UC College of Arts and Sciences releases statement on equity, inclusion and excellence

Marking Juneteenth: Leadership reflects, sets vision for college future

Dear members of the University of Cincinnati College of Arts and Sciences family,

Since March our lives have been dramatically changed. The coronavirus first, the economic crisis that ensued and finally the protests that denounce the repeated abuse of Black American citizens have laid bare the structural and systemic injustices that continue to impede our progress as a nation; a nation whose foundational motto, e pluribus unum, suggests the melding of the many into a unity where freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are open to all.

Significantly, each of these crises has shown that systemic injustice continues to target certain populations. Though the coronavirus does not choose sides, rates of contagion and access to care mean death rates have disproportionately affected minorities and racial or ethnic groups. Similarly, the economic downturn has had a much broader and deleterious impact on underrepresented communities. Finally, vividly exposed by media and alert citizens, the abuses and killings perpetrated by the police and vigilantes at the expense of Black bodies have laid bare how far we are from achieving the goal of a just society.

Until now, the College of Arts and Sciences had yet to release a statement on these matters, even as we witnessed indignation in the days following the death of George Floyd and the protests that ensued. Though some did not understand why, we chose to remain silent, because it was important to pause, listen, reflect and make concrete plans for how we must be and do better. Statements that are not supported by concrete plans for action risk being performative and do not contribute to the mission of creating an anti-racist, inclusive community, especially when there are many in our college and university whose experiences belie such statements.

Dean Valerio Ferme, University of Cincinnati College of Arts and Sciences

Dean Valerio Ferme, University of Cincinnati College of Arts and Sciences

Today, we publicly express the college's commitment to anti-racist practices. We do so cognizant that we are not better than others; instead we acknowledge our shortcomings and want to use our past failures as motivation to advance our mission and vision as a truly inclusive community. The time is past when we assuaged our consciences by hiring and enrolling quotas of underrepresented group X, Y and Z. Though well-meaning and well-intentioned, we have not been inclusive. We have expected our faculty, staff and students of color to speak their truths and for their truths, while saddling them with being the standard-bearers for entire ethnic, gendered and disability nations.

We want to recommit ourselves to laying bare the foundations upon which much of the systemic unfairness of our social and cultural practices rests. This is heavy lifting that cannot be done only by repeating the things we have done before, just in greater quantity. It is not, nor can it only be about how many diverse faculty, staff and students enter our college and about how much money we throw at the "problem."

It has to be about how, when underrepresented colleagues join us, we make them know that their cultures, emotions, histories, societies are ours too: for sure, African-American culture, history, and literature should be taught in specific courses; yet, all cultures, histories, and literatures gain in depth, empathy, and understanding when studied from the viewpoint of Black experience. Similarly, we cannot hide behind the factual perception that certain scientific fields are immune from the vagaries of race, because a race perspective can inform how privilege determines the origins of our investigations.

Dr. Littisha Bates, Associate Dean of Inclusive Excellence and Community Partnerships, University of Cincinnati College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Littisha Bates, Associate Dean of Inclusive Excellence and Community Partnerships, University of Cincinnati College of Arts and Sciences

Our work began when the college made the commitment to hire of our first associate dean for inclusive excellence and community partnership, Littisha A. Bates, even before the current crises enveloped our country. At that time, we also asked all units in the college to discuss, explore, and summarize what inclusive excellence means for them. These are cornerstones, upon which we will edify our building, a building that, incidentally, already has some bricks in place, as detailed below. These efforts mark the beginning of the strategic planning, goal setting and action for the college which we initiated this year. In addition, we have added more action items directly inspired by the listening sessions held with A&S faculty and staff over the past weeks. We publicly share them in an effort to keep us honest and accountable.

  1. We have supported four innovation proposals that are specifically in support of underrepresented minority students, of which three, providing assistance of $38,000, are specifically for initiatives for Black students and faculty.
  2. The college financially sponsors a summer bridge program for underrepresented minority students in STEM fields in conjunction with UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science.
  3. Independently, there are initiatives by a number of our faculty in connection with the Cincinnati Public Schools that support underrepresented students, both in their current scholastic efforts and in their transition to the university. We thank those faculty members and donors who are committed to and have supported these efforts, and we encourage them to connect with Dr. Bates so we can collect them in a repository of our current initiatives in the college.
  4. The college has numerous endowed scholarships for underrepresented and first-generation college students. The dean and the development office have made this a priority in our strategic fundraising plans.
  5. College leadership and faculty represent the overwhelming majority in the university’s representation in the National Science Foundation ASPIRE grants targeted at increasing the presence of underrepresented minority faculty in STEM fields (6 out of 10 members).
  6. As we move to implement the College of Arts and Sciences' 21st Century Strategic Core review, we pledge to make inclusive excellence one of its guiding principles.
  7. The dean will move $33,000 or one-third of his Next Lives Here Innovation funds in 2021 to support initiatives coming out of his office.
  8. The dean will personally donate initial funding for a College of Arts and Sciences Scholarship meant to commemorate the struggles of underrepresented students against systemic barriers and injustice. Information about the scholarship will be made public to attract further donation in establishing an endowment.
  9. We will implement 360-degree evaluations that allow staff to discuss their direct supervisors and office climate without fear of reprimand.
  10. The Associate Dean’s office will create an Anti-Racism Consortium with college-wide representation. The group will examine college practices and policies, working to reform policies that are not explicitly anti-racist.
  11. We seek to enlist graduate and undergraduate councils to review courses that count toward UC's diversity, equity and inclusion breadth of knowledge to ensure all courses meet the intent of the breadth of knowledge code.
  12. The college will launch a publicly available dashboard that measures diversity, equity and inclusion demographics as well the outcomes from our initiatives.
  13. As per recommendations of our students, we will hold safe listening sessions for A&S students and alumni.

We are committed to being an anti-racist, just college where we all are heard, feel safe and valued while being collectively accountable for our culture.