A letter from our president on being a better ally and agent of change

By Saybrook University

In turning the page to a new fiscal and academic year, we find ourselves at a critical juncture in our nation’s history: a global pandemic, an economic crisis of historic proportions coupled with the ongoing pernicious effects of racism, resulting in more trauma across the country. Indeed, the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery remind us that while some progress has been made over these many generations, there is much hard work that remains in the areas of racial justice and equality.

Our university community recognizes the importance of this present moment both in terms of the continued psychological and sociological effects on our faculty, staff & students; our communities of color; and our nation as a whole. We also recognize the immediate need for both substantial dialogue and action addressing individual and structural racism.

Moving forward, our hope is that as a university grounded in humanistic principles, our faculty, students, and staff will come together to engage in those efforts leading toward greater social progress. All of our future work is informed by the knowledge that nothing can be changed until we face racism and social inequality head on. To accomplish these ends, we’re asking members of our community to consider the following points.

  1. Engaging in Dialogue

As a community, we have shared many conversations that have proven challenging, yet have led to healing and action. I encourage all of us to find opportunities throughout our Saybrook experience and in other dedicated forums to engage, to discuss, to lean on each other for support, and to delve even more deeply into difficult questions that exist around race and social inequality.

  1. Taking Part in Individual and Collective Action in Support of Our Communities

If we are to address the deep wounds inflicted not only recently, but by generations of racism and social inequality, we must translate our words into action. What this action looks like will emerge over the coming days, weeks, and months as members of the Saybrook and wider national community engage in dialogue.

In support of this process:

  • Academic departments including Clinical Psychology, Counseling, Leadership and Management, and others have planned sessions beginning this week to meet with community members regarding recent events. We anticipate significant, intense dialogue to occur during these sessions, with the goal of bringing greater clarity to the events happening around our country.
  • Our faculty are in the process of compiling a number of materials including but not limited to readings, multimedia, community-based and trauma-informed care organizations, anti-racist and anti-bias education tools, and national advocacy groups dedicated to advancing racial and social justice. Several of these items, provided by our Clinical Psychology and Counseling faculty, are located at the end of this article for your reference/perusal. I have already begun listening to and watching several of the podcasts/videos and I urge you to do the same.
  • We have expedited partnership meetings with key local groups including the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP to explore ways in which our university community can be of service both regionally and nationally
  • We encourage our talented scholar-practitioners to share how your work might be directed towards making a positive difference in and among the communities we serve.
  • We invite each of you to offer your own insights as to how Saybrook can effectively promote meaningful, long-lasting, positive social change, especially where racial justice is concerned. We believe that our programmatic offerings are one way among those identified above, to support the necessary social change so vital to moving us forward.

I would ask that if you’re inclined, please share resources that are meaningful to you so that we may highlight these critical resources to our university and the larger community. Feel free to email me directly at [email protected].

In conclusion, let us bond together in community and in mutual respect for one another. Let us hold each other up while actively and authentically addressing the hard realities of racism. If we are to advance as a society, it begins here with each of us recognizing that progress necessitates dialogue and action.

James Baldwin’s words hold as much power as they did many years ago when he stated that “…not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”


Clinical Psychology Resources


  1. Code Switch:
  2. TWIB (this week in blackness):
  3. Teaching Hard History Podcast:
  4. Seeing White:



  1. Tim Wise: On White Privilege. Posted 2/19/2008. Retrieved 2/9/18. Link:
  2. Life of Privilege Explained in a $100 Race – Please Watch to the End Link:


Books & Readings

  1. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander (2012)
  2. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Robin DiAngelo (2018)
  3. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Strategies for Facilitating Conversations on Race, Caprice Hollins and Ilsa Govan (2015)
  4. Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race, W. Sue (2016)
  5. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Ibram X. Kendi (2016)
  6. So You Want to Talk About Race? Ijeoma Oluo (2019)
  7. It’s time to talk (and listen): How to have constructive conversations about race, class, sexuality, ability & gender in a polarized world. New Harbinger Publications. Kim, A.S., & del Prado, A. (2019).
  8. Where we stand: Class matters. New York, NY: Routledge Press. hooks, b. (2000).
  9. The colonizer and the colonized. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Memmi, A. (1965).
  10. Privilege, power, and difference. McGraw Hill: Boston. Johnson, A. (2006).
  11. Uprooting Racism: How White people can work for racial justice. New Society Publishers: Canada. (2) Kivel, P. (2002).
  12. How does your positionality bias your epistemologyThoughts & Actions, 19 (1), p. 27 – 38. Takacs, D. (2003).
  13. A different mirror: A history of multicultural America(Revised ed.). New York, NY: Back Bay Books. Takaki, R. (2008).


Department of Counseling Recommended Resources

For everyone working towards racial healing, Toward a Psychological Framework of Radical Healing on Communities of Color: French, B. H., Jioni, A. L., Mosley, D. V., Adames, H. Y., Chanvez- Dueñas, N. Y., Chen, G. A., and Neville, H. A. (2020). Toward a Psychological Framework of Radical Healing in Communities of Color. The Counseling Psychologist, 48 (1), 14-46.

For White folks wondering how to engage check out the article from Embracing Equity: The Role of White Co-Conspirators in Dismantling Systemic Racism

For those engaged in, or moving towards social action, the S-Quad model is helpful in conceptualizing and breaking down the where, how, and with who of social justice engagement:

  • Strength includes reflecting on your strengths and assets including knowledge, skills, and experiences as well as social capital and resources. What do you already do well? What do you enjoy doing? What resources do you have or can access? Ask, “what do you have to offer?”
  • Solidarity is about engaging in with cultural humility and in culturally response ways. How are you building and investing energy in relationships with those most affected? Who’s experience is being centered? Ask, “with whom?”
  • Strategy requires defining and understanding the focus of one’s social action. Consider the different levels of intervention, individual, organizational or
  • Ask, “how can I do this”, or “what will I (we) do?”
  • Sustainability refers both to the sustainability of the strategy as well as your personal investment. For this pillar, work in relationship is crucial in fostering community and resilience. Consider what self-care and community-care actions you need to engage in to maintain your physical, emotional, spiritual, relationship health.

To learn more read the following article or watch the video from Alexander Street video database: Helping Counselors and Psychologists as Advocates and Activists: Strength, Solidarity, Strategy and Sustainability

Toporek, R, L. (2018)). Strength, Solidarity, Strategy and Sustainability: A Counseling Psychologist’s Guide to Social Action. The European Journal of Counselling Psychology, 7(1), 90–110. doi:10.5964/ejcop.v7i1.153

For everyone with children, here is a resource to help you have conversations about race, Talking Race With Young Children

Lastly, we urge everyone to consider your social media production and consumption. Within this think about what you are viewing and what you are posting. Does it contribute to racial healing and justice or does it perpetuate trauma and White supremacy? While the videos of the killings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery have been helpful in bringing charges, they also are being widely circulated as trauma porn.

To learn more about systemic racism check out these resources:

Back to top