December 2015 Newsletter: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Written by
Maura M. Fennessy
Dec. 12, 2015
Public Affaris icon

Throughout the country, on college campuses, in civic venues, and at holiday gatherings, Americans - and New Jerseyans - have been engaging in conversations about race, ethnicity and discrimination. Princeton students have been no exception, with some of their conversations focusing on Woodrow Wilson - his views on race and his legacy as the 13th President of Princeton University, the 34th Governor of New Jersey, and the 28th President of the United States.

In response to student concerns, President Christopher L. Eisgruber issued a message to university students, faculty, staff and alumni, noting that "We must commit ourselves to make this University a place where students from all backgrounds feel respected and valued." He highlighted the work of a Special Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, formed in December 2014, which made numerous recommendations to "provide a more welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds." And he asked the Board of Trustees to undertake a careful examination of Wilson's legacy, which they have agreed to do. They will be posting observations by scholars and biographers on Wilson and his legacy and inviting comments from anyone interested in these questions.

It is in this context that we begin this issue of with the research of Stacey Sinclair, associate professor of psychology and African American studies, into "unconscious bias," or how our implicit prejudices inform our interactions in the context of racial inequality. We also share with you a selection of the university's ongoing efforts to create a campus experience that values diversity and provides a comfortable space for thoughtful dialogue.

Happy Holidays to you and your families!

Stacey Sinclair


Stacey Sinclair was aware of inequality at a young age. "On some level I was always interested in injustice," said Sinclair, an associate professor of psychology and African American studies. "As a 7-year-old, I wanted to be the first black female to do everything." Today, Sinclair uses the tools of science to peel back the human psyche in search of the causes of racial inequality.   Read more.

You can learn more about Sinclair's work and the wide range of research underway at Princeton in the 2015-2016 issue of "Discovery: Research at Princeton"


Whistling Vivaldi cover


Months before the members of Princeton's Class of 2019 began their freshman year this fall, they received their first assignment - to read "Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do" by social psychologist Claude Steele for the third year of the Princeton Pre-read. "Events of the past year underscore the need for all of us to think carefully and critically about how stereotypes affect our campus, our society and the world," Eisgruber said. "This book presents some of the most important social science work done in the last quarter-century, and speaks directly to issues that are important to our nation and our campus community."  Learn more.


Ali Valenzuela


Since joining the Princeton faculty in 2011, Ali Valenzuela has investigated American electoral politics and political behavior with a focus on Latino public opinion and voter turnout, religion, race and ethnicity, and the politics of identity in the United States. Valenzuela, an assistant professor of politics, has worked, too, to help a range of students find their way in the classroom, at the University and in the world.  Learn more.



Kevin Lopez


One question many prospective students may ask as they begin the college search process is, "Will I fit in here?" The publication "Experience Princeton: Diverse Perspectives" aims to answer that query by highlighting Princeton University's diverse and welcoming community of students, faculty and staff, such as the experiences of students like Kevin Lopez, Class of 2016, who was born and raised in Newark.  Learn more.



Breakout St Louis2015


As one of six Breakout Princeton trips this fall, "Where Do We Go From Here? Community Organizing in the Wake of Crisis," to St. Louis, Missouri, sought to investigate community organizing in response to systemic racism and racial violence. Led by sophomores Robia Amjad and Ify Ikpeazu, the trip worked closely with established grassroots organizations in the St. Louis County to find out how to create and promote sustainable activism. The students spent much of the week in Ferguson, Missouri, where a series of protests were held in 2014 following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown. Learn more.


JSI students 2015


This past summer, 29 rising college seniors spent their summer at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The undergraduates participating in the Junior Summer Institute hailed from 24 U.S. colleges and universities, representing 16 states and 14 majors, and they all share a commitment to public service and multicultural social issues. Princeton University is one of four institutions of higher education that sponsor this summer program with the Public Policy and International Affairs program in order to promote the participation of underrepresented groups in public service. Learn more.



Laverne Cox

Actress and activist Laverne Cox talks about 'journey to womanhood'

Focusing on themes of acceptance, empowerment and empathy, Emmy-nominated actress Laverne Cox shared her personal story and advocated for the transgender community during the talk "Ain't I a Woman: My Journey to Womanhood," on Nov. 17, in Princeton's Richardson Auditorium. Cox, the first transgender woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show, plays Sophia Burset on the Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black."  Learn more.

Ruth Simmons, Brown University President Emerita 

Ruth Simmons gave a talk on November 18 entitled "Confronting a Tainted Legacy: Slavery and Justice at Brown University". She was invited to campus as part of a series of events to encourage the Princeton community to think more broadly about issues of race and social justice in light of Princeton's history.   


TCMS Instrument Drive


Every year, in honor of the holiday season, the Princeton University faculty and staff join together to help local families, individuals and agencies who are in need. Last year, this effort collected 3,375 pounds of food and toiletries for local charities; wrote more than 376 thank-you cards to our service men and women spending the holidays away from home; and provided assistance to other local charities adopted by individual offices. Those efforts are in full force again this year. Plus, the university participated in the Rescue Mission of Trenton's record-breaking clothing drive in November. And for the first time this year, the Office of Public Affairs hosted "Instruments of Change", an instrument drive for the Trenton Community Music School. We collected over 60 instruments that will get a new life in the hands of students in Trenton.