Who We Are

A Message from the Senior Advisor

Headshot of Dr. Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman

Beyond the Metrics: Anti-Racism and USF’s Institutional Transformation

The year 2020 ushered in incomparable challenges which have forced us to contend with two global pandemics: COVID-19 and racism. These pandemics have revealed to some (and reiterated to many) that systemic racism is a persistent element of all major social institutions. The violent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery also reveal that systemic racism often reserves its most insidious manifestation when it perpetuates anti-Blackness. In the wake of these and other examples of systemic anti-Black racism, a Call to Action letter endorsed by over 90 USF Black faculty and staff, in addition to several statements produced from around campus, implored the University of South Florida to respond with concrete action rather than rhetoric. Rather than starting from ‘square one,’ USF has responded by building on the momentum of its significant successes related to diversity and racial equity.

Indeed, our attention to addressing inequities helped propel the University of South Florida towards its unrivaled rise: In 2020, USF was recognized as the fastest growing university in the United States. Last year, USF was ranked among the top 50 colleges by U.S. News and World Report. Alongside this, and most relevant to racial equity, Education Trust recognized USF for having eliminated the racial achievement gap in six-year graduation rate that so often negatively affects Black and Latinx students. Yet, even as we duly celebrate these achievements, an understanding of the pervasiveness of systemic racism offers a sober reminder that these efforts are not nearly enough.

Closer attention to systemic racism leads us to re-evaluate how we define and measure “success” for both individuals and academic units. For example, this current moment highlights why the Institute on Black Life and the Institute for the Study of Latin America & the Caribbean, which have long been pillars of the Tampa Bay area, must be re-engaged in order to build institutional capacity for our anti-racist efforts. There is also more work to be done regarding racial equity as it relates to access, recruitment, inclusion and advancement of students, faculty, and staff. Moreover, the challenges involved in navigating consolidation and the strategic renewal process reflect the need for greater sensitivity to the community in decision-making and the importance of operating with transparency and shared governance. While USF leadership will inevitably have missteps, our ability to re-calibrate processes and practices in ways that fulfill our Principles of Community will ultimately make us a more unified and equitable campus.

In order to support our efforts, this site will serve as a repository of resources and information related to anti-racism on campus, including faculty and student research, courses on systemic racism, new initiatives and programs, and spotlights and news stories. As USF’s ascension over the past years has been attributed to our data-driven approach, this site will also include data and reports that will help monitor our progress and promote transparency and accountability (in accordance with our Principles of Community).

I invite you to contribute to this resource-mapping effort by sharing your ideas, events, research/teaching and relevant information with us. Ultimately, the path to institutional transformation requires the engagement of all community members. Embracing this moment to institutionalize anti-racism across our campuses is not only the right thing to do, it will ultimately be the best thing to do to elevate the entire USF community.

Read Dr. Hordge-Freeman's CV.

A version of this statement was published in the Winter Edition of the USF Magazine, Fall 2020