The recent horrific displays of brutality in the murders of Black men and women—George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and the list goes on—have battered our collective conscience and struck at the heart of our nation’s professed values. These tragic acts of violence, exacerbated by the televised response to peaceful protests, are exacting a huge emotional and psychological toll on our community, especially for our campus’s Black community and communities of color.
As the chancellor stated earlier this week, we still have much work to do to build a university that not only supports our students, faculty and staff, but one that works actively to recognize and end the scourge of racism. To do so, we must commit to honest personal and collective introspection in order to live up to our stated ideals of becoming anti-racist, individually and as a university community. We must commit to doing that work, resolutely and definitively, so that we may finally and fully extend the benefits of the university’s public mission to all in our community and to all the communities we serve. We do this because it is part of our public mission and because it is the right thing to do.
That work begins first with individual and collective commitment: standing together to actively reject the racism that plagues our nation and our own community. That means educating ourselves, challenging racism when we see it and hear it, and more than that, working to remove institutional barriers to the success of students, faculty and staff of color in our community.
It continues with more internally focused work. Like all of you, I am frustrated and deeply saddened by our collective inability to achieve a society and a campus community that truly exhibits our aspirational ideals of equality and opportunity for all. We’ve been unwilling and unable to implement far-reaching changes despite the good work of individuals, offices, units and committees. We’ve changed around the edges in some important ways, but in the main, we’ve not changed the core of the experience of our students, faculty and staff. That must change. Now.
I’m committed to working with all of you to achieve change. That’s going to mean we re-examine how we mentor and teach students; how we hire and promote faculty; how we convey our community values to prospective students, staff and faculty, and then set expectations for living those values; how we select academic leaders and create expectations for them; how we develop and offer our curriculum; and how we provide training to help faculty, staff and students better understand and support diversity, equity and inclusive excellence.
In the coming weeks, I will be coming to the faculty and academic community with actions across the spectrum of needs I listed above, and more. We will forge these new paths together, and be assured: I will not allow them to be slowed by inaction, endless discussion, fears of change or fears of loss of power, prestige and reputation by individuals or academic units.
I know I am not an expert on issues of race and racism. I know I have much to learn and I will do my part in continuing to educate myself. I also know that as provost, I am in a unique position to help reinvigorate our campus’s commitment to anti-racism, to make systemic changes and, perhaps most importantly, to see and hear our students, faculty and staff of color.
Russell Moore, Provost
University of Colorado Boulder