Dear campus community,
February is Black History Month, and the U’s Black Cultural Center is hosting several events throughout February, including guest lectures, film screenings, community conversations and more.
This month, especially, is a time for us to reflect on this history and recognize the significant contributions of Black individuals and communities in our society. As an institution, we should uplift and amplify the voices of those within our community who are making a difference and helping to chart the course for our future. Naturally, this concerted effort must live beyond the month of February and should not exist within a silo. With our IntersectX12 initiative, we are intentionally bringing more of these conversations to the forefront throughout the year.
We are also committed to keeping members of our diverse communities safe. As a leadership team, we remain steadfast in our commitment to reject hate, bias and discrimination. In this context, to follow up on the broader plans announced earlier this month, we will host a Day of Collective Action on Tuesday, March 22.
This Day of Collective Action is a campus-wide moment of reflection and action designed to propel our collective goal to create an inclusive community forward. On this day, we ask students, faculty and staff to participate in workshops and other activities that will address racism, bias and discrimination. Specifically, we want to address the harm members of the Black community experience, which have been amplified in recent weeks.
The Day of Collective Action is a starting point. It is a part of the broader equity, diversity and inclusion work happening across campus in various forms. Further, we will use the feedback and learning that result from the day to deepen our understanding, fortify our resolve to keep every member of our community safe and to take specific action steps that both support and facilitate our collective healing. Most importantly, this will be the first annual event focused on collective community action.
We encourage academic programs to incorporate themes and faculty and instructors to participate in classroom reflection. We also ask that we all promote flexibility for students and faculty in relation to holding and attending classes on this important day.
When the Presidential Committee on Equity and Belonging (PCEB) finalizes its plans, we will share them with you. In the meantime, we want to share the following developments regarding initiatives underway at the U:
- Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Martell Teasley is holding facilitated listening sessions amongst faculty members from all of the colleges and schools on main campus.
- The President’s Cabinet will be participating in a multi-day workshop to dive deeper into further understanding of our leadership roles and responsibilities related to EDI work.
- We have begun campus-wide research on all the EDI initiatives and activities already underway, with a goal of streamlining and strengthening these efforts.
- A PCEB subcommittee is underway with preparations for the Collective Day of Action.
An awareness campaign for the Racist and Biased Incident Response Team (RBIRT) will launch this semester.
- The EDI Strategy Council, consisting of many leaders on campus, will launch a campus-wide resource of toolkits for self-assessments related to EDI efforts.
We are committed to this campus community, and we will do our part to make certain the U is a place where all students, faculty and staff members can thrive. As the work of the PCEB progresses, we will share updates with you. You can also visit the PCEB website at president.utah.edu/pceb. We hope to see you during the Day of Collective Action.
Mary Ann Villarreal
Vice President for Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion
Vice President for Student Affairs