Darrien Davenport announcement, 2021–22 DEIB priorities

President Iuliano emailed the community on July 22, 2021 about the departure of Darrien Davenport and the College’s priorities for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB).

Dear Members of the Gettysburg College Community,

It’s the people who make a community. It’s the people who give meaning to a career. It’s the people who profoundly shape our lives and make us better.

As you read earlier today, Darrien Davenport has announced the difficult decision to conclude his distinguished tenure at the College. While we as a community rightly support Darrien as he embarks on this new chapter in his life and career—one that I know from my conversations with him is right for both personal and professional reasons—I also know many of us understandably feel a sense of deep personal sadness in witnessing the departure of one of the very people who brings this campus its vitality.

Darrien’s impact at Gettysburg was felt immediately. Upon his arrival in 2016 as Executive Director of the Office of Multicultural Engagement (OME), he immersed himself in the hard work of building this critical office at the College from the ground up and, in turn, transformed the educational experience and lives of countless Gettysburgians, particularly our students, alumni, and employees of color. A champion for authentic systematic change at the institution in the essential arenas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), Darrien has long served as a galvanizing voice for these commitments and one of the key architects in beginning to take these commitments from words to tangible action.

On campus, Darrien was a colleague, a role model, and a friend. Darrien served as a member of my cabinet, overseeing our Human Resources Office and serving as Assistant Secretary to the Board of Trustees. More recently, he served as Interim Chief Diversity Officer. I can attest that every member of the President’s Council benefitted from his vision, innovative thinking, collaborative spirit, and most of all, how he approached every situation with great empathy, compassion, and his kind-hearted nature.

There’s no question that Darrien consistently added value to all that he touched, but Darrien’s portfolio and impact speak to something of yet greater importance: the need to ensure that we have contemporary, integrated, and dynamic DEIB systems, structures, and practices. A clear focus on these structural issues will help respond to challenges that many BIPOC students and employees shoulder on this campus. It will also permit us to ensure that we are being as effective as possible in advancing this essential work. We must continue to prioritize our DEIB work, strengthen its infrastructure, and hold ourselves accountable for seeing this change come to fruition.

2020-21 DEIB Priorities

As I have noted in previous communications, creating a truly inclusive community requires ongoing commitment and work. Given the entrenched nature of the underlying realities, efforts must build upon efforts, and each year the College should identify the next steps in advancing this essential work—steps that build off prior commitments, that recognize the evolving conditions on campus and beyond, and that have the most promise of helping foster enduring, structural change.

Our community made important progress last year, most notably through the implementation of recommendations either emerging from or inspired by the BARC report. This year, in parallel with our strategic planning process, we will continue to expand this work.

I will work closely with members of President’s Council, as well as the BARC co-chairs and members of our community, to outline our DEIB priorities for the coming year. In addition, the following priorities are already in the works:

  • The adoption of a new curriculum that has DEIB issues as a central commitment.
  • The completion and launch of our new strategic plan, focused on the overall student experience, again, with DEIB as a core tenet.
  • A comprehensive examination of our diversity infrastructure. As shared previously, this is an opportune time to review our diversity infrastructure to ensure that our DEIB structures are integrated, contemporary, and effective.
  • The launch of a national search during the 2021-22 academic year and the hiring of a new Chief Diversity Officer, who will sit on the President’s Council and serve as the chief architect of our DEIB work into the future. Dr. Jeanne Arnold gave invaluable service to the College. This search will reveal the candidate who can best take Dr. Arnold’s work to the next level, in the context of the structural changes that may emerge from the College’s diversity infrastructure examination.

In the meantime, the position is simply too important, and the work before us too pressing, to remain unfilled. As a result, the College has engaged an executive placement service to help us hire a full-time, interim CDO who will be exclusively committed to DEIB work without additional responsibilities.

  • Given budgetary realities brought on by COVID and other factors, the College has been very cautious in creating incremental positions. Nonetheless, in light of the volume and the importance of our DEIB work, last year I authorized a new senior position to work with the Chief Diversity Officer. Although the search for that position has not yet been completed, one of the first priorities of the new permanent CDO will be to determine how they would ideally like to configure the position and to search for its initial incumbent.
  • In consultation with Vice President Ehrlich, as well as in alignment with the broader diversity infrastructure examination, ensure appropriate staffing of the OME for the 2021-22 academic year and into the future.
  • The distribution of our next campus climate survey.
  • The assessment of each division’s Inclusion Action Plan (IAP)—including as informed by the BARC report—and a determination of where each division’s plan needs to be strengthened, and the implementation of measurable steps in their evolution.
  • Above all, accountability to the campus community on each of these priorities.

Again, the initiatives above summarize our 2021-22 priorities, but as significant as they are, they cannot—and should not—be the only DEIB commitments we advance this year as a community.

Thank you

I want to express my heartfelt thanks to Darrien Davenport for all that he contributed to this remarkable institution, and to the lives of so many fellow Gettysburgians. More personally, I will acutely feel his absence—his steadiness, friendship, good cheer, bedrock values, and profound humanity. Darrien, you will be deeply missed.

I would also like to express my gratitude to all of those across our community who continue to pour their full selves into advancing our DEIB work. It is essential. Thank you for your belief in who we are and what we are capable of as a College. Together, let’s ensure this belief results in progress that is both seen and felt by all.

Sincerely,

Bob Iuliano
President