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Dear Auburn Family,

The calls for greater transparency and accountability, coupled with the outpouring of support from all Auburn constituencies as it relates to our minority enrollment, demonstrate the passion and love we all have for our university. Auburn is not where we should be in regard to underrepresented minority enrollment, and we have a long way to go toward improving diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. My office has made it a priority to take specific actions and make tangible progress toward increasing minority admissions, scholarships and need-based awards. The Presidential Task Force for Opportunity and Equity has made several positive strides in the few last months.

Task Force Progress

In the fall, the task force made recommendations to support increasing the recruitment and retention of African American students. The recommendations that have been implemented include reducing enrollment barriers for students who might not otherwise consider Auburn, flexible admissions policies and an increase in merit scholarships and need-based aid. We also improved access to AU by joining the CommonApp and guaranteeing admission to the valedictorian and salutatorian from each accredited Alabama high school with more than 50 students.

Increased Access to the University

Today, I am pleased to share gains in all of these areas, which contribute to our broader enrollment efforts. Recruitment of minority students remains an institutional priority and an essential goal in our strategic plan. Since deploying key strategies, we’ve seen a shift in the makeup of our applicant pool. Minority student applicants increased 37% and Black student applicants increased by 18%. We also admitted more minority and Black students this year. We will not know until late spring how many students who were offered admission to Auburn plan to enroll in the fall, as May 1 is the enrollment deposit deadline.

Increased Merit Scholarships and Need-Based Awards

In the fall of 2020, Auburn awarded $1.1 million in institutional aid to first-time freshmen who demonstrated financial need. For the fall of 2021, we are increasing that total by approximately $2.4 million to a total of $3.5 million. As a result, it is expected that the amount awarded for need-based aid will approximate $14 million over four years, up from $4 million currently. Students awarded the Ever to Conquer scholarship increased by 288%. More than 500 freshmen were awarded this need-based scholarship for Alabama residents, valued at $20,000 over four years ($5,000 per year). Additionally, all incoming freshmen awarded an Ever to Conquer scholarship received automatic admission to the Tiger Excellence Scholars Program administered by the Office of Inclusion and Diversity. The program is designed to support the retention of students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, low-income families and first-generation college students.

On Tiger Giving Day, about $370,000 was raised to support several DEI projects and scholarships. A scholarship fund, aimed at helping underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students at Auburn, was established last fall when the Auburn Athletics Task Force on Inclusion and Race Relations created the Together We Will Initiative. On Tiger Giving Day, the scholarship fund raised $287,400. Prior to Tiger Giving Day, the fund received a substantial boost with a $250,000 gift. The Together We Will scholarships will be awarded to students starting this summer. The Dr. Josetta Brittain Matthews Memorial Endowed Scholarship raised $29,950 to support to undergraduate students in Alabama whose financial need makes attendance at Auburn cost-prohibitive. Dr. Matthews was the first Black student to earn a graduate degree from Auburn and was the university’s first Black faculty member.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training

Auburn will begin diversity, equity, inclusion campus-wide training for all students, faculty and staff in fall 2021. This training is designed to help people better understand one another, to respect differences and to value each person’s individual human dignity.

Auburn Students & Community for Change Letter

On March 5, I replied to the Demands for Racial Equity letter from the Auburn Students & Community for Change organization. Several initiatives the group highlighted have in fact been implemented after recommendations from the task force and as a result of months of hard work across campus. Many of the items they suggest are already underway or in the planning stages with the presidential task force, and the others will be considered and discussed with senior leadership and the task force. As I shared with them, I do not agree with their characterization of the actions or motives of the Auburn leadership, all whom care deeply about the institution and its students, faculty and staff. I emphatically stated there has been no attempt from Auburn’s senior leadership nor the task force to deceive, exploit or abuse Black and POC students, staff, faculty and alumni. Let me make clear that white supremacy, racism, sexism, misogynoir, xenophobia and homophobia have no place in the Auburn Family nor on the Auburn campus. As with any institution, the university has been imperfect in the past, and mistakes will be made in the future. However, while I serve as president, we will always hold ourselves accountable.

We are working hard to increase diversity in admissions, create opportunities to make Auburn financially accessible and to retain the bright students we recruit. We are moving the needle in the right direction, but we recognize it is not enough. The institution is steadfastly committed to persistently doing the necessary work it takes to make Auburn a more just, equitable, diverse and inclusive campus.

Please visit our website to stay up to date with the progress of the Presidential Task Force for Opportunity and Equity.

Sincerely,

Jay Gogue
President