On Monday the chairs of the UNC Faculty and Staff Assemblies and president of the UNC Association of Student Governments called on the UNC Board of Governors to respond to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and the resulting international protests against police violence and racial inequity.
On Tuesday, Interim UNC System President Bill Roper and UNC Board of Governors Chairman Randy Ramsey responded, announcing the creation of a task force to examine racial equity issues and make recommendations to the system for addressing them.
From the system’s letter establishing the task force:
“George Floyd died a horrible, violent, and unjust death at the hands of a white police officer,” they wrote. “This immoral and indefensible act cries out for justice and compels all of us fully to recognize and grapple with our country’s history of racism and oppression that has so often resulted in violence. As members of the University community, it is our obligation and responsibility to do the hard work needed to address inequities in the UNC System for the benefit of students, faculty, staff, and all North Carolinians.
- We are pleased to announce that the UNC System Equity Task Force is being established as a six-member special committee of the Board of Governors, with each of you as members, joined by Board of Governors members Darrell Allison (Chair), Kellie Blue (Vice Chair), and Anna Nelson (Vice Chair). The UNC System Office will provide staff and resources needed to support the important work of this task force. We ask that the task force do the following:
- Meet with student, faculty, and staff groups to discuss issues of race and equity in the UNC System and all tangible steps that can be taken across the UNC System in pursuit of equity and understanding;
- Gather, explore, and develop recommendations, suggestions, and feedback;
- Prepare a report to the Board of Governors, to include a list of recommendations and action steps in priority order; and
- Present the report to the chair of the Board of Governors and the president by October 2.We look forward to working with you on this important project for the future of the UNC System.”
The task force is just one of a number of seven actions called for by the student, faculty and staff leaders.
From their Monday letter:
“As a community of higher education, we are dedicated to knowledge, inclusiveness, diversity, and truth. We ask that there are several issues that can be quickly addressed to begin the healing and attenuation of the pain:
- Convene a UNC System Task Force to develop a strategic plan to engage and leverage its tremendous intellectual and financial resources to address this issue in a comprehensive, meaningful, and impactful way for all faculty, staff, students, and the communities we serve.
- Ensure a safe working environment that is rooted in belonging and in which the personal rights, lives, and dignity of everyone is assured. The perspectives of all North Carolinians must be exemplified by those who will guide the University of North Carolina System into the future.
- Start a discussion regarding culturally relevant decisions, even while we deal with theCOVID-19 pandemic. Re-dedicate ourselves to reflect on what we can do as an academic community and as individuals to confront the issues of racism in our own communities.
- Ensure that our students, staff, and faculty have access to whatever is needed to try to be in a state of wellness, both psychologically and physically, when they return to campus in the Fall Semester. Ensure that all university constituents have access to mental health resources, to health care, and to academic help that will ensure their respective success.
- Advocate to find solutions for our students who continue to experience oppression on our campuses and in their daily lives. The pain from longstanding racial oppression cannot be healed quickly, but the discussions to do just that can start today, from the UNC System Office outward.
- Acknowledge the indispensable role of the UNC System HSMI’s in fostering the empowerment of marginalized communities, and especially people of color. It is imperative that these institutions receive adequate support to continue to meet their individual missions, particularly during these economically uncertain times.
- Above all, stay engaged with our students, staff, and faculty by acknowledging openly that the current situation is challenging, and that everyone is suffering, especially students, staff, or faculty of color. The COVID-19 pandemic has sensitized us to an unseen disease of viraletiology; it is beyond time to address the disease of racism that attacks our collective soul.”