Update on Student-Focused Antiracist Initiatives and Programs at Columbia

April 27, 2022

Dear Columbia Community,

Today I write to share an update on antiracism initiatives and programs focused on our student body, itself a diverse, vital community of more than 30,000 individuals across Columbia’s schools. Student-focused efforts are one of several facets of the ongoing work to fulfill our commitment to antiracism; students’ experiences at Columbia can shape them to be advocates for justice and equity as they prepare for their professional and personal journeys far beyond their time here.

There are numerous efforts across the institution, within Columbia’s 17 schools and also from University Life, to promote and enhance inclusion and belonging, furthering Columbia’s efforts to be an antiracist institution. You can read more about the school-based initiatives here.

In close partnership with central and school-based partners, University Life has launched these initiatives. While by no means comprehensive, these efforts undertaken in partnership with students across the University, play a pivotal part in advancing antiracism at our institution: 

  • Inclusive Public Safety Advisory Committee: Following President Bollinger’s January 2022 launch, the Advisory Committee, which includes students, faculty and staff from across the University began meeting this February. Through monthly meetings with Public Safety representatives, the Advisory Committee is working through recommendations to support safety while prioritizing inclusion and belonging on Columbia’s campuses. You can learn more about the Committee’s work here
  • Racial Justice Mini-Grant Program: In its second year, this program funds student-driven projects focused on educating students, broadening the conversation on antiracism, and strengthening our campus culture of inclusion and belonging. To date, 20 grantees have produced podcasts, workshops, panels, and more on topics including racial justice in STEM, reproductive justice, and colorism.
  • Resources for Promoting Social Justice and Combating Bias: University Life created these pages to share resources and tools to combat incidents of bias. These pages are continually being refined and additional pages will be added later this Spring.
  • The Graduate Initiative for Inclusion and Engagement includes dedicated round-tables, workshops and mentorships opportunities with Black, Latinx, Asian/Asian American, international, and first-generation faculty.
  • Campus Conversations: Events that give students across the University a chance to engage in meaningful, peer-facilitated dialogue about identity and inclusion, enhancing students’ abilities to communicate across differences.
  • Special Events: University Life produces signature events on timely issues, including a number of events focused on racial justice.
  • Affinity Spaces: In-person and virtual affinity spaces for students who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPoC), as well as groups for first-generation and LGBTQ+ students.
  • Community Citizenship Initiative: Community citizenship at Columbia is informed by three core values: inclusion & belonging, student well-being, and sexual respect. Students are introduced to this framework before they arrive through University Life’s pre-orientation tutorial, Welcome to Columbia. They continue to deepen their understanding of these values by participating in the Community Citizenship Initiative their first year.
  • Support for DACA and Undocumented Students: University Life serves as a central coordinating resource and hub to support Columbia students and scholars who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and undocumented.

Though great progress has been made, this work is–and will be–ongoing. With gratitude and hope, I close in anticipation of the important work ahead of us, collectively and individually.

Dennis A. Mitchell (he/him/his)
Executive Vice President for University Life
Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement
Professor of Dental Medicine at CUMC