Given the immense pain, fear and anger our Black students, faculty and staff are already feeling given the brutal murder of George Floyd three weeks ago, now there is yet another Black man, Rayshard Brooks, who died at the hands of a police officer this past Friday night.
In the past few weeks, I have had conversations about racial violence and inequity with my family, colleagues, and friends. I also took part in the student and faculty/staff Black Lives Matters town halls. These conversations and experiences have been gut-wrenching, eye-opening, and humbling.
I hope you all have taken the time to read the #BlackatUNT comments. If you have not done so click here to see what our students are feeling and experiencing on our campus. I shared this earlier with my direct reports and asked that they and other directors utilize this information as a training opportunity with staff.
To see and hear the rightful pain, anger, and disappointment expressed by our Black students, faculty, and staff on this thread and also in the town halls was heart-breaking but also critical to long overdue change.
I will not stop having the hard, necessary conversations with all of you. To that end, I will begin meeting with Black staff and other identity groups in the Division to listen, learn, guide, and bring about much-needed change when it comes to racial equality in our Division and University.
Earlier this spring, the directors chose to read “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” to help expand our knowledge and understanding of the racial barriers that divide us and how we can change that.
I encourage everyone to read this or any book that will expand their knowledge about the Black experience and solutions for racial equality. To help make that happen, DSA will purchase a book of your choice. Please visit the link below to make your selection.
Along those lines, I want to share with you some articles that I have read the past few weeks that may benefit you too.
While the training, conversations, reading, and listening must continue, I know that must be followed by action, and I am committed to that.
We have already taken many steps as a Division and we are planning many more. Below is a list of what we have done and what is upcoming that I didn't already share above.
- Ninety-six percent of DSA completed three diversity trainings by the June 1 deadline. Supervisors are following up with staff who have not completed the trainings to ensure accountability.
- In January, we brought in a diversity trainer to work with directors on implicit bias and the Intercultural Competency Inventory (ICI). Overarching departmental areas (i.e. Wellness, Engagement, Auxiliaries, etc.) were given their ICI score. Follow-up training was scheduled to learn how to move their department further along the IDI continuum, but was canceled due to COVID-19. We will look to reschedule or conduct virtually.
- Orientation and Transition Programs has contracted with Everfi to offer Diversity and Inclusion to all new undergraduate students at UNT this fall. Students will complete this training throughout the summer, similar to UNT’s alcohol and sexual assault trainings. Follow-up with students will occur during First Flight and within a pilot First-Year Seminar course this fall.
- All DSA positions are posted externally to increase diversity, a practice we began in 2014.
- Through Student Service Fee and CARES Act funding, DSA has allocated or increased funding in the following areas: additional staff in the Multicultural Center; the creation of a first-generation center; the hiring of additional ACCESS Mentors to serve first-generation students; Parent Association and Parent Orientation scholarships for first-generation and low-socio-economic status parents and funds given to Institutional Equity and Diversity to allow for an additional trainer in their area.
- DSA incorporated time at Division-wide meetings for a student to share their story so staff could learn from their personal experiences.
- We contracted with a national consultant to review UNT’s Counseling and Testing Center to assess its strengths and weaknesses, the staffing model, where efficiencies could be found, and what changes are needed to better understand the changing needs of our students. We are currently working through recommendations, including staffing recommendations.
- DSA has incorporated diversity and inclusion initiatives in its strategic plan.
- I will meet monthly with Division of Student Affairs Black Professional Network executive board members to keep a pulse on staff issues.
- I will meet with the Black Student Union President one-on-one instead of just through the Student Advisory Board each month.
- When the Event Safety Committee determines it necessary, DSA provide funds to have a police presence at student organization events.
- We will seek opportunities to educate DSA staff on restorative practices and racial battle fatigue.
- The DSA Diversity Council is developing guidelines and best practices for affirmative search processes and a 15-minute implicit bias training to offer to all DSA search committees at their initial meeting.
- I will ask Division directors to sponsor/lead small group discussions related to topics like white fragility, white accountability, and other race-related issues.
- I will send monthly diversity updates to the Division.
I know there is much work to be done beyond what is listed here.
Please join me in committing to this vital work to make our Division and University the place it should have always been for our Black students, staff and faculty.
Elizabeth With, Ed.D