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Response for Black Lives Matter: June 2020

The Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Stephen C. Sutton sent the following message to all Student Affair staff on


Dear Friends and Colleagues:

I have been struggling with what to say and how to say it over the last several days as I observe the painful, unjust, and systemic issues of racial injustice that are bold reminders to me of the significant work that I get to do to address institutional racism, ignorance, bigotry, and abuse. My indecision and delayed action, however, left a void. As a campus leader, it is a significant part of my stewardship of this role and for the division to be accountable and action oriented. By being delayed with this message, I have missed an opportunity to stand resolutely in greater solidarity with Black and Brown colleagues, students, and community members, and to proclaim very clearly, distinctly, and immediately that Black Lives Matter.

The grief, anger, outrage, and sadness I feel in these moments, while they may seem overwhelming from my perspective, still occur within the safety of the white privilege I carry as a cisgender, straight white male. I chose to come to Berkeley for the first time in 1987 because I felt that Berkeley made me a better person, it helped me be accountable to myself and others, and provided me with the personal insight of when I am wrong. Berkeley continues to still give me these gifts and challenge me to be better.

I am committed to showing up as a better leader by speaking up more and loudly when I see incidents  of oppression and racism. I will continue to work on my own ignorance and biases and strive to become more conscious of the privilege that I carry every single day.  I commit to being transparent and honest and confronting my own inadequacies.  This means that I need to solicit and act upon feedback that I receive from ANY member of the division or beyond. While it is not your responsibility to teach me, this is a request for you to hold me accountable in any way for which you are willing.

Our division needs to and CAN do better. I see so much passion, expertise, and commitment in our division and I know we can and will step up to this challenge; and I acknowledge it is my role as a leader to set the tone, expectation, and example for our Division to do better.  I commit to developing ideas, strategies, and resources to address racism as well as other forms of oppression wherever they exist. I will use our resources to promote professional development opportunities to address anti-Blackness, as well as other critical educational opportunities designed to address the needs of all identities. I commit to being bolder and engaging in courageous and difficult conversations. I hope you will, too.

Importantly, if you or someone you know has experienced any act of discrimination, I encourage you to report it immediately to your supervisor,, and/or to the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (, (510) 643-7985). If you need help, you can reach out to me personally.

This message is unfiltered and from my heart.  I invite you to reach out to me directly and share your thoughts about what I can do better as a leader to help address these deeply rooted issues.

Finally, I am working with the Student Affairs Executive Team to develop a concrete list of actions I can take personally and we can take together as a division to combat anti-Blackness and institutional racism. Expect to hear more from me soon. Please be assured that while I am firmly committed to self-reflection and personal growth, I will move without delay to improve the experiences of Black students, staff, and faculty on campus.

I express my deepest appreciation to the members of our Black community for all that you are holding, especially during these moments. To the rest of us, especially my white colleagues, I hope you will join me in doing the critical self-work that is necessary in creating a more equitable and inclusive environment for all.

In solidarity,