As the University of Utah prepares to welcome more students, staff and faculty back to campus for the 2021-22 academic year, university leaders remain committed to creating a space where everyone feels a sense of belonging.
Building upon former President Ruth Watkins’ vision for the future of One U and united in serving the people of Utah and the nation as a flagship institution at the forefront of scientific research and innovation, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the U launched One U Thriving as a synergistic approach in developing methods to achieve inclusion and equity on throughout the university.
One U Thriving is supported by a steering committee and four teams: the Universal Design & Access Committee, the Racist and Bias Incident Response Team, the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women and the Anti-Racism Committee.
The University of Utah’s Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTF) was first announced in 2017 in an effort to make the U a more welcoming place for all. Under the leadership of Mary Ann Villarreal, the U’s inaugural vice president for EDI, the ARTF has been reimagined as part of the One U Thriving initiative and renamed the Anti-Racism Committee.
“I think over the past year especially, many of us have learned how deep racism truly runs,” said Bryan Hubain, associate vice president for student development and inclusion and co-chair of the Anti-Racism Committee. “This is the time for us to take the great anti-racism work many of us have been doing in our own departments and come together to consciously and strategically work against the ways that racism has evolved and exists within the institution.”
The Anti-Racism Committee is charged with advising the One U Thriving Steering Committee on the overall campus climate regarding issues and events of racism across all intersections of identity and bias. Committee members are asked to recommend and evaluate measures to ensure every student, faculty, staff and visitor enjoys an environment free from racism and hate.
“This committee is really addressing all the ways that racism emerges through policy, practice and processes,” said Hubain. “It’s also providing a space to hear what anti-racism work individuals and departments are already doing across campus and to provide recommendations to university leadership in order to help remove any institutional barriers that might be impeding progress at different levels of the institution so we can create the change that’s necessary for true equity at the U.”
This semester, the Anti-Racism Committee convened its first intergroup dialogue with directors, program managers and assistant and associate directors from across campus. Through facilitated, difficult discussions and critical reflection assignments, this first group is learning ways to deconstruct racist policies and processes. The hope, Hubain said, is that many of the participants will then be able to become facilitators of similar intergroup dialogues in the future.
“This is really tough work,” said Dave Derezotes, Peace & Conflict Studies director, College of Humanities, part-time professor, College of Social Work and co-chair of the Anti-Racism Committee. “People get burnt out and we tend to have new waves of people engaging in the work. Right now, we are looking forward to creating more continuity and holding onto suggestions made throughout the year so even as we bring in new people, they are able to see some of the things they work so hard on actually start to happen.”
Moving forward, the Anti-Racism Committee plans to develop a “Think and Do Tank” consisting of departments throughout campus who can lead conversations with diverse groups of community members, students, faculty and staff around issues of racism.
“If we can think and discuss together, then we can also do and act together,” said Hubain. “The Think and Do Tank will help us address these issues together whether it be through an emerging plan, developing a set of recommendations for university leadership, expanding an existing program or other action items.”
If you and/or your department have engaged in anti-racism work at the U, you are invited to share what you’ve accomplished with the Anti-Racism Committee so its members can better understand how the process went and what barriers you may have faced. Reach out to Samantha Eldridge at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Whiteness Privilege and Critical Praxis course: for registration or more information, contact email@example.com.
Anti-Racism Committee members
Bryan Hubain, co-chair, associate vice president for Student Development and Inclusion
Dave Derezotes, co-chair, Peace & Conflict Studies director, College of Humanities and part-time professor, College of Social Work
Morgan Aguilar, communications specialist, University Marketing & Communications
Danielle Baum, human resources manager, Human Resources Management
Steven Bell, assistant professor, Parks, Recreation & Tourism and Occupational & Recreational Therapies
Susanna Cohen, associate professor, School of Medicine
Emma Houston, special assistant to the vice president for EDI
Dean McGovern, director, Bennion Center
Portia Saulabiu, director of administration, College of Architecture & Planning
Franci Taylor, director, American Indian Resource Center
Shelley White, outpatient services manager, Huntsman Cancer Hospital
Jen Wilson, programs manager, Health EDI