary accountable to its commitment to justice, equity and inclusion, not just in word or speech, but in truth and action. By holding up the mirror to our institutional values, truths, and practices, we aspire to transform Union into a place where each and every individual in our community is fully seen, supported and whole.

Objectives

As a diverse group representing various groups of Union’s community, the JEI Committee was created to be the voice of institutional accountability and self-reflection, as it relates to antiracism and oppression in all forms at Union. Our work is centered on the following objectives:

  1. Identifying and addressing barriers that hinder Union’s commitment to antiracism and oppression; and providing guidance and support with strategies that remove these barriers.
  2. Holding grace-space for institutional reflection, accountability, growth, and healing, as it relates to the dismantling of racism and all forms of oppression. Central to this objective will be engaging the principles of restorative justice: a) repairing harm; b) strengthening relationships and understanding through empathy; and c) rebuilding trust.
  3. Providing ongoing critical assessment of Union’s effectiveness in addressing issues associated with justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion and overcoming any barriers.

How the JEI Committee Does its Work

The JEI Committee is an official seminary committee that operates alongside other institutional committees. However, the work of the JEI Committee falls most actively under Union’s Center for Community Engagement & Social Justice. The JEI Committee works alongside President Serene Jones in the work of making Union a more just institution.

To fulfill our mission, the JEI Committee work will include:
  • Meet once per month as a full committee and once per week as a working group.
  • Establish performance metrics and monitor progress on DEI initiatives through regular reporting.
  • Execute ongoing antiracist and unconscious bias training for Union faculty, staff, and students.
  • Work with the Union community to respond to incidents of racial bias, unrest or conflict.
  • Work with the Communications team to guide and initiate regular communications to the Union community, and to respond to communications therefrom, concerning JEI issues and progress on JEI initiatives.

Governance & Membership

Members of the JEI Committee are drawn from across the seminary and include students, staff, Trustee members, and faculty.

Following is our 2021-2022 JEI Committee Membership.

Student Representation

• Janay S.
• Galvin M.
• Neonu J.
• Maryann P.

Faculty Representation

• Dr. Timothy Adkins-Jones
• Dr. Jeremy Hultin
• Dr. Aliou C. Niang
• Dr. Su Yon Pak
• Dr. Sarah Azaransky (consulting faculty)

Board Representation

• Caroline Laguerre-Brown
• Calvin Mew
• Rev. Winnie Varghese

Staff/Administration Representation

• Rev. Fred A. Davie
• Dr. Lisa Rhodes
• Vanessa Hutchinson
• Afsheen Shamsi
• Kevin Bentley
• Abigail Asgaralli
• Rev. Karmen M. Smith

Want to get involved? Email jei@utsnyc.edu

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