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Update on Social Justice Center Leadership

Dear Members of the Emerson Community,

I am writing to share with you an update on the Social Justice Center (SJC) in advance of Sylvia Spears’ departure to College Unbound in Rhode Island. Sylvia’s final day at Emerson will be July 15. As noted previously in President Pelton’s May announcement, Sylvia’s “extraordinary leadership has profoundly transformed the College in ways that will endure.” I had the pleasure of working with Sylvia during her 9 years at Emerson, and I can affirm that even in this moment of transition for the College, the strength of Sylvia’s commitment to centering individuals and communities who are marginalized and her passion for justice will indeed endure, as it is deeply shared by her staff and built into their foundational values, principles, and guiding practices. I am confident that the Social Justice Center, including the Elma Lewis Center, the Healing & Advocacy Collective, and Access, Equity, & Title IX are well-equipped to carry on their important work.

Sylvia and I have been in conversation about the priorities of the Social Justice Center and considerations for a temporary administrative reporting structure for the staff of the SJC. Recognizing that the College is engaged in the search for a new president who will shape the process for identifying the next vice president for equity & social justice, Sylvia and I agreed that a temporary reporting shift would serve to provide necessary support to the staff of the SJC, while also continuing to hold the College accountable to its commitments of equity and justice for our community members.

As such, it is through thoughtful consideration and consultation that I share that Sylvia and I have asked Ruthanne Madsen, Vice President of Enrollment, to serve as interim supervisor of the Social Justice Center. Ruthanne and Sylvia have worked closely on numerous strategic initiatives and College priorities that directly center the experiences of students from marginalized groups, including moving the College to test-optional, working together to increase financial aid in support of BIPOC students, making gains in the diversity of the Emerson student community, and creating mechanisms for students without documentation to attend Emerson and receive institutional scholarships funds. Additionally, Ruthanne serves on the Council for Inclusive Excellence and the Presidential Advisory Group for Community & Equity. Ruthanne’s senior leadership position, depth of expertise in cross-institutional working groups, and commitment to advancing equity and justice for current and prospective students will allow for a continued connection between the work of the Social Justice Center and College administration.

In this temporary capacity, Ruthanne will oversee the staff of the Social Justice Center, including the Elma Lewis Center, the Healing & Advocacy Collective, and Access, Equity, & Title IX. In addition to Enrollment, she will represent the Social Justice Center at President’s Council and in cross-institutional working groups when needed. Ruthanne will work closely with staff in the Social Justice Center as they continue to support the Emerson community and work to advance equity and social justice at Emerson.

Though we find ourselves in the midst of many transitions, Sylvia, Ruthanne, and I are confident in the expertise and support that the SJC staff will continue to provide to the Emerson community. They can be contacted at sjc@emerson.edu.

Please join me in extending our gratitude and very best wishes to Sylvia as she moves on to new endeavors and in thanking Ruthanne for her continued dedication and service to the College in this expanded interim role.

Sincerely,
William P. Gilligan
Interim President

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