Our Commitment to the Work Ahead

Friday, June 19, 2020

A letter from the Executive Director of Princeton in Asia, Maggie Dillon, and the Chair of PiA's Board of Trustees, Sharon Volckhausen 

June 18, 2020

Dear PiA Alumni, Family and Friends,
We are writing to you today in response to the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Riah Milton – and so many others. We are mourning their deaths. We are outraged by their killings. Systemic racism that devalues and commits acts of violence on Black individuals and communities is unacceptable. We must unequivocally state: Black lives matter. To the Black members of the PiA community: We stand in solidarity with you.

PiA exists to be a bridge: to bridge individuals and communities across all manner of social categories – race, ethnicity, religion, language, nationality and more. We have always asked Fellows to dedicate themselves to promoting goodwill and understanding, to serving others, and to building bridges. That is why it is crucial that all members of our community commit to education and action, and that the upholding of the principles of equity, inclusion and justice is integral to the organization and the PiA experience.

Our work as an institution
Over recent years, the PiA Staff and Board, aided by feedback from our Fellows and Alumni, have engaged in important discussions and dialogue around how to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at PiA. We are grateful to all those who have undertaken important work on these issues, especially the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Staff, Fellows and Alumni who have contributed and led with their time, energy, and emotional labor. We have identified and begun work on initiatives such as diversified outreach and recruitment efforts for Fellows, strengthening of support systems for Black and all BIPOC Fellows and LGBTQ+ Fellows, strengthening of training for all Fellows, and reducing financial barriers to participating in PiA by providing increased financial support. 
We recognize a need to accelerate this work and are committed to making changes throughout the organization to implement these initiatives. We will also commit to taking broader and stronger action as we determine based on further review of our Strategic Plan and additional feedback from our community. Our immediate next steps include:

  1. Review how PiA recruits, hires/selects, supports, retains, and invests in the development of people at all levels of the organization, including the Board of Trustees and Staff, and develop strategies to better lift up and support Black and all BIPOC people, at all levels of the organization. The review will be conducted by the Nominating and Governance Committee of the Board and be due to the Board of Trustees by the end of 2020.
  2. Empanel an ad hoc Task Force of Trustees, recent Alumni and Staff to examine all aspects of PiA’s work, structures and practices and to recommend actions to promote equity and inclusion, and be actively anti-racist in word and in deed. This examination should center the voices and experiences of Black and all BIPOC people, take into account intersectionality, and invite the participation of the entire PiA community through surveys and outreach. The Task Force will, as a start, prioritize two action steps:
    1. Conduct a community-wide survey to better understand the experiences of Black and all BIPOC people in our community across the life of their engagement with PiA, from recruiting and selection, to training and orientation, to the fellowship/internship itself and to their engagement as Alumni and volunteers. 
    2. Continue and strengthen PiA Staff’s efforts to recruit, select and support a cohort of Fellows that reflects the diversity of the US. Review how PiA recruits, selects, supports, and invests in Fellows and Summer Interns. Specific focus should be given to identifying problems related to barriers to participation and equity of experience and to developing solutions. 
  3. Institute mandatory ongoing anti-racism training for Staff, Trustees, Fellows and Summer Interns. Training for Staff and Trustees will begin as soon as possible.

Our commitment to you
The steps outlined above are only the start of a rigorous, institution-wide focus on this work, which we acknowledge is long overdue. It is our responsibility to commit to this work, to engage whole-heartedly in it, and to be accountable to our community. As we move forward, we will engage with humility and openness, recognizing we do not have all the answers and that we will be learning and unlearning in the process. Alongside our regular updates to on PiA programs and activities, we will be updating our community on the specific diversity, equity and inclusion actions we have taken to date and any additional plans at regular intervals. 
At the same time, we call on our community to take individual and collective action and recommend learning from and supporting Black-led organizations that work to advance racial justice and equity. We have included links to some of these resources below.
We are committed as ever to our mission of promoting mutual appreciation and cultural understanding and to building bridges across difference. We will work to fulfill our mission in a manner that combats racism and meets the ideals of equity, inclusion, and justice – because it is the ultimate expression of Princeton in Asia’s mission and because it is our moral duty to do so. 
Yours sincerely,

Maggie Dillon, Executive Director
Sharon Lyu Volckhausen, Chair of the Board of Trustees


Starter List of Resources for self-education, action, and financial contributions

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