Neeli Bendapudi joins local leaders at a BLM protest.
UofL president Neeli Bendapudi joins in solidarity with other local higher education leaders during racial justice protests in Louisville. Photo provided by Brendan J. Sullivan, Bellarmine University.

UofL President Neeli Bendapudi was joined by other Louisville-area college and university presidents this week to affirm their commitment to finding solutions to end racial inequality. 

In addition to Bendapudi, other signatories include Susan Donovan, Bellarmine University; Travis Haire, Ivy Tech, Sellersburg; Ty Handy, Jefferson Community and Technical College; Jay Marr, Sullivan University, Louisville; Tori Murden McClure, Spalding University; Alton B. Pollard, III, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary; and Ray Wallace, IU Southeast. 

In a joint statement, the presidents announced five ways they plan to address racism in Louisville. The letter, including those proposed actions, is below: 

“James Baldwin said, ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’ The harsh truth that must be faced is that Black Americans still face obstacles that leave them, in far too many cases, lagging behind their White counterparts on important indicators of education, income, health, and wealth. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd are just the latest names on our collective dishonor roll of Black lives that were taken casually and, all too often, without consequence. The very real racial inequities of today are the result of a legacy of systemic racism.  

A Black Lives Banner hangs on the Kent School of Social Work building.
A Black Lives Banner hangs on the Kent School of Social Work building.

“We, as leaders of higher education institutions in greater Louisville and Kentuckiana, are aware both of the promise of higher education as a transformative force in society, and of the problematic history of these very institutions in perpetuating racial inequity.

“As leaders of these institutions, we, too, are complicit in maintaining the status quo and it is therefore incumbent upon us to take real and meaningful action to achieve the ideals of equity that our institutions espouse. 

“We believe that by working together we can do more and do better as agents of positive change.

  1. We pledge to educate ourselves and our own college and university communities to recognize and work against structural racism.
  2. We pledge to work together to improve access to higher education for our African-American and other students of color.
  3. We pledge to create pathways for African-American and other students of color to meaningful and high-demand jobs and careers and acknowledge the need for more Black professionals in healthcare and education and engineering and law as in many other spheres. 
  4. We pledge to engage fully and meaningfully in the life of West Louisville.
  5. With our institutional privileges of knowledge, reach, resources, legacy, and more, we pledge to consistently demonstrate our commitment to the objective fact that Black Lives Matter.”

Photo provided by Brendan J. Sullivan, Bellarmine University.