November 17, 2021
Dear students, faculty and staff:
After a great deal of input and conversations across our campus community, today we are releasing a Commitment to Action as part of our Journey for Anti-Racism and Racial Equity.
Last year, the murder of George Floyd and the deaths of many other people of color indicated a need for organizations to focus on understanding racism and on long-term, meaningful change toward greater racial equity. We announced our Journey at that time, with its initial steps of learning and listening and then, with a diversity of input, to thoughtfully act.
One of the more immediate actions was the convening of scholars to serve as our Journey Co-Leaders, which has been absolutely core to our efforts. They have been providing critical feedback and leadership on some of our institutional initiatives and challenges.
- Lory J. Dance, associate professor of sociology and ethnic studies
- Kwame Dawes, Chancellor's Professor of English, Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner
- Anna W. Shavers, Cline Williams Professor of Citizenship Law, associate dean for diversity and inclusion, College of Law
- Kara Mitchell Viesca, associate professor of teaching, learning and teacher education
- Sergio C. Wals, associate professor of political science and ethnic studies
- Colette M. Yellow Robe, retention specialist, TRIO Programs
We want to applaud our student leaders and student organizations. They have challenged us to be transparent and to commit to actions, not simply plans, so that institutional leaders can be held accountable. Their voices are very much reflected in the steps we’re laying out today. And they will continue to be an integral part of our path forward.
Since last year, we and the Journey Co-Leaders have heard from and met with a multitude of faculty, staff and student groups across our campus; hearing directly from them how much still needs to be done and their recommendations for steps we could take. The Co-Leaders then synthesized these comments into key themes. Based on this input, our UNL leadership team is today announcing our initial Commitment to Action toward our Journey, with clear action items based on what we heard from our campus community aligned with the aims of our N2025 Strategic Plan.
This Commitment to Action has concrete steps built within five themes:
- Advancing Diversity and Inclusion Across the Institution
- Positioning Excellence and Learning Through Diversity
- Promoting Community, Sense of Belonging, and Mattering
- Building and Sustaining Anti-Racist Infrastructure and Accountability
- Acknowledging the Impact of COVID-19 on Communities who are Under-Resourced or Racially Minoritized
We are committed to fostering an environment where we better recruit, retain, and support the success of students, faculty and staff who identify as Black, Indigenous, and persons of color. To strengthening and elevating the expertise and scholarship that address racial inequity. To, along with the University of Nebraska system, fostering an inclusive climate where people feel that they belong and matter. To examining and revising policies, promoting transparency and accountability and looking at institutional organizations and entities to ensure better representation. And to reviewing our COVID policies to ensure they reflected the needs of racial groups who have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic.
This is not a one and done plan. We recognize that too often in the past, eloquent words have been spoken or great plans announced – to far too little result. As we said last year, now must be different. This Commitment to Action has concrete steps to which leaders can be held accountable. It builds a solid foundation for future action. It is directly linked to our university’s Strategic Plan. It is one step in our long-term, and critically important, journey to a more diverse, inclusive and equitable campus for all. Along with the Co-Leaders and dedicated individuals across our campus, we will continue to move forward with action.
This Commitment also builds on the work of the past. UNL asked Halualani & Associates to examine our diversity activities and efforts from 2011 to 2016. Their report included several recommendations to better recruit and retain diverse students, faculty and staff and to leverage and coordinate existing programs and efforts. In 2018, we created the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and in 2019, we welcomed Dr. Barker to lead it. Through the leadership of that office, our academic colleges, and administrative areas, many units across our university have created plans to improve their diversity.
As a reminder, our N2025 Strategic Plan, announced in February of 2020, had as its foundation that “every person and every interaction matters.” One of its six Aims was, “Create a climate at Nebraska that emphasize, prioritizes, and expands inclusive excellence and diversity.” At UNL, inclusive excellence means we integrate diversity, equity and educational quality into our missions and operations. It is an active process for us to achieve excellence in learning, teaching, student development, instructional operations and engagement in local and global communities.
For nearly 153 years, the University of Nebraska has been working to provide access to exceptional higher education, and to spark research and creativity activity that enriches our university, our community, and our state. The Commitment to Action is part of that overall effort; one we are absolutely committed to continue and one for which we know you will continue to hold us accountable.
ChancellorRonnie D. Green, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor for Diversity and InclusionMarco Barker, Ph.D.