Updated, Dec. 15, 8:40 p.m.
On Friday, Dec. 12, School of International and Public Affairs students accidentally received an email containing messages from administrators constructing a statement to be sent by SIPA Dean Merit Janow in response to Thursday's Diversity Task Force Forum, which sought to create an open dialogue on the recent non-indictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. Janow was unable to attend because she was traveling.
Part of the urgency of these messages and the statement itself has to do with the student petition demanding that Janow, as well as the SIPA administration and faculty as a whole, take action against the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and New York City. So far, other than Janow's email, SIPA has been silent on these issues.
In the chain of emails, which you can read in full below, the first draft of Janow's statement written by Special Assistant to the Dean Ted Stiffel is shown, the final version of which was sent to SIPA students on Saturday. All mentions of the petition in the first draft are replaced with "specific suggestions" made by students. What's more, Janow's official statement says, "And, importantly, they have made clear to us that SIPA can have and has a role in advancing the public debate on the issues that matter to our students," which notably lacks the phrase "in particular our students of color" included in Stiffel's original draft.
Otherwise, the official email does not drastically differ from Stiffel's draft shown below.
In an email to Spectator, Janow said that email sent to students on Dec. 12 conveys her thoughts about the issues raised by students at the forum.
"My statement of December 12 accurately conveys my views—that we must engage the important issues that are deeply affecting our community," Janow said. "I am focusing on specific actions that respond to student concerns."
What's strange is Dean Janow's apparent disregard for both the petition and the Diversity Task Force Forum (even though she is responsible for founding the task force), as suggested by the emails. She is not the one to ask for the statement to be written—as Stiffel says, "Jesse mentioned we may need to send an email from Merit to students." And it's only Senior Associate Dean Anne Waters who explicitly brings up the urgency and importance of Dean Janow's response. Waters acknowledges the "disheartening silence" against which students are petitioning, saying that "by not sending a note we exacerbate the situation."
The fact that Janow's email—the one statement she has made on the issue—ultimately skirted around the petition and completely erased all mention of the effects on students of color is certainly not helping to alleviate the tension between students and the administration. The inaction that's implied even by Janow's own staff is especially odd considering the Law School has gone to the other extreme in taking such a public stance, even offering students feeling affected by the non-indictments and recent protests the option to postpone their final exams.
Here's the full email thread accidentally sent to students:
From: Anne Waters Date: Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 5:31 PMSubject: [Iasipa] FW: Email re: diversity forum -- recommendation to send a note to students ASAPTo: Merit Janow Cc: Jesse Gale , Ted Stiffel , Chih-Yu Chiang Dear Merit,I know you are thinking about the best way to respond to Thursday's Diversity Task Force Forum.I think it is very important to send a note to the SIPA community of students, staff, faculty that you have heard the concerns raised and that you are interested in working collaboratively with students and faculty to address these issues going forward. The student's major critique is a "disheartening silence" -- by not sending a note we exacerbate the situation.I asked Jesse and Ted to prepare a short statement. Please see Ted's draft below.You will likely want to make minor edits. If you would like to send it directly from your e-mail, the three major lists are:firstname.lastname@example.org@email@example.com (all SIPA students)Please let us know if you have any questions or need assistance with the e-mail lists.Thanks,AnneAnne B. Waters, Ph.D.Senior Associate DeanSchool of International and Public AffairsColumbia UniversityPhone: +1 212 854 9385-----Original Message-----From: Ted StiffelSent: Friday, December 12, 2014 3:23 PMTo: Anne WatersCc: Jesse GaleSubject: Re: Email re: diversity forumAnne, Jesse,I went ahead and drafted the below. It is probably too specific and too long but hopefully there's enough here to trim down to an effective message. Let me know what you think.TedSent from my iPhoneDear Members of the SIPA Community:I wish to thank those of you who attended yesterday's Diversity Forum and shared your views on the recent grand jury decisions in Ferguson and New York, and their larger implications. I regret not being able to join you in person due to international travel.The overwhelming response to yesterday's forum underscores just how deeply these events have affected our SIPA community on many levels. They have affected our students personally. They have raised larger questions about justice and inequality in our society and the U.S. legal system. And, importantly, they have raised questions about SIPA's role as a school of policy in advancing the public debate on the issues that matter to our students, in particular our students of color.I am aware of the petition that has been drafted about how SIPA might do better to engage these challenges and many others. I will be giving this petition my full attention over the next few days and offer some concrete thoughts and suggestions to you in the near future.In the meantime. please know that as Dean of SIPA, I am fully committed to working with our students, faculty, our Diversity Task Force, and others to ensure that SIPA lives up the very high ideals and expectations that all of us share. Yesterday's forum was an important part in that process. So, too, will be your continued engagement. We have much work ahead of us.Sincerely yours,Merit E. JanowDean> On Dec 12, 2014, at 3:16 PM, Anne Waters wrote:>> Ted and Jesse,>> I need you and Jesse to handle this. Please draft remarks for the Dean that she can send out ASAP.>> It needs to convey three points:>> 1. I regret I was not present for the Forum\>> 2. I understand that there is much work ahead of us>> 3. I am committed to working cooperatively and collaboratively with students, faculty, and staff on the important issues in our community.>> Thanks,>> Anne>> Anne B. Waters, Ph.D.> Senior Associate Dean> School of International and Public Affairs Columbia University>> Phone: +1 212 854 9385>> -----Original Message-----> From: Ted Stiffel> Sent: Friday, December 12, 2014 2:56 PM> To: Anne Waters> Subject: Email re: diversity forum>> Anne,>> Jesse mentioned we may need to send an email from Merit to students in response to yesterday's forum and the petition.>> Is this something you're handling and/or need my support drafting?>> Ted>> Sent from my iPhone
Here's the email that Janow sent out:
Dear Members of the SIPA Community:I wish to thank those of you who attended yesterday's Diversity Forum and shared your views on the recent grand jury decisions in Ferguson and New York, and their larger implications. I regret not being able to join you in person due to international travel; however, I have received extensive reports.The response to yesterday's forum underscores how deeply these events have affected our SIPA community on many levels. They have affected our students personally and have raised larger questions about justice and inequality in our society and in the U.S. legal system. And, importantly, they have made clear to us that SIPA can have and has a role in advancing the public debate on the issues that matter to our students.I am aware of specific suggestions about how SIPA might do better to engage these challenges. I will be giving those ideas serious attention and discussing concrete steps with colleagues in the administration and faculty. We will be continuing the conversation with our students and offering some concrete thoughts and suggestions to you for your feedback.In the meantime please know that as Dean of SIPA, I am fully committed to working with our students, faculty, our Diversity Task Force, and others to ensure that SIPA lives up the high ideals and expectations that all of us share.Thank you for your input and I look forward to your continued engagement.Sincerely yours, Merit E JanowDean, School of International and Public Affairs Professor of Practice, International Economic Law & International AffairsColumbia University420 West 118th St. 14th FloorNew York, NY 10027Tel: (212) 854-1724Fax: (212) 864-8477Email: firstname.lastname@example.org