Dear Business Students,
I write to you as the business leaders, change-makers, and innovators of today and tomorrow. I echo comments from Interim President Anne Holton and President-designate Gregory Washington and want to express my own feelings of pain, anger, and sadness. Our world has been challenged and diminished, forever altered by the senseless deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, David McAtee, George Floyd and countless others who should never have had to fear for their lives. These individuals are victims of longstanding structural racism that has plagued our society, and their deaths have highlighted the injustices and inequality that African Americans experience every day.
The latest of these tragedies come in the midst of a global pandemic, particularly heavily affecting the African American community, that has taken a deep, emotional toll on each of us. We’ve witnessed well over 100,000 deaths, 40 million individuals without work, and a new, virtual reality that drastically limits our ability to fully connect with one another. Given that reality, it’s important for us all to hear these words: Please know that your emotions and feelings—including feelings of outrage—are valid, and that you are not alone. This is a time where the strength of our community will be deeply enhanced as we seek to support and uplift one another. We need to take time to speak with others, to seek and share each of our voices (not only the ones that usually get the most airtime), to educate one another with empathy, and to truly listen to the stories of those around us. Not only do our stories hold power; they are central to our mission and to our collective identity, which is based in our diversity.
Like so many education leaders, I’m eager to engage in teaching about this important subject, and to offer resources to help. But in this case I, and we as a school, first have to acknowledge that we may have more to learn, and more to do—to fix, in fact—than we have to teach about. We are committed, first of all, to providing a more inclusive and progressive space for Black people and other marginalized communities. We need to address areas within our School of Business community that are, or might be, affected by local or systemic racism, including hiring, evaluation, and promotion processes; we need to create authentic spaces for Black voices to not only be heard but truly be seen, acknowledged, and respected; and perhaps most important, we need to work harder to help our Black students (and alumni) achieve the success they earn and deserve in the workplace and beyond.
So in attaching a list of resources aimed at helping you find individuals, other communities, organizations, and sources of help and information, I am not so much looking to teach and provide answers as to contribute, however incrementally, to the causes of equality and justice. Beyond that, however, we are working together on making the School of Business a truly inclusive space, and we welcome your input and participation in bringing this about. Our entire School of Business team joins with me in saying we are with you and support you, and we look forward to working together with you to create a more just and equitable school, university, and society.