Call to Action: Listen, Learn, Act
Dear U of A community:
By now, many of you are aware of the messages being posted by our students on Twitter at #BlackAtUARK. If you haven't seen these messages about what it's like to be black at the University of Arkansas, I encourage you to read the experiences and perspectives being shared. A lot of hurt, disappointment and frustration is being expressed here, and this is an important opportunity for change. Knowing about and acknowledging these experiences is a critical first step in developing foundations to prevent the continuation of racist activities and behaviors on our campus.
I've responded directly to these students via social media to make sure they know how important their messages are for everyone on this campus to hear — myself included. Thank you to the others on campus who have done the same.
Racist acts have no place on our campus or in the world. And as long as they exist, we will never have a truly inclusive campus. We all have a role to play in stopping racist and discriminatory activities. Everyone needs to understand what we stand for as a campus and that we will not tolerate actions that violate our commitment to a safe, equitable, inclusive, non-discriminatory and anti-racist campus.
The University of Arkansas is absolutely committed to enhancing and enriching diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is one of our Guiding Priorities, it's embedded in our strategic plan, and it's at the heart of everything the Office of Diversity and Inclusion does. We've made great strides in recent years, including the establishment of the IDEALS Institute earlier this year, but it's clear to me that these great efforts will be for naught if students' day-to-day and face-to-face experiences do not align with the larger ideals and goals of the university.
We need to do better and we need to dig deeper to create change. Here is a look at some of the things we are doing:
Listening with the intent to learn and act
I've started meeting weekly with an advisory group of black student leaders to discuss the changes they are requesting and what we can work on together now and always to confront racial inequities, systemic racism and other forms of discrimination. Changes we all desire. This group will grow as needed to ensure that all voices are heard. My next meeting with the black student leaders is this Friday. I know actions speak louder than words, but I really want to hear their thoughts, concerns and potential solutions before moving forward. We will soon be able to provide updates from these meetings and the specific actions that we will implement together.
We've also begun a series of strategy sessions called "Transforming U of A: Combating Racism to Build a More Inclusive Campus." This conversation is part of a series of campuswide planning sessions facilitated by the Office for Diversity and Inclusion to inform a campus action plan targeting a more inclusive campus culture and climate. If you were unable to attend last week, additional sessions are planned as early as next week. Registration is required by June 21st. Also, big thanks to the nearly 400 people who attended our first session last week. This shows that there is real hunger for change and a commitment to being better on our campus.
These are only a few of the immediate actions we are taking. We look forward to our entire campus community collaborating with us to implement other necessary actions, pending the outcomes of current conversations.
Thank you for your interest, engagement, and commitment to making the University of Arkansas a more inclusive and equitable campus.
And thank you to the students, faculty and staff who shared their stories at #BlackAtUARK. Black lives matter. Your voices matter and are being heard.
Joe Steinmetz, Ph.D.