River Forest set to OK equity partnership with Dominican

Trustees expected to approve resolution on Oct. 26

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By Robert J. Lifka

Contributing Reporter

Following a brief discussion of the proposed partnership between River Forest and Dominican University at the Oct. 12 virtual village board meeting, village officials appear poised to take the next step on Oct. 26.

Officials from the village and the River Forest school are eyeing a mutually beneficial partnership that will assist the village in becoming a community where there is a commitment to a culture of equity and inclusion while helping the university expand its Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) efforts.

Village officials last month announced plans to form two advisory groups, one internal and the other external, to address the equity and inclusion issue. The internal advisory group was the focus of a village board committee of the whole meeting Sept. 21 and the external group, centered on the proposed partnership with Dominican, was discussed at the Sept. 29 village board meeting. 

Village President Cathy Adduci said she expected adoption of a resolution supporting the proposed partnership with Dominican to be considered at the Oct. 26 village board meeting.

Other steps outlined by Sheila Radford-Hill, chief diversity official for Dominican, in her presentation include the designation of one or two village trustees to serve as liaisons to the partnership and the Dominican Board of Trustees passing a similar resolution.

River Forest officials said they view the proposed partnership goals to be similar to those of the Twin Villages Covenant they entered into with Maywood earlier this year.

Radford-Hill, who also led discussion at the Sept. 29 village board meeting, described the proposed partnership as a "voluntary alliance of government, educational institutions and community-based groups in River Forest, Oak Park and Maywood that would collaborate to support equity and antiracist initiatives for open and welcoming communities."

Adduci and Trustees Erika Bachner, Katie Brennan, Patty Henek and Respicio Vazquez expressed their support of the proposed partnership. Brennan also expressed her gratitude to Dominican officials.

Henek called the partnership "exciting work, important work and ongoing work" and Bachner said she was "looking forward to the beginning of this relationship." 

Vazquez said he "liked the fact that it's more expansive and inclusive." 

In response to a question from Trustee Bob O'Connell, Radford-Hill said they now have a liaison with Concordia University, adding, "We have every intention to spread that message" to that school, which also is in River Forest.

In response to a question from Trustee Tom Cargie, Radford-Hill indicated a timetable for specific recommendations has yet to be set.

"That might require changes to policies, practices and procedures," she added.

Adduci expressed her pleasure with the support from village officials.

"I'm glad the board is embracing this," she said. "I'm very excited.

"There's so much to do. I'm looking forward to a long-term relationship."

Radford-Hill described the goal of proposed partnership to "mobilize and support antiracist and inclusive projects, initiatives, events, programs and activities to increase the scope, scale and impact of community and campus-wide efforts to promote equity and racial justice." 

Another goal is to "raise the next generation of student leaders and build communities that promote justice through cooperation," she said.    

TRHT is a nationwide effort to prepare the next generation of strategic leaders and thinkers to break down racial hierarchies and dismantle the belief in the hierarchy of human value. 

The Twin Villages Covenant, approved by both villages' boards earlier this summer, is designed "to guide the overarching spirit of our distinct towns to think as one and to interact in more collaborative ways." 

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