Dear USF Community,
In August, I announced a series of actions for the University of South Florida as part of our ongoing commitment to dismantling systemic racism and actively promoting racial equity across our campuses and in our communities. Among the actions was the appointment of Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, associate professor in the Department of Sociology, to the newly created role of Senior Advisor to the President and Provost on Diversity and Inclusion.
Since her appointment to this advisory role, Dr. Hordge-Freeman has been working closely with university leadership and the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity – including the diversity officers from each of our campuses – on efforts to foster anti-racism, access, equity, cultural inclusivity and cultural intelligence.
She continues to partner with the USF Faculty Senate, college deans, USF’s Black Leadership Network and the Latin Community Advisory Council and to meet weekly with USF’s Black Employee Steering Committee. This committee, which comprises more than 30 faculty and staff from across our three campuses, issued an important call to action in a letter to me on June 8, 2020, urging USF to continue working to develop concrete anti-racist practices.
Based on these most recent and ongoing university-wide dialogues and collaborations, USF is developing and implementing the following resources and initiatives.
Launching today is a comprehensive university-wide anti-racism website that will serve as a collective resource and information warehouse for content related to USF’s commitment to anti-racism. Highlights include opportunities for community involvement, training resources for faculty and staff, and tools and links for students to find courses related to anti-racism. Among the offerings is a new listing of all anti-racism courses being offered as part of the CAS for Change initiative in the College of Arts and Sciences.
A timeline on the site details the enduring commitment of the USF community over the last decade to support diversity, anti-racism and equity. Another section offers guidelines on the importance of sharing and understanding a common language that fosters inclusivity and signals our institutional commitment to remain fluent and open to change. Also on the site, a robust news feed will share stories related to anti-racism, equity and inclusion in and beyond the Tampa Bay region. I strongly encourage you to visit this page regularly.
The website also highlights college events and announcements. Examples include the February 6, 2021, diversity and inclusion virtual conference hosted by our St. Petersburg campus and the ongoing Enlightenment Series featuring conversations facilitated by Black faculty and staff to enlighten the campus community about inclusive excellence, cultural competency and anti-racism specifically as it impacts Black people at USF and beyond. More than 200 faculty and staff have participated in these events, which is a testament to the interest in these important conversations.
An archive of past events includes the virtual conversation on November 18 with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of the book “How to Be an Antiracist” and the nation’s premier researcher of anti-racism.
Importantly, the new website is an invitation to hear from you – our university community – and for you to submit ideas and content for the site. Please be sure to keep in touch using this simple submission form.
In addition to the anti-racism website, Dr. Hordge-Freeman has collaborated with the Office of Decision Support to develop a resource to track the success of our efforts to support racial equity for faculty, students, staff and institutional support units at USF. The Diversity, Anti-Racism and Equity (DARE) Dashboard reflects USF’s commitment to evidence-based actions to address inclusive excellence and racial equity. The comprehensive nature of the dashboard exceeds subsequent recommendations by the Board of Governors for Florida’s state universities to develop mechanisms to track their progress related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Other recent actions at USF include the formalization of a partnership between the Institute on Black Life and USF’s Office of Student Success. Their memo of understanding will support space in the Marshall Student Center and programmatic initiatives dedicated to addressing Black culture and anti-Black racism in the context of student success.
To explore bias at USF in employee compensation practices, I announced in October the creation of a staff and administrator salary equity task force at USF. The task force – which includes representatives from all of our campuses – will lead an analysis of salaries with the goal of revealing disparities based on gender, race or other factors impacting equity. The work of the task force will begin with an analysis of staff salaries after which options will be considered for a review of faculty and administration salary equity.
Also in October, the USF Faculty Senate approved a resolution calling on USF to continue to take a leadership role in recognizing and addressing anti-Blackness and systemic racism through faculty hiring, student success and research focused on anti-racism. The Senate also has approved the creation of a Council on Racial Justice to advise USF leadership on matters that pertain to racial justice. I applaud the Senate for their groundbreaking call to action and I look forward to our continued partnership in addressing the important issues outlined in their resolution.
Our work together across the university to address anti-racism will continue to benefit from the strength of our partnerships and to be guided by our Principles of Community.
I am grateful to Dr. Hordge-Freeman and the many university-wide and community partners for their continued efforts to support these and other important initiatives. The momentum is critical as we continue to address systemic racism as it relates to all marginalized racial and ethnic groups.