CARA banner
CARA banner.

Our Cardinal community represents many diverse perspectives and backgrounds, and we are taking bold action toward racial equity. The Cardinals Anti-Racism Agenda (CARA) is our unyielding commitment to address systemic racism and build a better world here and beyond.

In the summer of 2020, President Neeli Bendapudi charged the Commission on Diversity and Racial Equality (CODRE) to lead a taskforce in bringing forth recommendations to guide UofL in becoming a premier anti-racist metropolitan research university.

“To be an anti-racist institution, UofL cannot rest on the racial advancements of the 20th century,” Bendapudi said. “We are facing long-held racist beliefs, action and inaction, and we aren’t shying away from the fight.”

The agenda, now in the final stages of development, underscores the strategic vision of the university as a great place to learn, work and invest through celebration of the unique attributes every individual brings to the university community.

“The approach of this work focuses on evaluating policies and institutional behaviors as a means of shifting cultural values and perspectives toward greater racial equity,” said V. Faye Jones, interim senior associate vice president for diversity and equity.

CARA progress

Representatives from throughout UofL’s campuses — faculty, staff, students, trainees (residents and post docs) and administration — helped develop the agenda. These five subgroups of the taskforce have carefully and thoughtfully drafted a report of six priority areas, and action steps, which are now being refined. Completion of a final plan, along with implementation is expected this year.

The six broad priority areas are:

  • Culture, Policies, Practices and Procedures
  • Equity in Work, Compensation, Professional Development and Reward
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Images and Communication
  • Recruitment and Retention of Diverse Talent
  • University and Community Relationships

This year the taskforce anticipates a report with action plans for every strategy, a data dashboard making diversity data transparent and accessible and a CARA cultural impact to improve the lived experiences of the entire Cardinal family.

Campus movement

As details of CARA are being finalized, movement to support the agenda is already in motion. Every unit throughout campus is laying groundwork to break down barriers and make changes that reflect our anti-racism goal.

For example, leadership from each of the four Health Sciences Center schools participated in a 10-week immersive executive leadership program with the Aspen Institute focused on leading institutional diversity, equity and inclusion. Not only this, but leaders at many schools and units throughout the university have set aside funding to support dedicated diversity, equity and inclusion positions at the director, assistant dean and associate dean levels.

Faculty, staff and student support is one area of growth. Through the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD), faculty, staff and students can receive on-demand access to mentoring, professional development and support leading to success in the academy. Several faculty of color are being supported by their school’s dean and the Office of Diversity and Equity to participate in NCFDD’s Faculty Success Program designed to help faculty increase research and writing productivity while maintaining a healthy work/life balance. This opportunity will provide needed resources as the faculty pursue tenure. Meanwhile, Human Resources has developed an affirmative action review process for faculty tenure and promotions, seeking to understand whether decisions made regarding tenure and/or promotion adversely impact members of certain groups.

Launched through the Office of Research and Innovation, the new Ascending Star Fellowship provides mentorship, funding and other support to high-performing associate professors. The goal is to boost the national impact of the fellows’ scholarship, with a focus on work in diversity, inclusion and community empowerment.

Other actions, too, are helping the CARA progress, as staff and faculty have opportunities to participate in book studies and Continuing Education sessions on the topics of implicit bias, microagressions, power and privilege, health disparities and racial justice. A new Lunch and Learn series also helps welcome, mentor and retain Black faculty, with plans to extend to Hispanic and Latino faculty. Development of a faculty search document, Strategies and Tactics for Recruiting to Increase Diversity and Excellence (STRIDE) will lead to workforce change, and a new Employee Resource Group is focused on faculty and staff who identify as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The Office of Diversity and Equity, in collaboration with the Employee Success Center, also is working to better incorporate diversity and equity in university onboarding, leadership and retention programs, policies and practices. Programs and services to support employees and students experiencing racial trauma also give credence to one of UofL’s guiding principles as a Community of Care.

A new Undergraduate Student Success Taskforce, coordinated through the Office of Diversity and Equity, aims to make it easier for underrepresented, underfunded and first generation students to have an equal opportunity for achievement. The group will work to improve information sharing, communication and collaboration across units; identify gaps in services, student performance and experience; and develop creative ways to eliminate barriers and build student success. The taskforce will have a plan in place this fall.

A course for first-year students taught by student success center staff also is being revised in time for the new academic year to more intentionally thread themes of diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the curriculum. All GEN 100 instructors will be trained on what it means to be an anti-racist institution and tie the work of CARA to first year students’ experience as they join the university community.

And advancement is working to raise funds for student financial support aimed at racial equity. The School of Nursing’s Breonna Taylor Memorial Scholarship and the J.B. Speed School of Engineering’s diversity education scholarship through Toyota’s investment are two examples.

New committees and groups

The Student Government Association recently created a diversity and inclusion committee, the Staff Senate created a permanent anti-racism committee and new recognized student organizations have launched this year, including the Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA).

Jason Deakings helped lead the effort in bringing together the BGSA. As a CODRE student representative, he’s also helping shape CARA. Deakings worked on a committee to explore anti-racism initiatives at other universities, and had the opportunity to listen to both graduate and undergraduate student ideas and concerns related to the agenda.

“Inclusiveness is of paramount importance for students,” Deakings said. “Even as new RSOs have been created, we are working toward unification and progressing inclusivity.”

Inclusiveness and belonging are key, says Jones.

“We must ensure equity in all of our practices and policies that are inclusive of our multiple identities,” she said.

As the world begins to recover from the devastating effects of the recent global COVID-19 pandemic, we maintain our commitment to providing education that is fair, just and true, and leads toward an end of the devastating effects of the long-term racial pandemic.