June 8, 2020
Dear Faculty and Staff,
At the University of Houston, we feel compelled to ask if there is more we can do as an institute of higher education to address the problems that have been thrust to the forefront and touched us deeply. It is not enough just to sympathize with the understandable sorrow and frustration so many are experiencing. Nor is it beneficial to call for sweeping but unrealistic gestures that don’t produce tangible results. If we wish to do more than lament the George Floyd tragedy and the large issues of racial injustice and inequitable processes that it represents, we need to clearly understand the nature of the challenges we face and be part of the solution. Our University feels a moral responsibility to help the Houston community heal and is committed to doing what we can. With that in mind, I am taking the following steps:
- Empowering a University-wide group of faculty, staff, students and alumni to assess the state of racism in the Houston community and what the University of Houston can do to combat it. The group will be charged with asking the right questions, facilitating meaningful dialogue and generating actionable ideas for us to be part of the solution to bring about change.
- On a more immediate level, I am requesting that all deans and directors host dialogues within their own units to listen and see how each of us can contribute collectively and individually to solving these difficult problems. We cannot be silent on issues that make us uncomfortable. Personal reflection and meaningful conversation, even if it is difficult, are necessary steps in building upon an inclusive and civil culture.
- In collaboration with Houston Guided Pathways to Success, a consortium of 13 public universities and community colleges, UH will facilitate a citywide discourse on the role and responsibility of higher education in combating racism with a goal of producing actionable steps.
- Instructing UH’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion to host regular sessions, utilizing our faculty and alumni as speakers. Their insight will help us define how we can all be part of these changes.
- Asking the Provost’s Office of Faculty Recruitment, Retention, Equity, and Diversity to hold forums with national thought leaders on race and inclusion to help advance our thinking and plans for action as a Tier One University.
These are important first steps that we must take together to do something genuinely impactful. I encourage you to engage, to participate and to be the catalyst for the enduring solutions we so desperately desire.
With warm regards,