Op-Ed: After 13 white male deans, Fletcher students say ‘it’s time’

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Editor’s note: The Daily obtained the letter printed below in a Sept. 10 email to the university administration from the six individuals identified as the organizers of the effort.

Immediately after Admiral James Stavridis’ announcement that he would step down as dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Sophie Pouget (F ’18) posted on Facebook urging graduates to pen a letter to the school administration: “It’s about time, don’t you think,” she asked, raising the concern that the next dean would be the 14th white man in a row.

The alumni thread ran thick with responses, leading to the letter shared below which was signed by 329 members of The Fletcher School community and pushes for a woman or person of color as the next school dean. Organizers of the effort included alumni Sophie Pouget, Susie Hayward (LA ’02, F ’06), Rahul Chandran (F ’06), Josh Newton (F ’06, F ’14), Bernard Burrola (F ’07) and myself — our experiences spanning from humanitarian relief to inter-faith organizing to journalism focused on women and beyond.

Under Admiral Stavridis’ tenure as dean, the school appointed its first female chair of the Board of Advisors; the search that led to his appointment was chaired by then-Provost David R. Harris, an African-American man. Given the extraordinary history of The Fletcher School, the diversity of the students, and the commitment of the administration, we are confident that our letter and suggested list of candidates will be thoughtfully considered.

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The Fletcher School has made important advances for women’s representation, as reported in Pacific Standard, yet there is more work to do. Meg K. Guliford, in an important op-ed published Tuesday in The Washington Post, highlights the dearth of women of color who carry the title of full professor in international relations, as well as the racial bias she has faced as a Ph.D. candidate at Fletcher.

The letter below was written in coordination with the Fletcher Women’s Network, a group that has been active in advocating for gender representation at the school.

Letter to the Tufts administration

Sept. 10, 2018

To: Anthony Monaco, President of Tufts University
Deborah T. Kochevar, Provost and Senior Vice President ad interim, Tufts University
Lisbeth Tarlow, Chair, The Fletcher School Board of Advisors
The Fletcher Search Committee
The Fletcher School Board of Advisors

Dear President Monaco, Provost Kochevar, Dr. Tarlow, and Members of the Fletcher Board of Advisors and the Fletcher Search Committee,

As students and alumni of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, we applaud Admiral Stavridis’ leadership and accomplishments as he steps down as dean. In particular, we highlight Dr. Tarlow, Admiral Stavridis, and Fletcher board and staff’s emphasis on elevating women among school leadership and through the curriculum, and we urge the committee formed to nominate the next dean to build on this legacy.

The Fletcher School is beloved by students and alumni alike, both as a standard-bearing international relations graduate program, and as a school and community that embody the principles of globalism, diversity and modernization.

Yet in our prestigious 85-year history, all 13 deans have been men and none were people of color.

This does not reflect the United States, the wider world or our student body. In the 2017 matriculating class, women composed 52 percent of those enrolled, 21 percent of American students identified as an ethnic minority and 36 percent of our students came from outside the United States.

We, the undersigned 329 members of the Fletcher community comprising students from the graduating classes of 1964 to the present, write you now with this message: It is time.

Our peer institutions — the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs — all have, or have had, revered female leadership and/or leadership by a person of color in the Dean’s Office.

The deans at Fletcher have made incredible contributions to the school, including our outgoing Dean’s purposeful support of our first female chair of the Board of Advisors, of the student and professor-led movement for gender studies and for more female professors on the tenure track.

And yet, we say, it is time.

As the work of Dr. Thania Paffenholz and organizations such as the International Peace Institute have repeatedly shown, international peace and security processes are more effective when they are representative; businesses, as well, have been shown to be more successful when women are in positions of corporate leadership. We expect that diverse leadership will similarly bring positive outcomes to The Fletcher School.

A leader who is a woman and/or a person of color will bring a new set of experiences that will move the school forward in exciting directions, sending a powerful signal to prospective students that all are equally valued within the school’s community. Diversity and inclusion are core and necessary values in the field of international affairs. Diverse leadership will underscore these values as well as the school’s commitment to ensuring that the next generation of global leaders are thoughtful about and responsive to the powerful ways that gender, race, ethnicity, and other forms of identity and experience can shape diplomacy.

The Fletcher School has the distinguished history of being the first graduate school for international relations in the United States, founded in 1933.

In its own words, The Fletcher School was created as “an act of hope in a time of despair and a boost to internationalism in a time of isolationism.” The Fletcher School has another historic opportunity to embrace a forward-leaning and global approach to diplomacy, inclusive and in line with the school’s best tradition.

There is no shortage of qualified candidates for this position who are women and people of color. Knowing that The Fletcher School’s leadership welcomes this letter and appreciates the importance of diversity at every level of the institution, we offer this letter in partnership and support, including a list of potentially qualified candidates as suggested by alumni. This letter was written in coordination with the Executive Committee of the Fletcher Women’s Network.

We suggest the following names for consideration (examples offered for consideration, this is not an exhaustive or universally endorsed list), as we believe these people reflect the values and interests of The Fletcher School community:

  • Mimi Alemayehou, F ’98
  • Amb. Barbara Bodine, F ’71
  • Pres. Laura Chinchilla
  • Sec. Hillary Clinton
  • Dr. Karen Donfried, F ’88, F ’91
  • Dr. Helene Gayle
  • Amb. Swanee Hunt
  • Amb. Roberta S. Jacobson, F ’86
  • The Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean
  • Special Rep. Rachel Kyte, F ’02
  • Alexia Latortue, F ’97
  • Farah Pandith, F ’95
  • Amb. Samantha Power
  • Amb. Susan Rice

Respectfully submitted.

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