Advancing Justice in our World

Advancing Justice in our World

A message from President Dennis Assanis and Interim Chief Diversity Officer Fatimah Conley

Dear UD Community,

Earlier today, a jury in Minneapolis convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, a case that sparked nationwide protests against systemic racism and injustice in America. The trial and verdict represent the latest chapter in our nation’s tragic legacy of race and prejudice — particularly anti-Black racism. We understand this has been an anxious and painful time for everyone, especially for Black people, and all members of our community here at the University of Delaware.

As our nation tries to make sense of the pervasive and destructive nature of anti-Black racism, our conversations rightly focus on our shared goals to create a better world — one characterized by justice, freedom, diversity, equity, inclusion, respect, humanity and understanding. As one University of Delaware community, we must challenge ourselves every day to ask the question: How can our values and our actions bring that society into existence?

At UD, we have the resources and the obligation to discover new knowledge, inspire each other, teach future generations and drive progress toward peace in our world. A UD education provides far more than career preparation. It compels us to challenge the status quo, put our experiences into historical and social context, and find meaning in the events that shape our lives. Indeed, today’s UD students will become tomorrow’s leaders of positive change pertaining to equity and inclusion and so much more. Educated and empowered, we all must understand not only “what” and “why” things happen, but “how” we can fix problems and seek solutions.

Here at UD, we will continue to take actions toward addressing these issues. We are proud of the work of UD’s Antiracism Initiative, a grassroots effort that grew out of last summer’s protests. Our student-athletes initiated a productive conversation with community leaders regarding policing practices and continues to engage with the UD Police Department. UDPD is committed to being a model of exemplary policing, with ongoing training in community engagement, de-escalation techniques and other best practices for modern law enforcement.

Students, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to share their reactions to the Chauvin verdict at these upcoming events:

  • Dean of Students Adam Cantley will moderate two student community gatherings 4:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 21, and 5 to 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 26., for students to share reactions, emotions and thoughts about the verdict. Students will need to log in with their UD credentials and the passcode “ComConnect”.
  • A faculty/staff community gathering is planned for noon Friday, April 23. Employees will need to log in with their UD credentials and the passcode “118182”.

A list of additional University resources and events is available below to help strengthen and advance our community in this important work.

As our society continues to face new challenges and hardships every day, our vision of a better tomorrow at the University of Delaware drives everything we do. Together, we can — we will — make that vision a reality.


Dennis AssanisPresident
Fatimah ConleyInterim Chief Diversity Officer


For everyone

Seeds of Change Speaker Series: “What Does ‘Defund the Police’ Mean? A Real Conversation” — 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 22. Join Student Diversity and Inclusion and University of Delaware Alternative Breaks for a workshop and moderated Q&A on what defunding the police means in actual practice, and how we build more equitable futures with local racial and environmental justice organizer Christianne Marguerite.

For students

Wellbeing services and support are available. The Center for Counseling and Student Development is open and available remotely, and 24/7 mental health support remains available on the UD Helpline at 302-831-1001 for any student in need of someone to talk to.

For faculty and staff

The Employee Assistance Program is provided through ComPsych GuidanceResources. This is a free program available for State of Delaware Group Health Plan non-Medicare members and their dependents. As part of ComPsych’s commitment, EAP services are available through the end of the national COVID-19 public health emergency to all State of Delaware employees, including temporary, casual seasonal and benefit eligible employees who are not currently enrolled in a State of Delaware Highmark Delaware or Aetna health plan. In addition, Employee Health and Wellbeing has a variety of resources available to assist employees.

For alumni

Talk About Race Discussion with Hassan El-Amin — Join a thought-provoking virtual discussion with writer/director/actor Hassan El-Amin, creator of “Talk About Race,” an original audio production of the Resident Ensemble Players, UD’s professional theatre.

Equity Efforts Coordinated in Central Office

Equity Efforts Coordinated in Central Office


Fatimah Conley to lead Office of Institutional Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity activities across several University of Delaware areas have been integrated into a central Office of Institutional Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (OIEDE) to improve coordination and better leverage assets in this important area, University President Dennis Assanis announced today.

“The University of Delaware is deeply committed to addressing the challenges in our society that affect equity and social and racial justice,” Assanis said. “We know that more must be done in this ongoing fight, both nationally and at the University. Last month, when we announced the appointment of Fatimah Conley as our interim chief diversity officer, I noted that we must be strategic and innovative in the use of our resources so that we can maximize our effectiveness and our impact. This reorganization is the next step in that process.”

The UD Office of Institutional Equity, Diversity and Inclusion will be led by Conley, who serves as senior adviser to the president on this topic, and it will encompass all the units primarily responsible for all diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at the University, including

  • the Vice Provost for Diversity, who works to advance the University’s academic mission and goals in this area;
  • Student Diversity and Inclusion, which is committed to providing programming, advocacy, services and support resources throughout Student Life;
  • the Center for Black Culture, which creates a supportive environment for Black students and other underrepresented students and works to educate the larger community on their challenges, needs and interests;
  • the Office of Disability Support Services, which supports the academic experience of individuals with disabilities; and
  • the Office of Equity and Inclusion, which provides leadership and support in creating an equitable, diverse and inclusive working and learning environment.

“The social and racial justice issues facing the University and the country are not new. Systemic inequities and disparities have always existed in America,“ Conley said. “For decades, many UD faculty, students and staff have been dedicated to doing the critical, progressive and challenging work of improving the cultural climate at UD. This restructuring is the next step in renewing and enhancing the University’s commitment to the values of diversity, equity and inclusion that lie at the heart of our mission. I look forward to working closely with this talented team in the days ahead.”

As part of the restructure, which has the full support of Provost Robin Morgan and Vice President for Student Life José-Luis Riera, the specific units will be able to better leverage staff talents and resources; enhance coordination of campus-wide activities, initiatives and programs; and more holistically maximize progress, impact and service within the University community.

“All the individuals working in these units bring a wealth of diverse interests, talents and expertise to the tasks at hand,” Assanis said, “but they all share a common commitment to the importance of this work and its lasting impact on our University.”

Student leaders such as Samantha Bingaman, president of the Graduate Student Government and a master’s degree student in marine policy, have expressed support for this decision. “This year, the graduate student body has renewed our emphasis on advocating for the betterment of our entire community and keeping our administration accountable,” Bingaman said. “With the merging of dedicated staff into one OIEDE, we are optimistic about this step and the crucial diversity improvements this streamline could soon bring to UD. We hope to work with the talented Fatimah Conley and her staff at every step of the way.”

Promoting an Inclusive Campus Climate

Promoting an Inclusive Campus Climate

Fatimah Conley named interim chief diversity officer at UD

Fatimah Conley, associate general counsel at the University of Delaware, has been promoted to the position of interim chief diversity officer (CDO) at the University effective immediately, President Dennis Assanis announced today.

“During this time when our nation is confronting challenges in pursuit of equity and social and racial justice, there is an urgency for action. Even under the current circumstances of constrained resources, our commitment to the progress and advancement of inclusive excellence throughout the University of Delaware must remain steadfast. Our success will rely on strategic and innovative use of the resources UD is investing and maximize effectiveness,” Assanis said.

In her role as interim chief diversity officer, Conley will serve as the senior adviser to the president regarding all diversity, equity and inclusion (“DEI”) initiatives at the University.  She will advise and collaborate with senior leadership and other University groups to develop and implement DEI programs that promote a welcoming campus culture for all faculty, students and staff. Conley will work closely with the president and the UD community to realize a clear vision for success for DEI efforts by engaging all stakeholder groups – students, faculty, staff, administrators, trustees, alumni, community. This will further solidify the foundation for actions that sustainably advance DEI as part of the University’s core mission.

“Fatimah’s experience, insights and drive will serve UD well as she takes on this new post,” Assanis added. “She will inspire, catalyze and coordinate our university-wide DEI efforts to reinforce and build upon one another. I look forward to working together to advance the DEI agenda for the UD community.”

Conley brings to this challenge a deep understanding of UD’s organization, culture, and aspirations. Over the past five years, she has worked closely with the Office of Equity and Inclusion, serving as interim director and Title IX coordinator for eight months, all the while consistently demonstrating steadfast commitment to the ideals of diversity, equity and inclusion at the University.

In addressing UD’s immediate priorities, the president has asked Conley to work closely with units and programs supporting campus-wide student, faculty and staff DEI efforts and provide recommendations on how to consolidate them into one cohesive structure reporting to the CDO.  The goal of this effort is to improve coordination of our programs, and balance shared resources for enhanced impact, beginning with the establishment of a clearer accountability structure. As a first step in this process, the Office of Equity and Inclusion will report into her immediately, expanding its visibility and effectiveness while ensuring UD’s compliance with state and federal laws.

In consultation with senior leadership and building on information from an earlier study and results of a working group, she also will investigate potential spaces for a new multicultural center, seeking input from a diverse set of community members to help define the role of such a center and provide recommendations for the best path forward.

“I look forward to working with President Assanis, administrative leaders and the entire UD community to synthesize and integrate the University’s many diversity and inclusion efforts into a visible, meaningful, collaborative and effective strategy for enhancing diversity, equity, access and inclusion at UD,” Conley said. “In my role as interim chief diversity officer, I will engage our students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees and UD community members to make significant progress for transformation.”

A staff member in the Office of the General Counsel at UD since 2015, Conley has also served since 2017 as senior counsel to the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL), which is headquartered at UD and funded by the federal government to advance U.S. competitiveness in advanced manufacturing innovation. As she takes on this new role, Bradley Yops, assistant general counsel, will take over her duties at NIIMBL, which include advising the institute director on legal matters to ensure that decisions and outcomes are aligned with the University, working with the operations director to negotiate agreements for all projects and supporting NIIMBL’s sustainability efforts.

While at UD, Conley has worked directly with the Office of Equity and Inclusion, serving as interim director and Title IX coordinator from May to December in 2018 and as senior associate director of the office from 2015-16.

Before joining the University, she was an attorney at a law firm in New Orleans, handling all aspects of commercial transactions, and spent two years as a human resources consultant in higher education.

Conley is a member of the Louisiana State Bar Association and the National Association of College and University Attorneys. She earned her undergraduate degree at Fairleigh-Dickinson University and a law degree from Tulane Law School. Currently she is pursuing her MBA in UD’s Lerner College of Business and Economics.

Article by UDaily staff | October 16, 2020

Vaughan interim vice provost for diversity and inclusion

Vaughan interim vice provost for diversity and inclusion


 Photo by Evan Krape 

Michael Vaughan appointed interim vice provost for diversity and inclusion full-time

Michael L. Vaughan, who has served as interim vice provost for diversity and inclusion at the University of Delaware since September, will now be devoting himself full-time to the role in the Office of the Provost, effective July 1.

Previously, Vaughan had also maintained his duties as associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Engineering on a half-time basis.

A national search for a chief diversity officer at the University is currently paused in light of the campuswide hiring freeze, Vaughan will continue to serve as interim vice provost until further notice.

“I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to devote my full-time attention to this critical work as the University continues its focus on evolving an increasingly diverse, equitable and inclusive campus culture,” Vaughan said. “As we all deal with the challenges, impact and uncertainty of crisis, it is clear that a commitment to access and equity has never been more important.”

In this important role, Vaughan works to advance the University’s academic mission and goals in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion and human rights by leading efforts to define, assess and cultivate diversity as both an institutional value and an academic priority. He is senior adviser to the president and the provost on matters of diversity and collaborates with campus leaders and others on the development and implementation of initiatives designed to support UD’s diversity efforts.

Vaughan has spent more than 28 years at UD as an academic administrator. In his most recent role in the College of Engineering, he was responsible for the success of the college’s undergraduate education enterprise and led the overall college-level undergraduate academic infrastructure and processes.

Since 2014, he also has held a secondary faculty appointment as an instructor in the college.

Vaughan received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from North Carolina A&T State University and completed his Ph.D. in civil engineering at UD.

James Jones discusses the challenges of diversity

James Jones discusses the challenges of diversity

Racism is wrong. Clearly, objectively, patently wrong. Which means its opposite — embracing and promoting diversity — must be right.


According to James McCoy Jones, long-time faculty member and honored speaker at the March 10 luncheon of the University of Delaware Association of Retired Faculty (UDARF), this is a loaded question. Unlike racism (always condemnable) or rooting for the UD Blue Hens (always commendable), diversity is not a neatly defined moral absolute. It is far more nuanced than that.

“Diversity is one of these challenges where, if we do it right, we’ll be on a positive course,” said Jones, Trustees’ Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Black American Studies. “But if we don’t, we’ll be facing very serious problems.”

This may sound subversive. Haven’t we as a society determined that diversity is our strength — no questions asked? You can now buy that catchphrase in the form of sweatshirts, refrigerator magnets and embroidered Pinterest pillows. It is woven into the mission statements of companies selling everything from software to sunscreen. It is increasingly the mantle of leaders in business and government. It is, by all indicators, the future.

So… what gives?

According to Jones, who directs UD’s Center for the Study of Diversity, in the public consciousness there are two conflicting arguments for diversity. Each is correct. Each is valid. Yet, these arguments are sometimes at odds with one another, and this is problematic.

One of these positions is the so-called moral argument: Diversity efforts are a way to acknowledge historic racism and ameliorate those effects. The other position is the instrumental argument: Diversification includes and benefits us all. In other words, as author Peter Wood wrote in the New Boston Post in 2015: “Diversity is both kumbaya and Black Lives Matter.”

This duality, Jones explained, “can foster confusion and conflict.”

Consider statements on diversity written by universities. Jones said 75 percent of these adopt the instrumental — or kumbaya — approach. There’s nothing wrong with this, per se, Jones said, except for what the research shows: Black students are less likely to graduate and more likely to perform poorly in schools that adopt the we-are-all-in-this-together attitude.

“Groups who are concerned with biases they must overcome feel unfulfilled — and at times disrespected — when they are lumped with other groups with very different histories,” Jones said. “The inclusive idea — that everyone is better for it — does not work in a world that is seen as a zero-sum contest for resources, prestige and opportunity.”

On the other hand, the moral approach to diversity that acknowledges our different histories? Research shows whites feel excluded from this and, when they feel excluded, they fail to support diversity efforts, he said. Sometimes, they actively or passively oppose them.

Put another way: “Inclusion as a concept is both a goal of diversity and a challenge it faces,” Jones said.

These difficulties are compounded by other factors. For starters, diversity encompasses much more than race. There are variations of sex, gender orientation, religion, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and immigrant status to consider, among other factors. Within an institutional framework, it’s impossible to  respond to them all. So, when formulating or analyzing diversity efforts, these differences get truncated into categories.

“Consider, for example, international students,” Jones said. “They may come from China, Southeast Asia, Japan, Middle East, Caribbean, South America and Africa, not to mention Europe. Considering this diversity of background, what does the international category even mean?”

Of course, these obstacles don’t take away from a research-backed truism: The more diverse we are at any level, the greater the gains in terms of learning and experience. The question, then, is not whether greater diversification should be attempted, but how to go about it in a meaningful way — one that goes beyond magnets and embroidered pillows.

For that, Jones explained, there must be constant negotiation and communication between groups. At both the institutional and personal levels, everyone must strive for openness when it comes to learning about and with others. And, in navigating this potentially tricky territory, we need to keep in mind, perhaps, the importance of understanding.

“Anthropologist Margaret Mead once likened people living in a post A-bomb world as pioneers,” Jones said. “I believe we are living in a post-diversity-explosion world, and we are all still learning how to do that….Yes, diversity is the new normal, but it is not yet normalized. It is still a work in progress.”

Article by Diane Stopyra, Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson | This article was originally published in UDaily on March 31, 2020.

Redding Lecture 2020

Redding Lecture 2020

The event on March 3 featured interactive courtroom drama, ‘Defamation’

 Photo and illustration courtesy of The Defamation Experience  

The Defamation Experience will headline the University of Delaware’s annual Louis L. Redding Lecture on Tuesday, March 3, at 5:30 p.m. in Mitchell Hall on UD’s campus in Newark.

The three-part experience features a live performance of Defamation, a riveting courtroom drama by award-winning playwright Todd Logan that explores the highly charged issues of race, class, religion, gender and the law. The premise is a civil suit in which an African American business owner is suing a Jewish real estate developer for defamation. The twist: the audience is part of the performance, playing the jury in the case. A facilitated discussion follows the show.

The show’s website describes Defamation as a 75-minute trial that “holds our prejudices and assumptions under a powerful lens, and does not let go except by way of an unsettling self-examination.”

Logan said that the experience is intended to generate honest conversation and challenge people’s preconceived notions about race, class and religion, leading to greater empathy.

The event is free and open to the public. Those interested in attending should register at Reserve seats for a class or group by emailing

Sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity, the Louis L. Redding Lecture honors the late civil rights pioneer, a prominent lawyer in Wilmington, Delaware, whose work led to educational opportunities for African American students in the state and nation.

In addition to the performance, Michael Vaughan, interim vice provost for diversity and inclusion, will recognize the recipients of the Louis L. Redding Diversity Award and the Louis L. Redding Scholar Award at the event. More information about the awards and the nomination process is available on the University’s diversity website.

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