In support of Black Lives Matter
Racial discrimination, injustice, and violence have an incredibly long and persistent history in the U.S., especially for Black people. The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many other Black people at the hands of law enforcement have once again underscored the horrors of injustice and discrimination that Black people face in our society. It is imperative that we take action immediately.
These actions must be in pursuit of clear goals. For the College of Arts and Sciences and the University of Oregon, I think our initial goals are fairly straightforward. We need to recruit more Black faculty, staff, and students to our campus, for starters. But just as crucial is the need for a climate where they can succeed and flourish. It is imperative that we recruit and retain Black faculty and staff, not simply to address the systemic discrimination Black people face in our institutions, but because it is vital to our own excellence as an institution that Black culture, history, and perspective are represented and valued.
In support of these goals, these are the actions our college will be taking in the coming year, beginning immediately:
1) We are launching a Black Studies program, which will begin offering a Black Studies minor in Fall 2020 ([blackstudies.uoregon.edu]blackstudies.uoregon.edu). Having this academic program in place will make it possible for the Umoja Academic Residential Community (ARC), a key program for first-year Black students, to begin again in concert with an academic program. The Black Studies program, the Umoja ARC, and the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center will hopefully provide a strong foundation to welcome and support Black students on campus.
2) We will work closely with the provost to hire more Black tenure-track faculty through the Institutional Hiring Plan, Target of Opportunity hires, and any other available strategies. We will also review our hiring process for career instructors and staff to devise and implement strategies to recruit and retain more Black people in these important positions on our campus as well.
3) We will dedicate CAS Dean’s Diversity Grant awards this coming year to addressing systemic discrimination and injustices toward Black people on our campus. These awards support proposals that are generated by our faculty and departments, allowing them to implement more “local” actions to improve climate in their units for Black faculty, staff, and students, or support other efforts related to the Black Lives Matter movement.
4) We will redouble our efforts to work with STEM departments to close the achievement gaps between Black students and their white peers.
5) We will work with faculty to develop new courses and curriculum that will fill in the gaps we have with respect to Black Studies and anti-racism pedagogy. Consultation with faculty and students will be important to ensure that we are not only building courses and curriculum that are pedagogically sound, but that also resonate with our students.
6) We will meet with different constituent groups on an annual basis to gather their advice and feedback on our efforts. We will ask to meet with the Black Strategies Group, with Black student groups, the Black Alumni Network, and with our Black faculty. This will be part of an annual effort to review and assess our effectiveness and plan our future actions.
We see all of these actions as part of an iterative process of action, discussion, evaluation, and development of new action plans. We must commit to these types of ongoing, iterative processes if we want to truly address the systemic and pervasive racism in our organization and in our society. This can’t be a one-time, check-the-box exercise.
Our college and university have been engaged in such an iterative process since the Black Lives Matter movement began more than five years ago. We can see it in the conclusion of a three-year Diversity Action Plan, a Black Studies cluster hire, and efforts to establish a Black Studies program. Not unexpectedly, we have had both successes and failures. We are committed to learning from these experiences and doing better. This moment calls for us to recommit ourselves in the strongest terms to this process.
I thank everyone in advance for joining us in these efforts in CAS that are vital to the University of Oregon as a whole.