July 7, 2020
Dear UNL community -
On June 5, I called for UNL to begin a journey of addressing anti-racism and racial equity. It is important to see this journey and the work of anti-racism as an ongoing process; and more importantly, as a step for us to have greater accountability and a sustained focus as an institution that serves our state and beyond.
Over the past few weeks, I have had a number of conversations with our Institute for Ethnic Studies faculty and its African and African American Studies Program, the African and African American Leadership Caucus, the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of People of Color, the Black Student Union and others. Our campus leaders have carefully studied the statements and recommendations submitted by departments, faculty, staff, and student organizations from across our university community. These recommendations and conversations were deeply insightful and pointed clearly to the need for this journey to commence for our University.
To this end, I have identified co-leaders whose research, creative activity, and engagement explores these topics. I am very pleased and thankful that the co-leaders for this critically important journey are:
- Lory J. Dance, Associate Professor of Sociology and Ethnic Studies
- Kwame Dawes, Chancellor’s Professor of English
- Anna W. Shavers, Cline Williams Professor of Citizenship Law and Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion
- Kara Mitchell Viesca, Associate Professor of Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education
- Sergio C. Wals, Associate Professor of Political Science and Ethnic Studies
They will work in concert and closely with Vice Chancellor Marco Barker and staff, faculty, and students in our Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Council on Inclusive Excellence and Diversity, and our collective student, faculty, and staff organizations across the campus.
More specifically, the faculty leaders will assist me and our University in developing and facilitating opportunities to learn about racism that are available across the University and for our local and extended communities; systematically reviewing and assessing racial disparities across our operations and the necessary practices and policy changes that address such disparities; leveraging the expertise, scholarship, artistry, and innovation of our faculty, staff, and students to inform local and national conversations on anti-racism and racial equity; and increasing our engagement with academic, professional, and statewide communities in an effort to foster an understanding and application of anti-racism and racial equity practices.
In addition to the journey ahead, there are some initial action steps we are taking to strengthen our commitment to inclusive excellence. Our institutional leaders and I will:
- Examine how our current core curriculum addresses diversity with a keen focus on race, privilege, and power.
- Develop a clearer and more transparent process for addressing climate issues that may impede an individual’s participation in our UNL community based on their identity.
- Establish co-director faculty leadership roles in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to work with the Office of Academic Affairs and academic colleges on faculty diversity recruitment, retention, and development. This will work in concert with staff recruitment and retention efforts.
- As suggested by those who participated in our CEO Action sessions, initiate a culture of self-reflection and learning through a Chancellor’s reading program focused on race and identity each academic semester, beginning with the upcoming fall 2020 term.
- Commit to studying and addressing systemic issues and institutional policies. This will include developing a process to review the honorific naming of buildings and structures on our campus, as well as our approaches to community policing and UNLPD relationships as committed to by Interim University Police Chief Hassan Ramzah.
- Hold our University leadership team at the Chancellor’s Cabinet and Expanded Deans Council level accountable for developing anti-racist and inclusive excellence strategies.
These actions are the first steps of what I anticipate as multiple steps in addressing racial equity in our institution and the many concerns expressed by members of our campus community. We have more work to do and are committed to that work. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion will support me in monitoring and tracking our progress with these and future efforts.
This journey for Anti-Racism and Racial Equity strengthens our ability to fulfill our N2025 vision to emphasize inclusive excellence, enhance the student experience, increase our research and creative activity, and provide professional development for faculty, staff, and students. It positions our institution to better recognize and address structural barriers stemming from systemic racism; facilitate deeper self-reflection, dialogue and learning; and fulfill our mission to serve as the state’s intellectual center.
Unfortunately, history shows us that this is not the first time such a journey is needed or warranted. But as I said last month, Now Must Be Different. As I finish penning this message, I just concluded listening to the formative discussions of the Big Ten Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition. Commissioner Warren asked me at the end of the call if I had one word to describe how I feel about these efforts – my response was “essential.”
I challenge all of us to commit to and join in this journey as we build a stronger and better future for all. We can only make meaningful and sustained change by all of us working together.
Ronnie D. Green, Ph.D.