Skip to content

The recent calls for racial justice and national protests have renewed the urgency to address white supremacy and racism in our nation and world.

With recognition that addressing racism and bias requires a commitment to anti-racist policy and practice, the Sanford School of Public Policy is working together to create change and to fight social bias, discrimination and racism at the school. Informed by research and observations, the Sanford community came together in recent months to create a guiding and living document named the 2020 Sanford Collective Action Plan.

The Sanford School’s mission is to improve lives by researching the most pressing public policy issues and preparing students for lives of leadership, civic engagement and public service. Diversity, equity and inclusion are among the school’s core values.

The goal of the 2020 collective action plan is to create a community that embraces all its members and educates leaders prepared to engage policy problems in ways that include the perspective of structural racism and inequality, said Dean Judith Kelley. To address social and racial injustices and fight racism, Sanford has organized a school-wide effort to consciously identify actions to combat these problems.

“At Sanford, we believe that diversity enhances our school and our academic excellence. This is an important step to collectively improve diversity, equity and inclusion. Our action plan is a not a final document, but rather a living document subject to feedback and improvement, and created with urgency in a time that necessitates more response and action,” she said.

Kelley noted that Sanford has been committed to diversity, equity and inclusion throughout its history. The school was founded by Terry Sanford, whose legacy illustrates the significance of public policy to support diversity, equity and inclusion. Sanford, a former North Carolina governor and U.S. Senator, introduced policies that addressed structural inequalities and systemic racism. As president of Duke University, he established the Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs (now the school) in this spirit.

In 2014 at Sanford, a taskforce led to the creation of a permanent committee, the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI). This task force was created to spearhead many changes at Sanford, including changes in hiring practices. Sanford also hired its first diversity and inclusion fellow as a result. Course offerings on structural inequality have grown substantially over the last five years. The committee has also been responsible for trainings around race, gender and sexuality, among its offerings.

In addition, passionate and hard-working student organizations at Sanford have formed to advocate for others including: Intercultural Exchange Committee, Bridging Communities, Policy in Living Color, Sanford Women in Policy, Sanford PRIDE, and the People’s Policy Alliance on programmatic efforts, and Duke-wide efforts such as the student group, Duke LIFE (Low-Income, First-Generation Engagement), founded by a Sanford student.

The 2020 collective action plan seeks to enable and track further transformation in the school. In all, the action plan details more than 225 specific and measurable actions the school will take to fight social bias, discrimination and racism. Sanford has engaged the entire community to assess all aspects of the school, its programs and work. The action plan was developed by the Sanford community with input from all units, centers and programs. Sanford held multiple sessions online this summer to discuss experiences and ideas to improve diversity, equity and inclusion. Teams, units, centers and programs developed measurable commitments in key areas based on input from the community: knowledge, behavior and identity.

Knowledge refers to actions to increase knowledge and understanding of the underlying problems of racism, bias and structural inequities that marginalized communities face and the ability of students, staff and faculty to become active advocates for change in society.

Examples of key actions related to knowledge:

  • Structural inequality and systemic racism will be covered in several existing required or foundational Sanford courses.
  • Sanford will arrange and require annual training in implicit bias, structural inequalities, and anti-racism for faculty and staff.

Behavior details actions to improve the experiences and climate at the school with a goal of making everyone feel that they are valued, belong and are equitable members of our community.

Examples of key actions related to behavior:

  • Sanford is implementing a more formal model of academic advising, to allow for greater (and more individualized) support for our students who come from disenfranchised or vulnerable communities.
  • For all events, we will be tracking the diversity of our panels to ensure that all voices represent us and are heard.

Identity refers to actions to change the composition of members of the community with a goal to increase diversity and make Sanford more representative of the world around us.

Examples of key actions related to identity:

  • In order to create transparency, consistency and uniformity in the recruitment and hiring process across the school, Sanford has developed an updated inclusive recruitment and hiring guide for faculty and staff positions.
  • Sanford seeks to increase the number of enrolled BIPOC students and will work to eliminate or decrease the barriers for BIPOC students enrolling at Sanford.

These are several examples of the hundreds of actions identified and being tracked in the action plan. Under leadership through the dean’s office, Sanford pledges to be accountable for progress, tracking and measuring progress toward transformation and the important fight against social bias, discrimination and racism.

How can alumni and friends get involved in Sanford’s commitment to anti-racism?