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Our University’s commitment to anti-racism

In this fraught moment in which Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC) are bearing the brunt of the overlapping epidemics of COVID-19, economic dislocations and state-sanctioned violence, our University is called to step up our efforts to address and redress the impact of systemic and historic racism on our BIPOC students, faculty and staff. This week, Provost Mark Richards and I responded to a list of demands presented by the University of Washington Black Student Union (BSU) concerned with the role of policing in our community as well as issues related to making the UW a more welcoming and supportive environment for Black students, faculty and staff.

In our letter, we acknowledged that we can and must do more to create the kinds of institutional changes needed to achieve more equitable outcomes in education and beyond for our BIPOC students. We must also do more to create supportive and empowering environments for our BIPOC faculty. They not only personally bear witness to violence and injustice but also offer vital support to the students most affected, even as they perform the excellent teaching, research and service at the heart of our public mission.

I invite you to explore in detail our commitments regarding the issues of policing, funding and institutional support for Black faculty and students, and efforts to ensure that our campus environments are welcoming and inclusive. Among these commitments is a reimagining of campus safety that takes a more holistic approach and minimizes the presence of armed police on our Seattle campus. We are also securing additional funding for Black student groups and dedicating resources to supporting our schools, colleges and departments in recruiting more Black and underrepresented faculty. As part of these efforts, and in a number ways, we are working to increase opportunities for students to be exposed to the voices, experiences and perspectives of people who have long been marginalized at best, erased at worst.

Above all, both Provost Richards and I are grateful for the work, care and attention that the BSU has brought to these important issues, under difficult circumstances, and especially as they have continued the pursuit of their degrees and educational goals. Our aspiration for every student – indeed, our entire University – is that they learn to use the tools of curiosity and drive to produce impact that leads to a better world. These students have done just that. For all of us, there is a lot of hard work ahead, but we will make progress together.