By Meena Bose and W. Houston Dougharty
As co-chairs of the President’s Task Force on Representation on Public Spaces at Hofstra, we are excited to announce that the Task Force convened for its first meeting on Sept. 21.
At this first meeting, we all agreed that we will engage actively in rigorous inquiry and civil exchange, welcoming ideas, resources, opinions and questions from our campus community. Our efforts will dovetail productively with the multitude of programs on campus this year that are part of the No Hate at Hofstra series.
President Rabinowitz created the Task Force after important conversations in the spring of 2018 about the Hofstra Museum’s Thomas Jefferson statue north of the Mack Student Center. The purview of the Task Force is to explore the complexities of representations of identity and culture on campus and how our public spaces are used to convey our mission and community – with the goal of sending a report to the President in the spring 2019 semester with recommendations for immediate and longer-term action. In May of 2018 the President named us as committee co-chairs and gave us the following charge:
“…to consider further dialogue and education about our founding fathers, the Atlantic slave trade and Western expansion; to think about what freedom and equality mean at the University; and to consider how we use history to advance understanding and build a better, more just world. Among the undertakings the Task Force will consider is an academic conference to study our founding and slavery, as well as other means of education on issues of equality and history, including new exhibits or artwork or potential contextualization for the monuments and art on campus.”
After consultation with us, the President invited students, alumni, faculty and administrators to join the Task Force. The members of the Task Force, listed alphabetically, are:
Elfreda Blue, Special Education department chair
Melissa Connolly, vice president, University Relations
Fred Davis ’85, alumni representative
Deandra Denton ’20, Student Government Association vice president
Bernard J. Firestone, professor of political science
Beck Galbraith ’19, Intercultural Coalition student representative
Aashish Kumar, associate professor of radio/TV/film and Center for Civic Engagement co-director
Jonathan Lightfoot, associate professor of teaching, learning and technology, and director, Center for “Race,” Culture and Social Justice
Maryam Qureshi ’19, Dean of Students Diversity Advisory Board representative
Alexis Redd ’20, Maurice A. Deane School of Law
Benjamin Rifkin, dean, Hofstra College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Gail Simmons, provost
Katrina Sims, assistant professor of history
Alan Singer, professor, teaching, learning and technology
Roosevelt Smith, NOAH associate dean and executive director
Nancy Richner, Hofstra University Museum of Art
Geri Solomon, Hofstra University Library Special Collections
To begin our work, we are collecting readings of all types, on themes such as public art, histories of racism, slavery and the Founding Fathers; and case studies about how municipalities and educational institutions are dealing with issues of representation. We invite campus participation in this work.
We have created a website that allows members of the Hofstra community to offer suggestions and send other examples for the Task Force to consider. This is available at www.hofstra.edu/taskforce. The form embedded on this website will take you to the portal. We want the feedback we receive to represent thoughts from our Hofstra community, so the feedback form is password protected. All submissions will be read and considered.
As we move forward with this work, we will continue to update you and solicit your thoughts. We look forward to the discussions.
Meena Bose is the executive dean of the Public Policy and Public Service Program in the Peter S. Kalikow School of Government, Public Policy and International Affairs.
W. Houston Dougharty is the vice president for Student Affairs.