A Message From Dean Rossi


    A Message From Dean Rossi

    Dear Members of the Eastman Community,

    By now, many of you have learned about an incident involving an Eastman student and a Public Safety Officer in the lobby outside Kodak Hall. I found this incident deeply disturbing for several reasons. First, I have known this particular student for years as a person who is passionate about music, who has always displayed a deep love of Eastman, and who is recognized by his peers and the faculty as a thoughtful, outstanding, and well-respected member of our community. I can’t begin to imagine how personally painful it must be to have one’s very presence in the school where you have spent so many years questioned, and how this must be an afront to one’s personal dignity. That this was not the first time this particular student experienced such questioning is especially troubling. This incident is also unsettling in light of all the hard work we as a community have been investing to ensure that Eastman is a safe, welcoming, and anti-racist institution.

    Here are actions we are taking immediately to address this incident and elements of our culture that enabled it to occur:

    1. An investigation into this incident was launched this morning in accordance with the University’s Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Discriminatory Employment/Services Practices.
    2. The Public Safety Officer involved has been reassigned pending the outcome of the investigation.
    3. Starting tomorrow, there will be additional sensitivity training for all University Public Safety officers. This training, which was already scheduled, will include Fair and Impartial Policing© training, addressing not just racial/ethnic bias, but biases based on other factors, such as gender, sexual orientation, and more. Additionally, training will also be held to identify steps to de-escalate encounters with community members.
    4. A reexamination will be conducted of our procedures and training for Public Safety officers regarding requesting IDs.

    In addition, this incident occurred when an Eastman student reported to Public Safety the presence of an individual the student considered suspicious. This speaks to a larger issue of making certain that the Eastman School of Music fosters an environment where we truly embrace the rich diversity of our community, and where every member of that community is safe, welcome, and respected. To further that goal, I will be requiring participation in educational opportunities by every member of our community that will focus on issues of implicit-bias, “beyond color blindness,” community engagement, and other topics beginning in the fall semester.

    An incident like this goes beyond Public Safety, and highlights the critical importance of our continual work toward greater equity, diversity, and inclusion. Eastman has been deeply engaged in the work of racial and social justice throughout this past academic year. Last week, I shared a progress report on actions and initiatives taken this past year that were inspired by the tremendous work of the Eastman Action Commission for Racial Justice Report and Recommendations—both of which are found on the Eastman website. While we will continue to be deeply committed to this initiative, there is clearly much more work to be accomplished as we strive to be a community that unquestionably welcomes and respects all its members.

    While I can state wholeheartedly that we at Eastman prioritize the safety and respect of our Black and Brown students, I know this is not enough. I recognize the seriousness of incidents like this and their impact on some of the most vulnerable members of our community. As dean of the Eastman School of Music, I will continue to work closely with our University’s Department of Public Safety and Office of Equity and Inclusion to ensure that incidents like this are never repeated, and that our words and sentiments align with our culture, policies, and practices.


    Jamal Rossi

    Published at Wed, 12 May 2021 21:14:08 +0000

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