Dear College of Health Sciences community,
George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery.
Their lives — and the lives of countless others in black communities — were horrifically and unjustly stolen. We acknowledge the grief, outrage, frustration, fear, and pain we are all feeling. We know this trauma and these feelings are not new to our neighbors, students, faculty, alumni, and staff of color.
Injustices and crimes against black people in our country are rooted in our historical legacy of institutional racism which continues to devalue black lives today. The COVID-19 public health crisis has further laid bare inequalities and disparities in our nation. The gap between these unrelenting attacks and our promise as a nation—that all people are recognized as equal under the law—is unacceptable.
We at the College of Health Sciences condemn racism and are committed to eradicating it in our college, our state, and in this country. As a college, our goal is to create a safe, inclusive environment for all—one from which every one of our students emerge as leaders in health care who practice with compassion and cultural humility. We cannot truthfully say our community is one of belonging when inequity and injustice still exists for so many.
We must address any passivity that has allowed injustice to multiply and apologize for missing any opportunities to have done so in the past. Our commitment begins within our own hearts and minds. We must listen. We must learn from uncomfortable conversations. And we must consistently confront our own racist and unconscious biases. No one is immune to this. When we believe we are, we allow fear and distrust to spread unchecked. We are all impacted and in this together as a community.
I was reminded by colleagues in our college, and across our campus, that justice is not only a noun. It is also an action. We must take action to undo and unlearn any latent racism, prejudice, or ignorance within our own walls.
We will inventory each program’s curriculum to ensure the intentional inclusion of essential content related to diversity and the development of cultural humility and intercultural competency, addressing any identified gaps in a meaningful way to prepare our students to recognize their biases, confront disparities and inequities, and promote social and racial justice. We recognize to do this for our students we need to also do the work ourselves.
We appreciate that many in our community have the need for space, flexibility, information, understanding and support during this time of trauma and uncertainty as we negotiate today and plan for a return in the fall. We want all of our CHS community to know that we are here for you. We are increasing our communications and outreach to students and colleagues through regular updates, open virtual forums, and conversations to mitigate isolation and re-build our connections as we prepare for the fall.
And—once back and with public health recommendations in place—we will continue this commitment and find ways to create safe space and means through which our faculty, staff, and students can build community, connections, understanding, and have important and necessary conversations.
We want our colleagues and students to know the College of Health Sciences is committed to dismantling hatred and pursuing racial and social justice and equality. We don’t have all the answers and solutions and we have much work to do.
We need your help and the input from our entire community to move forward in action and awareness to seek a deeper understanding of the challenges and disparities that exist within—and without—our own circles to enact change.
We will work to better understand, listen, and learn from each other so our college can make decisive and compassionate changes that lead toward greater inclusivity and transform our CHS community. And we will rise stronger as one.
Dean of the UK College of Health Sciences