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Race & Reconciliation Initiative

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How best to disseminate? Let’s look through three windows in time.

It’s fascinating to consider just how many series of decisions must be broached in moving toward reconciliation. This segment concerns the best ways to share a report once it has been fashioned.

The RRI has had several headwinds with which to contend: 1) our formal university commitment was for only one academic year, and 2) we had less than a year to produce tangible evidence of "action" or progress, using mostly volunteer labor. Given these time constraints, decisions had to be made.

Early on, we realized we’d have to break up our larger cause into smaller pieces, and then share or disseminate those smaller pieces as good faith deposits in the bank of public trust.

Founded in 1873, TCU has nearly 150 years of history for which to account. The RRI decided to canvas this time frame by creating three key periods crucial for understanding the university’s relationship with slavery, racism and the Confederacy. This strategy reduces pressure on the committee to have to share out a comprehensive analysis addressing every essential detail related to reconciliation. By breaking 150 years of material into three smaller parts, we can better manage expectations for sharing the information within different parts of our campus community.

We divided up the historical lifespan of TCU into three key time periods in which to concentrate our efforts. These three windows will lead us to future research in subsequent years:

  • EARLY >> The Founding Years, 1861 – 1891
  • MID >> Transition to Integration, 1941 – 1971
  • MODERN >> Recent, but Related Histories, 1998 – present

With respect to the first window, "The Founding Years," this first window in time spans the start of the Civil War to the start of the Jim Crow era. The overarching research question for this period is: How did the institution of enslavement affect TCU's identity formation?

The second window in time, "Transition to Integration," spans the start of World War II and Chancellor McGruder Ellis Sadler ‘s tenure to then-high water mark of Jennifer Brooks being elected by the student body as the first black Miss TCU. The overarching research question for this period is: How do systemic racism & discrimination continue to manifest?

The third window in time, "Recent, but Related Histories," spans Chancellor Michael Ferrari's tenure until the academic year 2019-2020. For us, Michael Ferrari is a significant figure insofar that he represents the first non-Texan and first school leader not officially affiliated with the Disciples of Christ, the church denomination linked to the university's founders. The overarching research question for this period is: How do we embrace and face the Shadows of the Confederacy in the building of our future legacy?

This information dissemination plan emboldened us early on to be more express and explicit about our "swimming lane" on campus. It actually took us some time after our founding to embrace the idea that the RRI is an academic initiative exclusively focused on TCU's history rather than a clearinghouse for all matters related to race on campus. Our initiative works independently from the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, the Office of Institutional Equity, Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services, and our school's existing DEI committee, to name a few.

Knowing that we only hold a fiduciary responsibility to report out and share on these three windows of time, we hope to mitigate future confusion by stating that if the RRI receives inquiries outside its scope, such inquiries will be redirected to the appropriate office. We have even designed specific printed materials along these lines to help us disseminate our message internally and more effectively manage expectations among key community stakeholders.

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