My colleagues at the SOJC and I are outraged and saddened by the wrongful deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all other victims of racially motivated violence and policy brutality. The systemic racism and inequities that have affected Black people for hundreds of years are unacceptable and have to stop.
At the SOJC, we acknowledge our own place within that system, as citizens of a nation, a state, and a university with a history of racist policies and actions that continue to harm our Black communities today. We profess to be a community built on strong values that reject racial injustice in all its forms. Now is the time to ensure those values are at the forefront of all we do. We must not only speak out, but take action for continued change.
First, I apologize for the delay in sending this message. I recognize there is much we need to do for our Black students, faculty, and alumni, and this week the SOJC leadership has been having hard conversations with students, faculty, and staff. I know, however, that conversation is not enough. That is why, today, I make a number of commitments regarding the changes we will make.
SOJC leadership commits to listening, learning, acknowledging the role we play, and doing better. This includes investigating and interrogating our efforts in key areas, including curriculum, hiring practices, and support for Black students, staff, faculty, and alumni. In addition, we take responsibility for training future communicators to do a better job of supporting diverse voices and perspectives, recognizing implicit biases, and communicating anti-racist values.
These are some of the actions I am proposing we take to elevate the voices and opportunities of Black students and other students of color:
- Spend the summer engaged in planning to address these issues in our curricula, research, administration, and all student and community engagement activities.
- Require implicit bias training for all faculty and staff, and explore the feasability of implicit bias training for all students.
- Increase recruitment, development, and retention of diverse job candidates as soon as the UO hiring freeze ends and we are able to conduct faculty and staff searches.
- Also when the UO hiring freeze ends, explore hiring or selecting from internal staff a diversity and inclusion specialist to support students of color and help build allyship as a resource for all students.
- Identify donor funds and resources to allocate to Black student groups and projects.
- Strengthen our existing experiential learning programs and develop new programs focused on the challenges and aspirations of underrepresented and marginalized populations.
- Increase funding for Black students through scholarships and fellowships.
- Work with partner organizations, such as The Lagrant Foundation, the Diversity Action Alliance, and agencies, to secure scholarships, internships, mentorships, and jobs for Black, Indigenous, and other students of color.
- Increase financial support to student chapters of organizations dedicated to the concerns of Black professionals.
- Add content to courses in all our sequences that addresses racial and social injustices and inequities, human rights, and systemic racism.
- Task the SOJC Diversity Committee, the dean’s faculty committee, and the Student Advisory Committee with developing and reviewing initiatives that address racial and social injustices and inequities, human rights, and systemic racism.
- Increase efforts to bring diverse guests and alumni to speak in our courses, co-curricular activities, and the SOJC’s signature events and awards.
Engaging in uncomfortable discussions on race is an important and fundamental part of education. Only by listening can we learn about the biases and privileges that cloud our worldview and influence our behaviors.
This Thursday, June 11, at 4 p.m., Professor Chris Chávez and SOJC graduate students will host a virtual townhall to discuss grad students’ concerns related to racial inequality. The Graduate Student Services office will send details to SOJC graduate students about how to participate.
We are also planning a virtual townhall for SOJC undergraduates and will share more information soon. This will be a forum where you can ask questions, express your concerns, and share your recommendations about the changes we can enact at the SOJC and in the professions we serve.
I look forward to continuing these important conversations with you all.
Edwin L. Artzt Dean and Professor, School of Journalism and Communication