Dr. Richard Reddick, Signature Course professor and associate dean for Equity, Community Engagement, and Outreach in the College of Education, wrote about the current anti-racism work across The University of Austin for the September 2020 Signature Course newsletter.
2020 has been a challenging year for us all. In addition to a worldwide epidemic that has claimed over 200,000 lives in the U.S. alone, racial inequality—endemic since this nation’s founding—has become a central topic in our lives. Certainly, the extrajudical murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and sadly, many other Black and people of color have inspired activists to lean in to action to dismantle institutional racism and bias in the spaces in which we live, learn, and work. Faculty, staff, and students at The University of Texas at Austin have been part of this work. As a faculty member and researcher engaged in issues of equity, inclusion, and diversity, I am excited to be be involved and to highlight some of the ongoing efforts here on campus.
First, 13 of UT Austin’s colleges, schools, and units (CSUs) now have a diversity officer. These administrators work within the CSUs to lead and support equity and inclusion efforts in those spaces. Furthermore, the diversity officers are linked under the portfolio of Vice Provost for Diversity, Dr. Ted Gordon, and meet regularly to share best practices, crowdsource solutions, and collectively act to advance equity and diversity at the university. For instance, this summer this collective issued a statement recognizing the sense of grief and horror that many community members felt after the murders of Black citizens this summer, which you can view here. I encourage all faculty to reach out to your diversity officer to support your work. The Council for Racial and Ethnic Equity and Diversity is another space where faculty are working with Vice Provost Gordon, Provost Jaffe, and President Hartzell on faculty recruitment, retention, and salary equity issues.
Second, there are many efforts, located in colleges, schools, and units on campus, that are advancing equity and inclusion at the university. In the College of Liberal Arts, Dr. Monique Payne Pikus is leading CoLA Community Conversations twice a month, in which they discuss a TED talk, podcast, or article connected to anti-racism. Additionally, the Life & Letters magazine profiled a number of CoLA faculty engaged in research on race in America. Over in the College of Pharmacy, Dr. Skyller Walkes has led the DiversiTEA Readers Roundtable since Oct. 2019, discussing works such as the New York Times’ 1619 Project. Dr. Walkes has initiated a number of programs, including exit interviews for departing faculty and staff, and virtual forums. In the College of Natural Sciences (CNS), Dr. Shelley Payne shares that they have hired a consultant, Karan Watson, former provost at Texas A&M, to lead conversations and workshops in each department on culture and climate, anti-racism, gender bias, and other issues that will take place virtually this fall. CNS also has a link on the CNS Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) webpage that allows any member of the community to talk about issues or to share resources that they have found to be helpful.
Dr. Christine Julien at the Cockrell School of Engineering shares that they also have a link for reporting any DEI issues. Cockrell has also invited Dr. Walkes to lead a workshop/seminar for CSE faculty and staff in October and organized discussion groups around Dr. Moore’s summer class on the Black experience. Dr. Sam Moore in the Jackson School of Geosciences shares that Dr. Ginny Catania’s group, GEN (Geoscience Empowerment Network) has been meeting since 2018, engaging in discussions on anti-racist readings with faculty, staff, and students. Additionally, The National Association of Geoscience Teachers conducted a virtual workshop for 20 JSG graduate students in August on inclusive leadership as future faculty which contained include anti-racist training.
Ya’Ke Smith in the Moody College of Communication shares that in the college, online DEI training modules are now required for all faculty, staff, and grad students that are actively teaching classes. Moody has also created a “Moody Cares” tab on Canvas that self-generates in all faculty Canvas pages, with an inclusive teaching statement, a COVID wellness statement, and anti-racist resources for faculty. In the College of Education, three faculty members are presenters for the LBJ Museum’s 10-part series, Dismantling Systemic Racism in Education . Additionally, the College of Education is hosting Dean’s Distinguished Lectures in October and November, featuring diversity, equity, and inclusion researchers Dr. John Diamond (Wisconsin) and Dr. Stella Flores (NYU).
Signature Courses have also provided a variety of trainings, discussion groups (e.g., “Talking Through Tough Stuff”), and University Lecture Series topics related to racial diversity and inclusion.
These activities are not the only anti-racism efforts on campus. Rather, they are a window on to the ongoing work by many members of the UT Austin community. In fact, Dr. Gordon will be announcing the first 40 recipients of the new initiative, the Actions that promote Community Transformation (ACT) Grant Program. This program aims to support and enable members of our campus community to lead projects that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). As Dr. Gordon says, “We understand that staff and faculty are essential to this type of meaningful transformation and that it all starts with them.” It’s likely we will soon see even more efforts around anti-racism, anti-bias, and anti-Blackness in the UT Austin community. Please support and engage with these efforts as we work to build a more inclusive and connected campus!
Dr. Richard Reddick teaches his Signature Course during the fall 2019 semester