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Equity and Inclusion

Members of the Fisher Center staff have established both an Anti-Racism Working Group and an Accessibility Working Group dedicated to addressing bias and its many effects, encouraging education and productive discourse, and affecting positive change—internally and externally.

To share your experience, feedback, or questions, please contact the Fisher Center Anti-Racism Working Group and the Accessibility Working Group at fcequity@bard.edu.


Anti-Racism Working Group

The Anti-Racism Working Group is composed of volunteer representatives from across the Fisher Center who are dedicated to the continuous examination of our culture and processes in the pursuit of an anti-racist future. Through resource-sharing, reading, training, and fostering an environment of discussion, this group aims to provide a space where we can engage reflexively toward improving our environment for staff, students, artists, and guests. This group was originally founded in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and continues to work towards holding ourselves and our community accountable to Anti-Racism across our practices and programming at the Fisher Center.

The Anti-Racism Working Group has been involved in initiatives such as: developing an interactive interface to share our land and slavery acknowledgments, attending a workshop to build skills in community organizing, running an anti-racist reading group, and bolstering our group’s ability to respond to bias incidents. We have also worked to strengthen partnerships between the Fisher Center and Bard College-based organizations like Rethinking Place: Bard-on-Mahicantuck, the Center for Indigenous Studies, the Council for Inclusive Excellence, and BardEATS.


Accessibility Working Group

The Accessibility Working Group aims to identify and remove barriers to access across the Fisher Center and its programs, as experienced by staff, students, audiences, visiting artists, and others. As a group of volunteers from departments across the Fisher Center, they collaborate with staff across the Fisher Center and Bard College to seek funding for and implement accessibility improvements.

Since its inception in September 2023, the Accessibility Working Group has played an instrumental role in initiatives such as: replacing our Assistive Listening Device system in our Sosnoff and LUMA theaters, including user expert testing and documentation; implementing an accessibility-focused survey during ticket checkout so guests may easily communicate any accessibility needs to us before they arrive for their performances; and purchasing size-inclusive seating—accompanied by a written policy, with exact dimensions—to ensure all guests attending can do so comfortably and confidently. We have also embarked on an ongoing project to create, publish, and maintain a “Know Before You Go” guide, which gives a comprehensive overview of every aspect of attending a performance, from the moment guests arrive on-site to when they exit the building. We are also in the process of updating our external and internal signage and installing additional motorized doors in our facilities.


LAND ACKNOWLEDGMENT FOR BARD COLLEGE IN ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON

Developed in Cooperation with the Stockbridge-Munsee Community

In the spirit of truth and equity, it is with gratitude and humility that we acknowledge that we are gathered on the sacred homelands of the Munsee and Muhheaconneok people, who are the original stewards of the land. Today, due to forced removal, the community resides in Northeast Wisconsin and is known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. We honor and pay respect to their ancestors, past and present, as well as to future generations, and we recognize their continuing presence in their homelands. We understand that our acknowledgment requires those of us who are settlers to recognize our own place in and responsibilities toward addressing inequity and that this ongoing and challenging work requires that we commit to real engagement with the Munsee and Mohican communities to build an inclusive and equitable space for all.

This land acknowledgment, adopted in 2020, required establishing and maintaining long-term and evolving relationships with the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians. The Mellon Foundation’s 2022 Humanities for All Times grant for “Rethinking Place: Bard-on-Mahicantuck” offers three years of support for developing a land acknowledgment–based curriculum, public-facing Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) programming, and efforts to support the work of emerging NAIS scholars and tribally enrolled artists at Bard.


SLAVERY ACKNOWLEDGMENT

The College acknowledges that its origins are intertwined with slavery, which has shaped the United States and American institutions from the beginning. Starting in the 16th century, European traders trafficked approximately 12 million Africans to the Americas, where they were held as property and forced to work as enslaved laborers. Their descendants were also held as slaves in perpetuity. The exploitation of enslaved people was at the foundation of the economic development of New York and the Hudson Valley, including the land now composing the Bard College campus. In the early 18th century, Barent Van Benthuysen purchased most of this land and was a slave owner. Later owners of the property also relied on Black workers they held in bondage for material gain. Montgomery Place, which became part of the College in 2016, was a working farm during the 19th century that likewise profited from the labor of enslaved people. 

The founders of Bard College, John Bard (1819–99) and Margaret Johnston Bard (1825–75) inherited wealth from their families and used it to found the College. That inheritance was implicated in slavery on both sides. John’s grandfather Samuel Bard (1742–1821) owned slaves. His father William Bard (1778–1853) was the first president of the New York Life Insurance Company, which insured enslaved people as property. Margaret’s fortune derived from her father’s commercial firm, Boorman and Johnston, which traded in tobacco, sugar, and cotton produced by enslaved labor throughout the Atlantic World. Other early benefactors of the College, such as John Lloyd Aspinwall (1816–73), also derived a significant proportion of their wealth, which they donated to the College, from commercial ventures that depended on slavery. John and Margaret Bard devoted their lives and monies to educational pursuits. In his retirement John Aspinwall redirected his fortune and energies toward humanitarian pursuits.

Recognition and redress of this history are due. As students, teachers, researchers, administrators, staff, and community members, we acknowledge the pervasive legacy of slavery and commit ourselves to the pursuit of equity and restorative justice for the descendants of enslaved people within the Bard community.