University of South Florida President Steven Currall announced a series of actions to reinforce USF’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and further support the university’s efforts to help end racism in society.
In a message to the university community, Currall announced that Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, associate professor of sociology, will serve in a newly created role of senior advisor to the president and provost on diversity and inclusion. Hordge-Freeman will advise and support university leadership on plans to foster anti-racism, access, equity, cultural inclusivity and cultural intelligence. She will partner with university-wide groups working on related issues, such as curricular development, professional development of faculty members and staff and ensuring that hiring practices for administrators and faculty are free from bias.
Hordge-Freeman will work closely with USF Vice President of Institutional Equity Dr. Haywood Brown, who Currall announced has now been appointed to serve on USF’s Executive Leadership Council, the university’s top leadership team.
Currall also outlined several additional steps:
- As part of USF’s ongoing strategic initiative to increase spending with businesses owned by minorities, women and veterans, USF has updated language regarding standards of conduct for employees that encourages more supplier contracts for Black businesses and other diverse supplier categories. USF will also require a senior member of the Office of Supplier Diversity hold a voting role on the decision-making team for supplier opportunities of $75,000 and above. Several additional measures initiated by Currall to strengthen partnerships with Black businesses can be found here.
- USF’s Offices of Student Success and Admissions have begun developing targeted plans to attract more Black students to all three USF campuses, with many of the steps being introduced during the recruitment process for this fall’s class. As an example, USF has expanded marketing efforts to prospective high school students in the seven-county Tampa Bay service area and will work to develop closer ties to selected high schools to strengthen the pipeline from local schools. USF, which enrolls more Black students than any other preeminent university in Florida, has earned national recognition for Black student success.
- USF will embark on a university-wide initiative designed to give individuals an opportunity to candidly discuss matters of race. This series, first started on USF’s St. Petersburg campus last year, involves creating “Dismantling Racism Study Circles,” which are diverse groups of 10-14 individuals discussing all aspects of race and racism, including their personal experiences. Two trained facilitators of opposite gender and race will lead the conversations that take place over a six-week period. The participants will prioritize action plans, which may entail proposals to USF leadership.
- USF’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion & Equal Opportunity (DIEO) will hold a virtual forum this month titled “Black Lives & The Police” featuring a panel of individuals offering different perspectives regarding progressive policing.
Today’s announcement follows a June message from Currall to students, faculty and staff that stated he and other university leaders would reflect on recent community unrest across America and examine how USF could expand upon and enhance initiatives to address racism.
“I hope you will join me in supporting these important actions as we continue to strive to fulfill our responsibility to provide leadership and demonstrate our active commitment to creating a civil, humane and compassionate society in which racism is not tolerated,” Currall said in today’s message. “The need for change is ongoing, and I will continue to provide you with updates as further actions are taken and progress is achieved.”
Currall also noted he’ll continue to meet with members of the Florida Legislature, several community-based advocacy organizations and representatives from USF’s Black Leadership Network to further develop innovative strategies.
In addition, last month USF announced a $500,000 commitment to fund faculty research projects that explore the perpetuation of systemic racism in society that has resulted in economic inequities, social injustices, police violence and other issues.
Currall’s full message to the USF community today is available here.