The horrific murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and the killing of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky have thrust racism front and center. These events are not “new.” Their accessibility to us, via digital recordings, news coverage, social media, and police officer cameras have left us shocked, sorrowful, and angry. The images we viewed allowed each of us to feel the pain of the victims and their families.
Systemic racism in America has been a part of our society for centuries. We are now at a moment in time where we can change this. We cannot sit on the sidelines and see lives wasted. Silence and inaction are not the choices we can afford to make. It is past time for racism to end, and together we can change this.
Today I am calling on our entire UTC community to join me and our Executive Leadership Team to focus our intensity, integrity, passion, and compassion to eliminate racism. We know the examples, causes, and consequences of systemic racism within our institution and our community and our larger society, and we will take intentional, transparent, and decisive action to address and dismantle it. Each of us has a role, individually and as an institution, to create the future our students deserve; the future our community and nation deserve.
In this spirit, I am pleased to announce a series of measures intended to bring actions to our words. The following set of initiatives will provide broad, campus-wide impact, including:
- Our new strategic plan will identify measurable and actionable steps so it is clear our actions meet the meaning of our words. This is not a one-time statement but a commitment to drive significant change. As a campus, we will hold ourselves accountable.
- We will immediately begin a search for a Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement with a goal of having someone in place before the end of the fall semester. This member of our Executive Leadership Team (ELT) will ensure our actions reflect our words.
- A thorough review of the policies and procedures of our University police department will be conducted to ensure that we continue to be at the forefront of best practices. This review will be completed before July 1, 2020, and shared with our campus community.
- Our Diversity Advisory Council (DAC) will identify “signature events” for the campus community. Some may happen once while others may become recurring ones. We will come together as a UTC family committed to making a difference.
In addition, I am asking each of the members of our Executive Leadership Team to actively participate.
- I will hold a series of five open forum meetings during the fall semester to hear stories and experiences from our campus community. We will discuss progress on current campus initiatives and consider suggestions for new initiatives.
- Executive Vice Chancellor Richard Brown will review our physical space to consider opportunities to better reflect our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Our Student Government Association (SGA) will have an active role in this process. Our students are the reason we exist, and their opinions and advice must be heard and included in our campus conversations.
- Chief of Staff Terry Denniston and our Office of Civic Engagement will facilitate collaboration between our institution and our community to identify the role we do and should play in the broader context of our region. We need to understand our community’s “equity ecosystem” and maximize our impact, working with our business and community partners.
- Vice Chancellor for Information Technology Victoria Farnsworth will review student access to devices, technology, and the internet to ensure fair and equitable opportunities for success for every student.
- Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Dr. Yancy Freeman will work across campus units to develop a Bias Incident Response Team and associated policies and procedures, as well as an education campaign to ensure that our entire UTC community understands our values, expectations, and accountability.
- Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Jerold Hale will lead a review of our academic programs and curriculum so that our instruction reflects the mission and vision of UTC. This review will be completed and shared before the end of the fall semester.
- Vice Chancellor for Communications and Marketing George Heddleston will examine all advertising, communications, and materials from every unit across campus that will project our stand for diversity and inclusion.
- Vice Chancellor for Research Dr. Joanne Romagni will review research activities that relate to equality and social justice and identify areas of opportunities for expanded impact.
- Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Mark Wharton will lead the ELT in a comprehensive inventory, an “equity scan,” of UTC’s existing campus culture. This equity scan, to be completed and made public by October 1, 2020, will review our institutional history and current actions.
If we are to achieve significant change, each of you – faculty, staff, students, alumni, and other stakeholders – has a role. I look forward to collaborating with you in the days, months, and years to come. Together we will make a difference.
As Chancellor, I remain committed to the success of each and every student on our campus.