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Our responsibility in dismantling systemic inequality

Dear colleagues,

We want to add our voices to those on our campus and beyond who are condemning the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer and other acts of violence against African Americans across the country.

In her message over the weekend, Chancellor Plowman asked all Volunteers not only to prepare for a fall semester safe from the coronavirus but also to help build “a future at this university where everyone feels safe and respected, where we have achieved our goals of being a place where everyone matters and belongs.”

Faculty have an essential role to play in shaping this future.

At the beginning of the fall semester, each academic college was asked to develop a diversity action plan. While the coronavirus pandemic pushed back our deadline to finalize and implement these plans, it’s clear that this work is more important than ever. The diversity action plans provide an opportunity for all of us to look critically at policies and structures across all levels of the university and work together to dismantle systemic inequity.

As researchers and mentors, we have a responsibility to lead conversations with our students about systemic racism and how it corrodes the heart of our mission to expand knowledge and to root out error, prejudice, and falsehood. We must address racial bias in our daily interactions, in our research, and in our creative spaces.

As teachers, we are responsible for educating the next generation of thinkers, problem solvers, and leaders. As we foster knowledge and critical thinking in our classrooms, we have an opportunity to model empathy for those in distress and to create space for important dialogues around these issues. If you aren’t sure where to start, the Office of the Provost and Teaching and Learning Innovation have a number of resources and guides that can help you create a more inclusive learning environment.

It is our hope that we can come together as colleagues to explore further how to realize our goal of making UT a place where we all matter and belong. This moment provides a meaningful opportunity to act in concrete ways that show support for our colleagues, friends, and students who are suffering. Consider how you might take action individually and how we might work together with the chancellor to do our part to fight against racial injustice.

John Zomchick
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor

Matthew Mench
Interim Vice Chancellor for Research