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University Leaders Reaffirm Commitment to ‘Build Our Community Together’

June 12, 2020
The Well

UNC-Chapel Hill campus photo with bell tower in the background and redbud tree branches in the foreground. (Photo by Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Campus leaders announced action and financial support to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion in a campus email Thursday.

“In January, we announced that the first strategic priority in Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good is ‘Build Our Community Together,’ which focuses on prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion, and investing in policies, systems and infrastructure that promote belonging, accountability and transparency throughout the University community,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz, Provost Robert A. Blouin and Interim Chief Diversity Officer Sibby Anderson-Thompkins wrote. “We were deliberate and intentional in making this our first and top priority, and in December, we committed to investing and financially supporting this important work. We must put real action and financial support behind our words if we are to truly be the leading global public research university we aspire to be.”

The email also acknowledged the University has been remiss in the past in taking action to make Carolina an inclusive environment.

“We will be agents of change at Carolina, and it will start with us. We acknowledge that Carolina has moved too slowly to enact change throughout its history,” the email read. “We haven’t done enough to align our actions with our aspirations to be a fully inclusive campus community. While we must continue to listen and learn, we must also move forward with a greater sense of urgency, purpose and action, starting today.”

The University is undertaking the following actions to support campus-wide dialogue, healing and structural change.

  • Over the last year, Carolina developed a campus-wide diversity, equity and inclusion network that was informed by the community-building forums held last fall. As part of that effort, diversity officers have been embedded in schools and units across campus to help implement the strategic opportunities identified in Carolina Next.
  • In May, the inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council was formalized, which is comprised of diversity officers from schools and units across campus to serve as a permanent advisory board to the Chief Diversity Officer and the senior leadership team. This Council reports directly to the Chief Diversity Officer and will explore equity models for structural change at Carolina. The Council will also examine University policies, practices and infrastructure to bring about structural change and develop measurable actions with key performance indicators to evaluate progress.
  • Over the next academic year, the University will implement campus climate surveys and develop metrics and benchmarks for annually tracking and reporting of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across schools and units.
  • This summer, the University Office of Diversity and Inclusion will host Racial Equity Institute training for senior leaders, including vice chancellors, vice provosts and deans. More than 3,000 people in the Carolina community have already completed this workshop.
  • This fall, the University will implement an online diversity, equity and inclusion training, similar to the required Title IX awareness and violence prevention training, for every person in the community to learn new concepts, broaden perspectives and allow everyone to work from a common set of terms.
  • The Sonja Haynes Stone Center has donated an area in their building that will be dedicated for use by African American students and their organizations to gather and hold meetings and events.
  • The University has requested that every dean and every division and department head to revisit their hiring practices, to the fullest extent possible under the law, so that Carolina may welcome and sustain a workforce that can meet the needs of a diverse student body and state.
  • Starting this fall, the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment will develop contemporary instruments and establish metrics and benchmarks to annually track diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across schools and units.
  • In the wake of COVID-19, the leadership team adopted an evidence-based diversity, equity and inclusion crisis action strategy to ensure that they are asking culturally relevant questions to avoid unconscious bias in decision-making, supporting diverse communities, applying inclusive and accessible online learning pedagogy and communicating thoughtfully and inclusively.
  • The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, in collaboration with campus partners, will offer virtual community sessions to provide space for open and honest conversation. Many schools and units, including the School of Medicine, Gillings School of Global Public Health, the Graduate School, Carolina Black Caucus and others have already started offering these sessions.
  • In July, the University will launch a leadership advancement program for tenured and tenure-track underrepresented faculty to provide career development skills, operational competencies and professional networking opportunities to encourage and promote career advancement at Carolina.

This work builds on efforts already underway by the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward, the Campus Safety Commission and the Student Learning to Advance Truth and Equity, that focuses on history, race, reckoning and the American South. The action steps listed above are the start of the University’s commitment to create change, and regular updates and other initiatives will be announced in the weeks and months ahead.

“We stand in solidarity with our faculty, students, staff and alumni in denouncing systemic racism, hate speech and white supremacy,” the email read. “And we will continue to listen, engage and demonstrate through actions our commitment to build a lasting culture of respect, inclusivity and belonging among our community.”

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