A Message from President Ryan: Standing in Solidarity Against Racism and Injustice

    Over the past ten days, members of our community have been reaching out to one another in compassion and support, driven by the unfolding social justice movement we are seeing spread throughout our nation. Most Americans are outraged, eyes are opening, and a chorus of Black and non-Black people, the rich and the poor, the old and the young, the LGBTQ and the ally, are all uniting in the belief that Black Lives Matter. I personally believe that Black Lives Matter and am resolute that at the CIA we all must believe that Black Lives Matter, and act accordingly.

    The country is moving further in fully reconciling the difficult truth about systemic racism that is a result of hundreds of years of ownership, oppression, segregation, separation, and all forms of inequity. Governments, institutions, companies, small-businesses, and, yes, colleges and restaurants, are grappling with the realization of how they may have perpetuated the enduring effects of this history. We are part of this reconciliation and must move forward with explicit opposition to systemic inequality and the resulting racism against the Black and African-American community, and the recognition we need to do more.

    I am deeply disturbed that it took the desperation of our Black and African-American community to reach a fever pitch to fully awaken this. And while the news media may be focusing on the violent actions of a relative few, the active, but peaceful protest, the passion, the solidarity, the challenging questions that are being asked and the conversations that are being had, can mark a turning point. But turning that corner is going to be up to all of us.

    Earlier this week, I wrote to our students, faculty, and staff to share my disgust at the appalling and particularly brutal killing of George Floyd, reaffirm the respect for diversity we value and must achieve as an institution, and express that we all must exhibit compassion, recognize the consequences of bias and institutional racism, and seek understanding. Now, I want to share some important next steps for the CIA in shaping a more positive and equitable future.

    The recent events and conversations have reaffirmed the importance of many of the initiatives that have been carried out across our community to date: the ongoing efforts of our internal Diversity Council and many campus groups; the development of a Diversity Advisory Council comprised of prominent Black and African-American alumni to help us increase Black and African-American representation amongst our faculty and staff; and student/faculty programs over the past year that spoke meaningfully to the issues we are confronting today. With that said, it is clear that we have to move faster and more purposefully, be guided by specific outcomes, be more visible, and that we have the opportunity to better influence equity in our industry.

    A few specific elements that are important to understand about the road ahead:

    1. As many of you know, this summer we had planned to undertake our first global cuisines and cultures course trip to Africa—a culinary exploration of cuisines and cultures in Tanzania. What’s not widely known is that this initiative was the next important step toward the development of a long discussed African Cuisines Concentration at the CIA. The trip to Tanzania coupled with course development funding and the launch of initial advanced cooking elective on African Cuisine—were planned to be part of a two-year pathway toward the development of the concentration. Along a parallel track, this plan included a series of foodservice industry engagement programs that would further explore, dialogue, and research on the rich culinary traditions, ingredients, and techniques that have existed in Africa since antiquity and continue to evolve—and which have had an unsung influence on cuisines and cultures around the globe.

      This rich and relevant subject is an important area for study and promotion. That’s what we do at the CIA, and that’s why our curriculum will evolve to include dedicated courses focused on African cuisine, culture, history, and influences. Due to COVID-19, our first culinary excursion to Africa has been postponed; and conversations with donors in support of program development have slowed—though not stalled. We want our community to know this is an area of great importance to the CIA, and an area where we have a concrete plan that we will not allow the coronavirus pandemic to compromise. I know that this initiative is equally important to our faculty, students, and alumni. Working together—we will make it a reality.
    2. Beyond those crucial curricular changes, we need to develop a targeted, outcomes-based plan to assure we are reconciling racial injustice within our own community and pushing forward to fully realize our value of respect for diversity. This plan must incorporate the input of our campus community and include representation at every level of our organization. The plan must also consider how the CIA can further these discussions and forward momentum in the food and hospitality industry to which we are so inextricably linked.

      To this end, I am asking the CIA’s Diversity Council to:

      • Re-evaluate the membership and constitution of the Council itself to ensure we are reflecting every community, and every potential concern possible
      • Develop and recommend an outcomes-based plan to guide us forward that encompasses community conversations, representation, and diversity programs
      • Involve the campus community in the formulation of this plan
      This request is intended to ensure the path forward is community driven rather than exclusively a top down initiative. The Diversity Council has the full confidence of the President and the Cabinet and we look forward to partnering on how we can participate in the fruition of a purposeful plan.

    We stand with you. And together we will move forward with you—toward a more just, equitable society, industry, and school.

    Tim Ryan ’77