Thanks to the many of you who participated in the Pathways Forward discussions led by Karla Slocum, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, over the past three weeks. Your voices matter to us, and I was pleased to see that almost 100 of you joined in these conversations to share your thoughts, perspectives and requests after the challenging events on campus this summer. I have spoken with Karla about these sessions, and I, along with my senior leadership team, have learned from them. I want to share with you our plans for the future, as well as where I stand on important issues that you raised.
First, the tenure vote for Nikole Hannah-Jones brought up questions among some of you about the value and security of your research and programming, especially on issues of race, difference and social justice. As dean of the College, I want you to know that I firmly support this work and the role of our faculty and staff as thought leaders and innovators. Many of you are contributing to the national discourse in important ways. We need your expertise in these critical and timely conversations about our society both on and beyond campus, which is what helps make us a world-class university.
I also appreciate the work of our students in these conversations over the summer. Many students — some of whom have majors in our departments — have been active and important voices in asking the campus to be inclusive and just. I recognize that these are efforts to move us forward as a community. I also recognize that the work is not easy for them. The senior associate deans and I will be reaching out to these students, particularly the student body president and leaders in the Black Student Movement, to schedule a meeting and learn how we can support and be responsive to their concerns.
Also, several of the staff attending the Pathways Forward discussions asked about support for DEI training. We are committed to providing this resource to College employees, and we encourage you to take advantage of it. The Dean’s Office will make sure that there are resources available to College units over the next year so that DEI training is broadly accessible.
Lastly, I want to share a list of actions that we have taken to advance the College as a community that strives for all to feel that they belong and are treated equitably. I am grateful to those of you who contributed your time and ideas that helped make these actions possible:
- Authorized eight tenure-track searches as part of the Black Families and Communities cluster hire and U.S. Slavery hires. (Six of those faculty have been hired. Four will be teaching this fall, while two will arrive in spring 2022. Searches for the remaining two positions are ongoing.)
- Established and filled the inaugural Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion position.
- Developed a new, more robust website for the College’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
- Reconstituted the Dean’s Faculty Diversity Advisory Committee and established a new Dean’s Staff Diversity Advisory Committee.
- Implemented term limits on chair appointments to create leadership opportunities and clarified expectations for promoting an equitable and inclusive departmental environment. Already we have seen progress.
We will not stop here and look forward to continuing to advance our DEI work. One of Karla’s primary tasks in her new role will be to help us in creating a College-wide strategic plan for DEI. We will continue to work with the UNC-Chapel Hill DEI Council and Leah Cox, the University’s new head diversity officer, and our College faculty and staff advisory committees. We will provide regular communications to you on our progress as well as challenges. I deeply appreciate your ongoing feedback on these vital topics, and I am invested in working with you to move us forward.