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Friday Forum: Confronting our racism

Introducing the Friday Forum series on racism in higher education.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) at the University of Utah is leading a collective call to action for truth, healing and the building of anti-racist campuses with the launch of Friday Forums on Racism in Higher Education.

Each month, EDI will host national conversations with the goal of helping attendees start on a journey to eradicate racism and share best practices for sustained growth and action.

“The legacies of racism that constrain us are deep and long, and we are not going to solve our discomfort with one or two day-long trainings,” said Mary Ann Villarreal, vice president for EDI at the U. “The work we must do is about rooting out the systematic racism that lives in the everyday. We must recognize that racism pervades the structures that have raised us and that we in turn have fostered. We cannot run from that system, but we can dismantle its roots. We must unearth, uproot and plant anew.”

Friday Forums is a commitment to the state and region in elevating national conversations and showcasing models of disrupting complicit racism. Each session will welcome national thought leaders to lead discussions and provide opportunities for participants to share ideas on actionable items toward a diverse, equitable and inclusive campus.

The first installation, “Confronting Our Racism,” will take place Sept. 25, 2020, at 1 p.m. MST. The panel will be hosted by University of Utah President Ruth Watkins with special guests, noted historian Nell Irvin Painter and political strategist and CNN commentator, Bakari Sellers.

After the general session, at 2 p.m. MST, attendees from the U will have the opportunity to join a breakout session to dive even further into how to move forward. They will be able to choose from one of four tracks:

     1. Let’s Get Started
         How to begin the journey toward anti-racism.

     2. Hear Us
         Breaking down the systemic racism that impacts our communities.

     3. Moving the Needle
         Modeling action-based and transformative initiatives.

     4. How to be an ally to the Black community
         Led by students, for students.

“We invite everyone, from the U and beyond, to do this important work with us,” said Villarreal. “We know that one conversation isn’t going to solve anything for any particular group, so we are taking several multi-pronged approaches and bringing academics together to be able to hear and learn from a wide range of experiences and tackle many different aspects of racism in higher education.”

Villarreal said she hopes participants will take what they have learned back to their teams, wherever they are, and begin developing their own plans for how they can put these lessons into practice.

Friday Forums will take place on the fourth Friday of each month during the school year with the exception of December.

Friday Forums schedule and topics  

  • Sept. 25, 2020: “Confronting Our Racism”
  • Oct. 23, 2020: “Establishing Anti-Racist Policy & Strategy”
  • Nov. 20, 2020: “A Racially Just Workplace”
  • Jan. 29, 2021: “A Call for Racial Healing”
  • Feb. 26, 2021: “Racial Equity and Philanthropy”
  • March 26, 2021: “The Long Game: Deepening the Work”

Learn more and register here.