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Action against racism on campus

Announcing the launch of the Presidential Commission on Equity and Belonging.

Dear campus community,

We have an urgent vision for the U.

Our collective vision calls for us to come together and say we will not tolerate what has long been intolerable. We remind our campus family that harm and fear continue to ripple through our community, especially our Black community. We reject the insidiousness of hate, bias, and discrimination in all its forms. We say: No more.

Our nation has an ugly history and a complicated present when it comes to confronting issues of race. The recent bomb threat against our Black Cultural Center comes only a week after recent bomb scares targeted eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the country, and a week before our country honors the memory and the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

At the U, we must not simply rest on words. We must work continuously to address the harms of racism to create a community of belonging for all. To that end, we are launching the Presidential Commission on Equity and Belonging led by Vice President Mary Ann Villarreal and Vice President Lori McDonald, to guide our short-term approaches to address the harm happening in our community.

Over the next 30 days, this team will focus on an institution-wide Day of Collective Action. The university will collectively pause for a day to reflect on how hate impacts our community; how we want our community to grow; and how we will take active steps to support and build inclusivity at the U. During this pause, we will host a series of workshops where we bring together students, faculty, staff, and community to reflect and recommend specific actions to support and facilitate our collective healing.

Beyond focusing on immediate actions in the wake of these recent incidents, this group will also focus on aggressively moving forward critical initiatives. Among those will be strengthening the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities (Student Code). In coordination with students and other members of the U community—and within 60 days—we will propose revisions to the Student Code that will provide for enhanced sanctions for individuals who violate the code where those violations are motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate—on or off campus. We plan to move those changes through the university’s formal approval process by the end of the Spring 2022 Semester.

Additional work is required to ensure the campus community understands the important role that the Racist & Bias Incident Response Team (RBIRT) plays in providing transparency in how racist and bias incidents are reported, communicated, and addressed. Further, we will strengthen RBIRT to be appropriately resourced and empowered to act effectively; and those communications practices are deployed effectively to provide critical timely information on issues of race. At the end of those 90 days, the commission will deliver to President Taylor Randall a written report of its work, actions taken, and any next steps.

Within the next 90 days, we will meet with various student and community groups with the goal of establishing a Community Compact outlining the ways in which we will double down on our shared commitment to continuing our work to provide a more inclusive community at the U.

Of course, as we meet with various groups and receive feedback from our Day of Action, the Presidential Commission on Equity and Belonging will add more details and action steps to our 30-60-90-day approach. In the meantime, we want you to know that our work will not be deterred by those who seek to stop it.

We are only emboldened to take stronger action.

Sincerely,

Taylor Randall, President
Martell Teasley, Interim Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Michael Good, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences
Mary Ann Villarreal, Vice President for Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion
Lori McDonald, Vice President for Student Affairs
Laura Snow, Chief of Staff
Mark Harlan, Director of Athletics
Cathy Anderson, Chief Financial Officer
Jason Perry, Vice President for Government Relations
Chris Nelson, Interim Chief Marketing & Communications Officer
Jeff Herring, Chief Human Resources Officer
Erin Rothwell, Interim Vice President for Research
Phyllis Vetter, General Counsel and Vice President
Heidi Woodbury, Vice President for Advancement
Keith Squires, Chief Safety Officer
Natalie Gochnour, Senior Advisor to the President

Presidential Commission on Equity and Belonging

Co-chairs
Mary Ann Villarreal, Vice President for Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion
Lori McDonald, Vice President for Student Affairs

Members
Natalie Gochnour, Senior Advisor to the President
Michael Good, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences
Mark Harlan, Director of Athletics
Jeff Herring, Chief Human Resources Officer
Erin Rothwell, Interim Vice President for Research
Laura Snow, Chief of Staff
Keith Squires, Chief Safety Officer
Martell Teasley, Interim Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs