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Racial Equity: Responding to Student Feedback, New Commitments and Next Steps

Dear NC State community,

At this unique time in history, we are witnessing widespread and continuing attention to the devastating impacts of institutionalized racism across our country. These issues are, of course, not new; their beginnings are older than our nation itself. Institutionalized racism is a shameful part of our nation’s, our state’s and even our campus’ history.

Several courageous leaders of NC State’s Black undergraduate and graduate student organizations have thoughtfully and rightfully demanded improvements to our campus culture. Many others throughout the NC State community have joined in the calls for action.

Today, I am pleased to share important updates and critical actions the university is taking in response to student demands and requests, as well as to affirm additional steps the university is taking now and in the fall to advance racial equity, diversity and inclusion at NC State.

Responding to Student Petitions

In my memo commemorating Juneteenth, I committed NC State to achieving all 10 items outlined in the Coalition of Black Student Organizations petition on advancing Black undergraduate life at NC State. Last week, the university provided coalition leaders with a full written response, which is posted on our Diversity Portal. One particular action item from this petition I’d like to note is that we are instituting mandatory inclusion training for all students, faculty and staff beginning in fall 2020.

Members of the coalition also advanced a petition requesting changes to policing at NC State, including reviewing the relationship with the Raleigh Police Department. The university provided a full written response to this petition, also available to review on the Diversity Portal. Among the several actions being taken, the NC State University Police Department is working with the Office of General Counsel to improve protocols with the Raleigh Police Department and other agencies related to responding to campus-critical life-safety incidents and special events, and for reporting crimes and incidents on campus as required by the Clery Act.

In addition to responding to the petitions, I and other university leaders have had opportunities to meet, listen to and talk with these courageous students about their concerns and their experiences here at NC State. I have also met with leadership of the Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA) about their concerns. I want to acknowledge the hard work, dedication and commitment of both the Coalition of Black Student Organizations and the BGSA and commend them for their time and effort in putting forward their recommendations. I truly appreciate the passion and thoughtfulness of these student leaders, and their dedication to improving NC State.

Going Further

NC State’s commitment to addressing and correcting racial inequities will not stop at meeting with concerned students or responding to their valuable recommendations. We acknowledge there are areas of systemic racism that we must continue to address. These efforts will require strong leadership, unending commitment, accountability, sustained effort and ongoing community engagement.

In addition to previous commitments made earlier this summer, following are a few actions the university has implemented in the past few weeks:

  • We are evaluating NC State’s policies, practices and programs through an equity lens by participating in 2020-21 as a charter member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) STEMM Equity Achievement (SEA) Change initiative. By joining SEA Change, we obligate NC State to continuously seek equity and ensure the full engagement of a broad range of individuals to maximize creativity and quality, as well as seek to fulfill the promise of diverse talent in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) education and careers.
  • We have incorporated diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) learning development requirements in all NC State staff work plans starting this fiscal year.
  • We are fully funding and expanding the Inclusive Teaching Certification program in the Office of Faculty Development, and the Foundations of Cultural Competence and Inclusivity Certificate program for faculty in the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity.
  • All senior administrators and members of the University Strategic Planning Executive Steering Committee will be required to take part in racial equity awareness training as we set out NC State’s next strategic plan.
  • We are increasing our focus on fundraising for scholarships and programs that:
    • Support the recruitment, access, success and well-being of students of color.
    • Provide support to NC State’s cultural centers, especially the African American Cultural Center.
    • Provide support to programs such as the Womxn of Color retreat, the Black Male Initiative, Symposium for Multicultural Scholars, Emerging Scholars Academy, Caminos and the Native Education Forum, among others.

Next Steps

We are committed to continued community dialogue and meaningful next steps. I have tasked Vice Provost Sheri Schwab to convene a Racial Equity Summit in the early part of fall 2020. The summit will launch an ongoing, community-driven effort to improve the Black experience at NC State. It will help us engage in meaningful dialogue and collaborate in building the diverse, inclusive and equitable NC State we desire.

Topics and the format are being established in collaboration with Black students, faculty and staff, and the larger community, and will incorporate recent feedback. Emerging focus areas include improving recruitment and retention of Black students, faculty, staff and administrators; acknowledging and addressing NC State’s history of naming buildings; and assessing our campus climate, among others.

This summit will bring together a number of students, faculty, staff and alumni in a forum for the exchange of ideas and the opportunity for immediate input to help us chart our way forward. It is my hope we will identify both near-term steps we can implement, as well as strategies, ideas and priorities to incorporate into the university’s strategic plan.

The summit is only the start of what I hope will be an ongoing, sustainable community effort to advance racial equity, diversity and inclusion at NC State.

I want to also draw your attention to an important effort being led by the UNC System and its Board of Governors. On July 9, the Board of Governors convened a Racial Equity Task Force charged with leading a systemwide examination of the legacy of race and racism in the state’s public higher education system, and how that history shapes and impacts the lived experiences of our students, faculty, and staff. The task force will seek feedback from staff, students and faculty across all constituent institutions. We look forward to participating in those discussions and using task force feedback to help inform NC State’s path forward.

Remaining Committed

My administration, the college deans and I are committed to ensuring the university stays focused on addressing critical issues of improving racial equity at NC State. More information on all of these efforts will be forthcoming, and our Diversity Portal is the central hub for communicating efforts and progress.

I know that each of us wants NC State to be a truly welcoming and inclusive place for all. Achieving this culture means we have to invest our minds and our hearts at the individual level, and our capacity and resources at the institutional level, in order to bring about and sustain needed change. We cannot let our focus shift away from greatly enhancing diversity, inclusion and equity at NC State.

I urge you to join me and be an active participant in ensuring NC State is a safe, supportive and welcoming environment for all Black students, faculty and staff, and for all in our Wolfpack.

Randy Woodson