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Standing Together in the College of Natural Sciences - Updated

Standing Together in the College of Natural Sciences - Updated

A message from Dean Paul Goldbart to the College of Natural Sciences community underscores the need to stand in solidarity and support one another. This post was updated on Tuesday, June 2 to include a statement from the CNS Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Dear College of Natural Sciences community members,

The crushing anguish of this moment is undeniably sharpened with each detail we learn about the individuals whose names are evoked repeatedly. Breonna Taylor, a health care professional who dreamed her life's work would be in caring for patients, was killed in her home. George Floyd, from Houston and pursuing a new start in a new place, now is survived by his 6 year old daughter, another Texan. Ahmaud Arbery was planning to attend college in the fall in my former hometown when he went for a jog that culminated in atrocity. Theirs are but the latest violent deaths in a long string of violent deaths. We must acknowledge the suffering dehumanization and racism cause.

Today, a student posed a question to me. Essentially it was an invitation to think about how I can do more than stand, in grief and anger, with Black students, colleagues and community members burdened under the weight of our current moment. How can I also move forward with them – through a commitment to do more listening, more reflection, more seeking out educational resources at UT and beyond? Together, we can and must build a just and equitable university and indeed society.

Below is a message from our CNS Diversity & Inclusion Committee that provides suggestions and resources for moving forward together through this time. I am grateful to both the committee and our College's student-led Council for Diversity Engagement, which informs ongoing work in Natural Sciences and beyond to build equity and inclusion. I encourage you to review the committee's ideas for action and other resources below – only a starting point certainly, but one compiled by students, faculty and staff here in CNS for the benefit of our community.

Perhaps I may close for now by emphasizing that I am committed, along with UT's Coalition of Diversity and Inclusion Officers, to building a college where all know that they belong and have exquisite value – and where dehumanization and hatred have no place. To echo what I have said elsewhere, as we grapple with the structural failings of our society I ask that we each do our best to steady our community and beyond by reaching out and offering encouragement through word and deed to anyone among us – or anyone else – who may be in need.

Respectfully,


Paul Goldbart
Dean


A Message from the College Diversity & Inclusion Committee

Our community is hurting. In light of recent events, many people are feeling rage, numbness, confusion, hurt, and resolve to say enough is enough.

The CNS D&I Committee will continue to work on fostering a welcoming, inclusive, and equitable environment. This begins with listening and reflecting on what more we can do to create a powerful sense of belonging and solidarity. We realize that this is a lifelong commitment to uplifting one another. Below are few steps that can be taken to start the long, hard process of enacting change:

  • Engage in self-reflection. See this list of suggested readings from The New York Times as a starting point. 
  • Continue educating yourself and your peers. Invite groups that specialize in these areas of advocacy to carry conversations about racial justice forward.
  • Share resources, offer support to, and connect with organizations dedicated to building a more equitable future (in any way you can). 
  • Commit to implementing actions from the CNS Ideas for Action page into your daily life. 

The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd highlight the realities that members of our community face on a daily basis – realities that are manifestations of deeply ingrained, systemic discrimination against the Black community. As scientists and educators, we believe that knowledge and active engagement, combined with empathy, provide profound paths forward in the face of hate and fear. While we may not have all the answers, we are committed to dismantling inequities and building a more mutually supportive community. We are proud to endorse the statement made by the UT Coalition of Diversity and Inclusion Officers and invite you to join us and your fellow members of CNS in making lasting change for the better.

CNS Diversity & Inclusion Committee Members:

Undergraduate Students: Zoe de Beurs, Brett Dolotina, Maria Henriquez, Gabrielle McDaniel, Lois Owolabi, Rohit Prasad, Shilpa Rajagopal, Eisha Rao

Graduate Students: Kelly Wallace

Staff: Vivian Abagiu, Becky Kester, Alyssa Ray, Melissa Taylor

Faculty: Caitlin Casey, Mirela Ciperiani, Calvin Lin, Tony Gonzalez, Shalene Jha, Michael Drew, Carlos Baiz, Thushani Herath, Alyssa Ray


Statement by the Coalition of Diversity and Inclusion Officers

As diversity officers at the University of Texas at Austin, we are grieved, horrified, saddened by the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, as well as countless others who have lost their lives to acts of racial violence. These egregious acts of racial profiling, physical violence, and death of Black individuals are taking place against a backdrop of a global pandemic that places in bold relief the wrenching inequities that have divided our nation as the virus disproportionately ravages communities of color.

We recognize that we are experiencing more than just a moment of discomfort and discontent. Our nation's dark history has led to this critical moment in time. This is a history that we must grapple with, as we collectively struggle to move forward together.

As diversity officers we want our community and particularly its Black members, many of whom grew up in the same city as George Floyd and may have known him or his people, to know that we are here for you. We understand that these recent senseless events are triggering, tragic, and a stark reminder that Black lives are fragile and can be stolen from us at any moment.

We urge everyone to remember that if one of us is hurting, then we all hurt. Our silence in the face of injustice sends a negative message to the most vulnerable members of our university community. Now, more than ever, we reaffirm and reinvigorate our commitment to supporting an equitable, inclusive, and just institution in which violence, hate, and intolerance are not accepted and are actively combatted.

We encourage all members of our university community to check in on and support each other, recognizing that these recent events differently impact our students and colleagues in very deep and personal ways.

We also encourage our community members to reach out directly to their college or school's diversity officer for any support, guidance, and resources that they may need.

In Support and Solidarity,

The Coalition of Diversity and Inclusion Officers, University of Texas at Austin

Ya'Ke Smith, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Moody College of Communication

Esther J. Calzada, Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion, Steve Hicks School of Social Work

Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto, Assistant Dean for Civic Engagement, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

Edmund T. Gordon, Vice Provost for Diversity, University of Texas at Austin

Shavonne Henderson, Director of Student Equity and Inclusion, School of Law

Christine Julien, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Cockrell School of Engineering

Samuel Moore, Director of Outreach and Diversity, Jackson School of Geosciences

Shelley Payne, Advisor to the Dean for Diversity & Inclusion, College of Natural Sciences

Monique Pikus, Director of Diversity and Organizational Climate, College of Liberal Arts

Rene Salazar, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Dell Medical School

Raji Srinivasan, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, McCombs School of Business

Richard J. Reddick, Associate Dean for Equity, Community Engagement, and Outreach, College of Education

Skyller Walkes, Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, College of Pharmacy

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Wednesday, 15 July 2020

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