College of Arts and Sciences Statement on Equity, Inclusion and Excellence

Valerio C. Ferme, Dean, McMicken College of Arts and Sciences

Dean Valerio Ferme, University of Cincinnati College of Arts and Sciences

Littisha A. Bates, PhD, is the recipient of the Faculty Senate Exemplary Service to the University Award.

Dr. Littisha A. Bates, Associate Dean of Inclusive Excellence and Community Partnerships, University of Cincinnati College of Arts and Sciences

Dear members of the College of Arts and Sciences family,

Since March our lives have been dramatically changed. The coronavirus first, the economic crisis that ensued, and finally the protests that denounce the repeated abuse of Black American citizens have laid bare the structural and systemic injustices that continue to impede our progress as a nation; a nation whose foundational motto, e pluribus unum, suggests the melding of the many into a unity where freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are open to all. Significantly, each of these crises has shown that systemic injustice continues to target certain populations. Though the coronavirus does not choose sides, rates of contagion and access to care have ensured that death rates have disproportionately affected minorities and racial/ethnic groups. Similarly, the economic downturn has had a much broader and deleterious impact on underrepresented communities. Finally, vividly exposed by media and alert citizens, the abuses and killings perpetrated by the police and vigilantes at the expense of Black bodies have laid bare how far we are from achieving the goal of a just society.

Until now, the College of Arts and Sciences had yet to release a statement on these matters, even as we witnessed countless statements of indignation in the days following the death of George Floyd and the protests that ensued. Though some did not understand why, we chose to remain silent, because it was important to pause, listen, reflect and make concrete plans for how we must be and do better. Statements that are not supported by concrete plans for action risk being performative and do not contribute to the mission of creating an anti-racist, inclusive community, especially when there are many in our College and university whose experiences belie such statements.

Today, we publicly express the College's commitment to anti-racist practices. We do so cognizant that we are not better than others; instead we acknowledge our shortcomings and want to use our past failures as motivation to advance our mission and vision as a truly inclusive community. The time is past when we assuaged our consciences by hiring and enrolling quotas of underrepresented group X, Y, and Z. Though well-meaning and well-intentioned, we have not been inclusive. We have expected our faculty, staff and students of color to speak their truths and for their truths, while saddling them with being the standard-bearers for entire ethnic, gendered, and disability nations. We want to recommit ourselves to laying bare the foundations upon which much of the systemic unfairness of our social and cultural practices rests. This is heavy lifting that cannot be done only by repeating the things we have done before, just in greater quantity. It is not, nor can it only be about how many diverse faculty, staff, and students enter our College and about how much money we throw at the ‘problem.' It has to be about how, when underrepresented colleagues join us, we make them know that their cultures, emotions, histories, societies are ours too: for sure, African-American culture, history, and literature should be taught in specific courses; yet, all cultures, histories, and literatures gain in depth, empathy, and understanding when studied from the viewpoint of Black experience. Similarly, we cannot hide behind the factual perception that certain scientific fields are immune from the vagaries of race, because a race perspective can inform how privilege determines the origins of our investigations.

Our work began when the College made the commitment to hire of our first Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence and Community Partnership, Dr. Littisha A. Bates, even before the current crises enveloped our country. At that time, we also asked all units in the College to discuss, explore, and summarize what Inclusive Excellence means for them. These are cornerstones, upon which we will edify our building, a building that, incidentally, already has some bricks in place, as detailed below. These efforts mark the beginning of the strategic planning, goal setting and action for the College which we initiated this year. In addition, we have added more action items directly inspired by the listening sessions held with A&S faculty and staff over the past weeks. We publicly share them in an effort to keep us honest and accountable.

  1. We have supported 4 innovation proposals that are specifically in support of URM ($48K), of which 3 (38K) are specifically for initiatives for Black students and faculty.

  2. The college financially sponsors a summer bridge program for URM students in STEM fields in conjunction with the College of Engineering.

  3. Independently, there are initiatives by a number of our faculty in connection with the Cincinnati Public Schools that support underrepresented students, both in their current scholastic efforts, and in their transition to the university. We thank those faculty members and donors who are committed to and have supported these efforts, and we encourage them to connect with Dr. Bates so we can collect them in a repository of our current initiatives in the College.

  4. The College has numerous endowed scholarships for underrepresented and 1st-Generation students. The Dean and the development office have made this a priority in our strategic fundraising plans.

  5. College leadership and faculty represent the overwhelming majority in the university’s representation in the ASPIRE NSF grants targeted at increasing the presence of URM faculty in STEM fields (6 out of 10 members).

  6. As we move to implement our A&S 21st-Century Strategic Core review, we pledge to make Inclusive Excellence one of its guiding principles.

  7. The dean will move 1/3rd of his Next Lives Here Innovation funds for AY 21 to support initiatives coming out of his office (33K).

  8. The dean will personally donate initial funding for a College of Arts and Sciences Scholarship meant to commemorate the struggles of underrepresented students against systemic barriers and injustice. Information about the scholarship will be made public to attract further donation in establishing an endowment.

  9. We will implement 360 evaluations that allow staff to discuss their direct supervisors and office climate without fear of reprimand.

  10. The Associate Dean’s office will create an Anti-Racism Consortium with College-wide representation. The group will examine College practices and policies, working to reform policies that are not explicitly anti-racist.

  11. We seek to enlist Graduate and Undergraduate Councils to review courses that count toward the DEI BoK in an effort to ensure all courses meet the intent of the BoK code.

  12. The College will launch a publicly available dashboard that measures Diversity Equity and Inclusion demographics as well the outcomes from our initiatives.

  13. As per recommendations of our students, we will hold safe listening sessions for A&S students and alumni.

We are committed to being an anti-racist, just College where we all are heard, feel safe and valued while being collectively accountable for our culture.