Dear USF students, faculty and staff,
We have been deeply troubled by recent events in Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Louisville, Tampa and other parts of the country. At the University of South Florida, we reject in the strongest possible terms all forms of racism, discrimination, violence and social injustice. Those deplorable behaviors will not be tolerated under any circumstances because they strongly conflict with the values in USF’s Principles of Community, which call for inclusion, civility and respectful dialogue. We offer our condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and to the black community, which has been negatively impacted by 400 years of systemic racism.
In the May 30 message to the university, we shared that recent events should prompt all of us to pause, reflect and act. For example, how can USF expand upon and enhance current efforts to promote inclusion, opportunity, civility and upward economic mobility?
Among our ongoing efforts is the Student Support Services program, one of the longest-running and most successful federally funded programs in the country, which provides enhanced support to limited-income students as they transition into the university environment. Programs such as the USF Black Leadership Network are critical to the success of black students, providing scholarships, mentoring and professional development opportunities.
Through these and other programs, we put into practice the principle that all students admitted to USF will succeed when given the opportunity to do so. We empower all students to succeed by eliminating obstacles to their success, including attitudes and behaviors that demean and denigrate members of our community. USF has closed the achievement gap, with black students posting a six-year graduation rate that is generally equal to or higher than white students. USF helps to reduce racial disparities, not increase them.
Our faculty includes some of the country’s leading scholars in fields that address racism. Across our colleges, faculty members are examining how racism and sexism affect pregnancy outcomes, and the consequences of racial residential segregation and the criminalization of racialized spaces for black Americans, including important work on police violence. They are investigating the factors that influence disparities in mental health service utilization and treatment outcomes for African Americans with depression, and they are training law enforcement officers on fair and impartial policing. These are just a few examples of important scholarship focused on better understanding and improving the black experience in our communities and throughout society.
USF research is also identifying solutions for reducing poverty and promoting upward economic mobility. See, for instance, the important findings of the State of the Region research carried out by the Muma College of Business regarding how to promote prosperity for underserved communities, especially the black community.
By further strengthening USF’s supplier diversity program, we have helped grow the region’s minority business community. In the past 36 months, USF has spent nearly $100 million with businesses owned by minorities, women and veterans. We will develop strategies to enhance our efforts because supporting these businesses lifts up our communities.
So, what more will we do to redouble our efforts to be a force for positive change and to take an even more active role in transforming our communities to help create a society that offers opportunities for everyone to experience health and economic prosperity?
Toward that end and led by Dr. Brown, the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity, the Office of Student Success, and students, faculty and staff from all three of our campuses, we will work to further articulate how the university addresses systemic racism. We will develop programs to ensure that our faculty, staff and students become more culturally aware and intelligent about how race impacts attitudes and behaviors.
We will consider innovative avenues to enhance faculty and management diversity in recruitment, development, retention and rewards.
We will analyze pay equity for faculty and staff to ensure that we work to eliminate any race-based, or gender-based, salary disparities.
We will ensure that black-owned businesses participate as vendors to the university by setting goals that include specific targets for diversity spending (while adhering to state and federal procurement laws and regulations), creating a code of conduct for employees involved in procurement that encourages more supplier contracts for black-owned businesses and other diverse supplier categories. For supplier opportunities $75,000 and above, we will mandate that a member of the Office of Supplier Diversity team hold a “voting” role on the decision-making team.
Using the strength of our academic resources and research capabilities, our ability to bridge the disparity gap in student achievement and the passion and determination of USF, we will examine wealth disparities, criminal justice bias, and education and housing discrimination in the workplace and at school.
We will continue to reflect deeply on recent tragic events around the country and the unrest we’re witnessing in our own communities and we will take action. In these challenging times, USF can provide leadership and opportunity, demonstrating an active commitment to creating a civil, humane and compassionate society in which racism is not tolerated.