The following is a message from UofL President Neeli Bendapudi.
This pandemic has surfaced many truths about our society. In many cases, it has highlighted the goodwill and caring community found across this country as individuals have banded together to help address the growing need created by the global public health crisis. In many other cases, however, it has shown us the glaring disparate impacts of Covid-19 on communities of color due to longstanding health and structural inequities, legacies of slavery and racism we grapple with still today.
In the last four months, we have come to know the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and most recently George Floyd. Ms. Taylor is from our very own Louisville community. Whatever your perspective on the specifics of each case, I hope we can agree that these three lives being taken from us so soon is devastating.
At the University of Louisville, Diversity and Inclusion is one of our core Cardinal Principles. This university strives to be a home and safe haven for our students, faculty and staff of color just as we strive to do this for all of the many rich and diverse identities held throughout our campus community. I believe that in many cases we succeed in helping people survive and thrive, but I am also certain that in numerous cases the same expressions of hate and exclusion that daily impact people of color and vulnerable communities outside the campus affect our Cardinal Family right here in our own backyard.
To our students, staff and faculty of color – I see you. I hear you.
Given these tragic incidents and mounting tension building in our own city and across the country, I know many of you are in deep pain having to confront these inequities, sometimes on a daily basis. Please know that I am here to support you, this university is here to support you and we will continue our endeavor to provide an environment where everyone can thrive.
I want to highlight some of the actions taken recently and others we will soon take to ensure we fully live out our commitment to being a Community of Care that values Diversity and Inclusion:
- The Campus Environment Team is in the process of revamping the Bias Incident Response Team to better equip the university to support our constituents, track its occurrence, and implement strategies to counteract incidences of bias, microaggression and racism.
- The University of Louisville Police Department’s primary mission is to focus on providing a safe campus community, which includes supporting diversity and equity within the department and on campus. The Department continues to be actively involved in open forums discussing critical racial issues that impact our campus and local community.
- The Office of Diversity and Equity, the HSC Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and all affiliated offices are enhancing programming related to structural racism, and reaching out to support those experiencing pain and isolation as well as those who want to learn more and work to change inequitable structures.
- The Department of Education Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development in the College of Education and Human Development, in collaboration with the Office of Diversity and Equity, are developing an educational series for faculty and staff on topics related to diversity and inclusion.
- We have made available a curated list of resources on the Diversity and Equity site for the campus community to engage with to learn more about the historical legacy of slavery and racism in America.
These actions represent some progress, but they are not the solution. The thing that will ultimately change these unfair systems that continue to disproportionately harm people of color, particularly black people, is for each of us to learn more, to understand how we contribute, both knowingly and unknowingly, to these systems and to actively work to change them. I too am committing to learn more, to take real actions to make a difference, to be better and to do more.
The frustration and anger that has led to protests here and across the country is understandable. Each of us must choose how to take meaningful action to improve the society we live in. Take care of yourself and take care of each other. This is what our Cardinal Principle of Community of Care requires of each of us.
It will take all of us acting collectively with informed intention and empowering care to start to see the change we need. I ask each of us to please take an intentional step today to be better and to do more. I need your help. Our Cardinal Family of color needs your help. Our society needs your help.