Responding to Racism in Our Community

Over the past week, I have struggled to find the right words to express the sorrow and grief that captures what is happening in America right now. I have spent this time listening to my friends and colleagues share their own frustrations with the world they experience every day, many of whom are struggling to understand why this particular incident of violence, against George Floyd, is such a pivotal moment for our country. We are a country that continues grappling with racial division. 

This struggle isn’t limited to what is happening in the broader world; it is also one that we have on our own campus. We are proud to be a diverse university, proud to be a minority serving institution, and we have aspirations to be so much more than we are today. Yet who we are as a community on a day-to-day basis doesn’t match our aspirations.

This week, I ask you to reflect on the experiences of our students, faculty, and staff and participate in one of President Smatresk’s Black Lives Matter Virtual Town Hall Meetings, which are 2-3:30 p.m. Friday, June 5 for students and 2-3:30 p.m. Monday, June 8 for faculty and staff.

Some of our students started a twitter hashtag #BlackatUNT, which shares the experiences of our community. I encourage you to read about these experiences. We must be better than this. 

This academic year Faculty Senate passed a resolution, in response to the requests from the Student Government Association, asking that the university put in place mandatory diversity and inclusion training. Joanne Woodard, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, and I met with members of our community to learn more about what type of professional development related to diversity and inclusion they believed would be most useful. This fall, the Office of Faculty Success, in partnership with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, will be providing a series of professional development opportunities for our faculty and staff to continue growing professionally in the area of diversity and inclusion.  

This alone isn’t enough, but I know each of us can, and should, commit to our individual growth in supporting a more inclusive campus.