Unified Equity System
Dear Members of the Berklee Community,
I am very happy to welcome all of you to Berklee, whether you are new to our community or are returning with considerable experience here. We have much to celebrate as we begin this year, including, most importantly, the remarkable people who have chosen to work, teach, and learn in this environment, making Berklee the vibrant, unique place that it is. I encourage you to get to know those around you and share your interests and culture with them.
Our Berklee campuses encompass a large and diverse group of students, faculty, and staff who are united by a calling to music and a love of learning. The compassion required for music-making and the openness and curiosity essential to creativity are truly central to daily life at Berklee. However, our community is a microcosm of the world, and of the music industry, and many of the attributes of the wider world, both the good and the bad, are also represented here.
Sexual assault is a disturbing reality on many college campuses, including ours—and it goes against everything we stand for. Colleges across the country are working vigorously to prevent sexual assault, and to create a climate of trust and respect among all of their students, faculty, and staff. As of July 22, 2015, the Office for Civil Rights was investigating 124 higher education institutions to determine if the procedures they have followed are fair and judicious to students—and Berklee is among those. As a community, we have taken serious steps to address sexual assault prevention and education campus-wide, which includes targeted training and education for faculty, staff, and students. I want you to know that this effort has the full attention of the college’s board of trustees, leadership, and staff.
It is our goal to create a campus climate at Berklee where every single person can be successful, working in an environment of fairness, acceptance, and understanding. The vital work we have been doing on prevention and education with regard to gender discrimination is where this effort has begun. But it has become clear to us that building the kind of accepting, inclusive community we envision will call for a comprehensive approach, addressing all kinds of discrimination. We have reorganized ourselves to do this work in a new, more complete way, which we intend to be a model for other institutions in higher education.
To this end, I am pleased to announce that Christopher Kandus-Fisher has become the associate vice president of Student Affairs and chief equity officer at Berklee. Chris is charged with leading, coordinating, and administering a new equity system that will guide the resolution of all discrimination complaints at Berklee, including those that are gender-based. In this role, Chris will also serve as the college’s Title IX coordinator and provide senior leadership to key functional areas in Student Affairs.
This role is responsible for leading and managing a new, unified equity system campus-wide, which includes: student conduct and community standards; student health and wellness; student diversity and inclusion programs; residential and community life; student crisis response, including on-call response and investigations; and student, faculty, and staff training and development. Chris will work directly with the college’s leadership on strategy and campus climate, and will supervise leaders who, as part of their job roles, will be designated and trained as “deputies” vital to the success of the unified equity system.
Chris brings to Berklee the senior-level leadership experience required to effectively lead, develop, and implement a unified equity system while continuing to develop the Student Affairs and Public Safety systems needed to support it. He served as the Title IX coordinator at Stetson University’s entire four-campus university system, and as their vice president of Student Affairs, he held the complete portfolio of responsibilities across student life. His doctoral research on educating “generation Z” demonstrates the student development expertise he will bring to this role.
This new role represents an important step forward in the college’s Title IX efforts by identifying the leadership and organizational structure necessary to make Berklee a leader in preventing and addressing discrimination in all forms. I want to thank the members of the Title IX committee, who have advanced this important work, and made this new system possible.
The new, unified equity system begins now, effective with the start of the fall 2015 semester. Related training, including the launch of a required online training program for all students, faculty, and staff, will begin this fall, and further announcements will be forthcoming from Chris and the equity leadership team. We encourage all members of the Berklee college community to reference the Equity and Title IX webpage. At berklee.edu/equity, you will find information regarding policy, prevention, education and support, and campus and community resources. If you have specific questions regarding components of the equity policy, please contact a member of the equity leadership team.
Much has been done, and there is a lot more for all of us to do, to make Berklee a place where everyone can create in an inclusive and welcoming environment, every day. I am certain that in order for us to succeed, every one of us here must embrace this challenge. As we educate our students to accept and celebrate every kind of person, we will prepare them to be compassionate leaders, helping to create the change that is so necessary in our world.
Roger H. Brown
President, Berklee College of Music