Another sleepless night as I think about another senseless act of violence against a Black person.
My heart goes out to the family and friends of Jacob Blake, who was shot by police on Aug. 23 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. While Blake survived, others were not so fortunate. Their names will be added to a list that is far too long.
We must stand up. We must clearly proclaim that Black Lives Matter. And then, we must follow through and turn our passion into purpose. Make a difference in our lives and in our communities.
How can we do that? By example, by our words and, more importantly, by our actions.
Diversity is a pillar for our institution, perhaps the pillar by which all of our ideals and values are supported. We are setting aspirational goals to ensure our beloved University maintains forward and upward momentum in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
So, what are we doing?
Every semester I will send out this statement. This boldly states our values and our goals for supporting our community.
The University has established the Recruitment and Retention Task Force led by Dr. Robert Canida II, VP for inclusive excellence, with a team of dedicated individuals who are passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
I charged this group last week to look at the life cycle of a student, faculty, or staff member; to look at the data; set realistic and measurable goals; and to make a difference. This group will work on initiatives and opportunities that arise, and provide recommendations by April of 2021 that are fundable, forward-thinking, innovative, and realistic.
They will be collecting data on many items such as:
Is our hiring process fair and equitable? Are we marketing ourselves as a place where people can grow and develop in a welcoming environment? What about our own language around diversity? Are we advocating for our campus community or running it down as a bad place to be because it isn’t as diverse as we think it should be? Are we pointing fingers at one another, expecting someone else to do the work? How will we know when we are improving or doing the right thing?
Conversations are happening and we are listening, but words are not enough. Again, we must take our words and put them into action. Many opportunities to engage have begun:
- A diversity dashboard to show progress and accountability.
- Courageous Conversations, a series of virtual conversations on matters relevant to inclusive excellence.
- Dialogues on the Dell, which takes those conversations and puts them right in the center of campus (as COVID-19 restrictions permit).
- Employee affinity groups such as the African American Affinity Group and Lynchburg Q.
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion online educational modules for students, staff and faculty will be available in two weeks.
- Diversity and Inclusion Innovation Grant proposals, allowing for students, staff, and faculty to engage in research on equity, inclusion, social justice, or diversity.
We have much work to do. It is important work. It is good work. It is work that all of us can do together. Get involved. Join us in making a positive difference on campus and in our community.
Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar is the 11th president of the University of Lynchburg. She began her term on Aug. 1, 2020. Red Chair Reflections lets her share her thoughts on what it’s like to serve the Lynchburg community — both on and off campus.