You cannot fix what you cannot face. The adage from author James Baldwin is especially poignant with the recent killings of Black people that have sparked nationwide protests, and the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on African American and Latinx communities, as well as American Indian nations.
These events have brought into clear focus the longstanding history of systemic racism, mistreatment, and murder that have resulted in the racial inequity we experience today, says Mary Ann Villarreal, the U’s inaugural vice president for equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). The U is taking steps to become an anti-racist 21st-century campus grounded in equity and inclusion, she says.
The first step is examining institutional policies and practices that could perpetuate racism, bias, and systemic inequity in the recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement of staff and faculty. To address this, a new EDI Executive Committee is being led by faculty co-chairs and administrative leaders who can effect change immediately. They are delivering their findings and beginning implementation this fall.
The second step is the creation of One U Thriving, which brings together groups from around campus to work together on EDI strategies and goals. This initiative will help ensure that students, faculty, and staff have a voice in bringing about racial healing and transformation, dealing with racial bias incidents, and shaping our journey as we achieve the goal of an anti-racist, inclusive, and equitable campus, says Villarreal.
The U also announced a new George Floyd Memorial Fund, which will support students and is committed to advancing the interests of the next generation of aspiring Black leaders.
Finally, the U has also created two new EDI-focused leadership roles and will prioritize research activities that specially support EDI efforts. “Equity, diversity, and inclusion are defining elements of our university values,” says Dan Reed, senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “We are unwaveringly committed to making this university an even more welcoming and inclusive place.”