NORTHBOROUGH – The Northborough Diversity and Inclusion Committee presented its final report to the Board of Selectmen last week, capping over a year of work on that project.
Recommendations include efforts to incorporate inclusive language — like changing the name of the Board of Selectmen to “Select Board.” The committee is also recommending that the town undertake a diversity and inclusion strategic plan.
“What we’ve done is really great, for sure, but it’s just the beginning,” said committee member Mariam Ibrahimi during a Jan. 24 Board of Selectmen meeting.
Selectmen celebrate report
The selectmen established the Diversity and Inclusion Committee in 2020. They tasked it with conducting a review of Northborough’s policies and procedures through a lens of diversity and inclusion.
This report is the culmination of that process.
“That’s really powerful stuff,” Selectman Scott Rogers said of forums where community members shared their experiences.
The selectmen noted how the committee’s work touched on the work of other committees.
“I guess, ‘Wow,’ is the first word that comes out of my mouth with this,” Selectman Leslie Rutan said. “…To be honest, there was so much more accomplished than I thought would be in this period of time.”
Report includes recommendations
One of the committee’s recommendations was to establish a permanent committee, which would act as an advisory committee to the Board of Selectmen.
The committee identified immediate actions, like recognizing Juneteenth as a local holiday and renaming Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
It also suggested that town public safety departments develop relationships with public safety academy schools.
Many town departments have told the committee that they are facing challenges with recruitment and hiring. Ibrahimi said that they discussed the Fitchburg State University Police Program after hearing those concerns from the police department.
“[There] is a great opportunity for the department to potentially work with qualified and diverse recruits who are coming out of the program,” Ibrahimi said.
The committee is also recommending that the town create a calendar of events in partnership with the Community Affairs Committee and adopt a formal policy for using the Town Common. That, Ibrahimi said, would allow for a more inclusive use of the space by community members.
The committee is also interested in creating a “Lyceum group,” which would work with the library and the schools’ Coalition for Equity to develop a listening and workshop series for the community. An educational community gathering, Northborough’s historic Lycea had brought speakers like Frederick Douglas to town.
The committee further suggested that the town should pursue a grant that would evaluate Northborough’s infrastructure for Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility.
“I think the recommendations that we’re going to make tonight are thorough and well-thought-out, and hopefully resonate with the board and give us the chance to move forward in 2022 and beyond,” committee member Tim Kaelin said.