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Top stories of 2020: Our goal of an anti-racist campus

We want to highlight concrete actions we are taking to achieve our goal of an anti-racist 21st century campus grounded in equity and inclusion.

Dear colleagues,

As a university, we are committed to addressing racist policies and long-standing practices that perpetuate racism and inequity on our campus. The work aimed at creating an equitable, diverse and fully inclusive campus requires the attention of and contributions from all of us, guided by Vice President Mary Ann Villarreal in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).

We want to highlight concrete actions we are taking to achieve our goal of an anti-racist 21st-century campus grounded in equity and inclusion.

EDI Executive Committee

In August, EDI will create an Executive Committee comprised of faculty and administrative thought-leaders from across campus to inform, guide and coordinate these efforts.

The committee’s first project will be to examine institutional policies and practices that perpetuate racism, bias and systemic inequity in the recruitment, hiring and advancement of staff and faculty. This will lead to hiring and retention initiatives and other actions that will build on previous diversity hiring efforts at the U.

The Executive Committee’s work will be informed by members of the President’s Cabinet, who have been asked to identify policies and practices in their portfolios that may perpetuate systemic bias. We will ask the Executive Committee to deliver its initial report by Oct. 1, 2020.

The Executive Committee also will look at other proposals and recommendations related to anti-racist initiatives.

One U Thriving

EDI also will launch an initiative called One U Thriving that will bring together four existing campus working groups: the Anti-Racism Committee; the Racist & Bias Incident Response Team; the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women; and the Universal Design and Access Committee. The committees will meet monthly and the co-chairs of each group will meet quarterly with Villarreal, Lori McDonald, vice president for student affairs, and Jeff Herring, chief human resource officer. The entities will address campus needs in real-time and set action plans for the future.

Learn more about EDI’s other initiatives at its Call to Action website.

New leadership positions

The university has created two new leadership positions that focus on equity, diversity and inclusion—an assistant vice president for faculty equity and diversity, and a deputy chief diversity officer.

Myra Washington will start July 1 as the U’s new assistant vice president for faculty equity and diversity. She currently is an associate professor of communication and journalism at the University of New Mexico. Washington will report to Sarah Projansky, associate vice president for faculty, and will work with Projansky and Villarreal to identify a new deputy chief diversity officer to further expand the U’s programs.

Washington will work with departments and colleges across campus to ensure attention to equity, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the faculty hiring process—starting with hiring plans and recruitment and continuing through campus visits and onboarding. Additionally, Washington will develop and oversee programs that support and mentor faculty from underrepresented populations. Boosting retention, promotion, tenure and faculty review processes will be key as well.

Research focus

Each year, the Office of the Vice President for Research funds seed grant initiatives and research programs on topics of urgent and critical importance to our society. In the coming academic year, the office will prioritize partnerships across the university that will encourage thoughtful, measurable actions, such as creating new programs, seed grants and infrastructure for research activities that specifically support equality, diversity and inclusion efforts on our campus, in our communities and beyond.

The office also will engage key leaders, researchers, students and staff from the Black community to hear new ideas on how to implement immediate and sustainable change within the U research community. Amplifying and prioritizing voices from individuals in the research community who experience the effects of systemic racism and discrimination is essential in helping us establish a culture that works to dismantle systematic inequities

For Utah Scholarship

We are very pleased to share that the new For Utah scholarship, announced in November 2019, has been very well received. More than 800 students joining the U this fall have accepted the scholarship. This scholarship will provide a fully funded path to a degree for students who may not otherwise have thought it possible to attend the state’s leading research university. The scholarship is a true transformative effort that draws federal, state and university funds to provide a first-class education for students. We are excited to welcome our For Utah students to our community.

The scholarship allows our EDI and other student success teams to fully focus their energies on supporting students, working to connect students to resources across our campus and, most importantly, ensuring they complete their degrees.

We appreciate the many actions and activities colleges and units around campus are taking to address institutional racism and engage in thoughtful discussions about bias, oppression and discrimination. We encourage you to continue these conversations and to look at your own entities to see how you can be part of driving change and creating a culture of inclusion.

Ruth Watkins

Mike Good
Senior Vice President for Health Sciences

Dan Reed
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Mary Ann Villarreal
Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion