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UMSI leadership: We stand against racist violence and systemic racism

Image of North Quad at night

Wednesday, 06/03/2020

We, the leadership of UMSI, condemn anti-Black violence. We cannot know the pain suffered by the Black community, but we are deeply anguished that such pain exists about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery’s murders and their causes, and the countless murders of Black people before them. 

We reaffirm our commitment to transparency, honesty and improvement in relation to the historic and present institutional and interpersonal racism at the University of Michigan. The violent acts that police perpetrated against George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are only the most recent examples of a long and tragic history of anti-Black violence and racism that reflect our country’s oppressive structures and systems of power.

We must acknowledge that the historical and structural systems of racism have benefited some at the cost to others–and this is a truth that we choose not to ignore. We will stand up against violence and racism, both current examples and historical, and show solidarity with protests. We will acknowledge ongoing systematic racism in our society and in our university. We will commit to steps and resources to combat racism in our own community. This includes the specific steps outlined below.

In addition, we acknowledge that we must take responsibility to educate ourselves, to regularly hear and seek out understanding of the lived experiences of our Black students, colleagues, friends and community members. We will also continue to advance our research mission through faculty and student research on relationships between racism, information and technology. And we will stand in solidarity with the Black community at UMSI who are experiencing anger, fear and isolationand will speak out against the conditions that give rise to these feelings.

Because there is a legacy of empty institutional rhetoric on fighting racismUMSI is taking these immediate actions:

  • In recognition of the hard work to be done, and the fact that this labor is often borne disproportionately by Black members of our community, we are expanding the number of Graduate Student Staff Assistant (GSSA) positions dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusionwith an immediate goal of three new hires;
  • We will convene a series of community-wide meetings that the UMSI leadership team will join to ensure accountability in terms of UMSI’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategic planand to inform the selection of Year 5 goals for that plan;
  • We will initiate a community-wide process that the UMSI leadership team will join to design and deliver novel curriculum modules and recurring symposia on information, technology and anti-racism with a specific goal of preparing students to mobilize as agents of anti-racist change in the information fields and beyond;
  • We will charge UMSI’s Center for Social Media Responsibility to develop measures of online anti-Black hate speech, to hold social media platforms accountable for their role in hosting and disseminating anti-Black ideologies;
  • We will solicit new donor-funded endowed and quasi-endowed scholarships intended to support diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

We propose these specific initial actions and commit to their delivery in recognition that the issues we face can’t be solved solely with statementsby us or by others in U-M’s leadership. Rather, real material action must be taken to disentangle ourselves, our school and our university from all forms of racism wherever they occur. The actions listed here are just steps toward progress. Our goal is that the community discussions convened around the UMSI diversity, equity and inclusion strategic planparticularly Year 5 goalswill provide an opportunity to identify longer-term actions.

Additionally, we recognize that right now Black members of our community along with others are experiencing particularly acute anguish and stress. We therefore want to make sure there is wide awareness of available resources. Students are encouraged to contact staff in UMSI’s Office of Academic and Student Affairs. Additionally, students can receive support through CAPS. Faculty and staff can access support through the Faculty and Staff Counseling and Consultation Office.

Finally, we recognize that change has been too long in coming. We regret that it is the occasion of new suffering by the Black community that has catalyzed action and response on behalf of U-M and UMSI leadership. Yet, with deep humility and the knowledge that our approach will not always be immediately perfectwe will learn from our mistakes and continue mobilization on behalf of our community to move forward. 

Tom Finholt

Judy Lawson

Paul Resnick

Scott Staelgraeve

Tiffany Veinot

Beth Yakel