Trends and Issues in Higher Ed

Focusing on Race & Advancing Equity

Race & Equity  | November 2015

“I challenge all of us — students, faculty and staff, and my leadership team — to own both our personal responsibility for the culture of our campus, and the institutional challenges we need to address to combat the racism, both individual and institutional, that persists here and throughout our society.”

In April 2015, President Ana Mari Cauce called the University of Washington to action and invited us all to share in her commitment “to work in greater and more comprehensive ways to address the UW’s own institutional issues, and to strive for equity and fairness for all in our community.” She redoubled the University’s longstanding commitment to equity, inclusion and social justice with the launch of the Race & Equity Initiative.

Student activism furthers an on-going commitment to equity. Photo: Emile Pitre.

The initiative is a tri-campus effort that builds on a rich history of work at the UW to ensure access and academic success for diverse populations. While it recognizes that there are many dimensions of diversity, this initiative includes a special focus on race, an issue our students as well as our faculty and staff have made a priority. In light of national violence against unarmed black men and the resulting Black Lives Matter movement, race makes for one of the most pressing conversations — and the most difficult.

But we are undaunted.

As a public university, we have a special responsibility to convene the difficult conversations in areas of social importance — conversations that lead to action. This is especially true of race and equity.

As President Cauce has asked, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

This report highlights examples of people and programs that inspire us to take action against bias and to work for equity in our personal and professional lives. In the tradition of a great research university, we are seeking to answer the difficult questions. In addressing bias and racism, we are challenging ourselves to reflect on our own actions, to connect with our communities, and to become informed of the richness of our differences so we can be better colleagues and allies for each other.

As the Race & Equity Initiative develops, we will continue to share examples of colleagues engaged in this work. We will turn to each other for inspiration as we work to build greater personal connections across differences, address institutional bias and racism, and create more welcoming and just communities.
Baldasty signature
Gerald J. Baldasty
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President Professor, Department of Communication Adjunct Professor, American Ethnic Studies; Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies
Ed Taylor
Vice Provost and Dean Undergraduate Academic Affairs Professor, College of Education

Report Sections

Race & Equity Initiative Overview

The Race & Equity Initiative is a clear priority for President Cauce and builds on a long tradition and many existing efforts to address issues of race and equity at the UW. From outreach and engagement to teaching and learning to scholarship and research, the Race & Equity Initiative, launched Spring 2015, aims to both deepen and broaden these efforts across the UW’s three campuses under the leadership of Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs Ed Taylor. Read on to learn about the goals, objectives and origins of this initiative.

Why now?

While the UW’s commitment to diversity and social justice is not new, and the challenges in addressing these chronic societal issues are great, there is renewed effort and increased urgency in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and related protests across the nation as well as the call from students to UW schools and colleges asking for a University response.

In February 2015, President Cauce marched with the protesters in one of the largest peaceful demonstrations at the Seattle campus since 1968, and felt compelled to take a stand as president. She called the UW community to action in her April 2015 speech: “To make progress on solving the world’s greatest challenges, we must also make progress on diversity. This is what universities are all about — places of discovery, of civil discourse, of difficult conversations — where we learn new ways of looking at and acting in the world.”

The 1968 protest led to the creation of an office to recruit and advise students of color, a forerunner to the office now known as Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity. Photo courtesy of UW Archives.

The 2015 Black Lives Matter protest presented a list of related demands to UW leadership. Photo courtesy of Student Life.

What are the goals?

The initiative’s goals are ambitious. It aims to help students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members develop a deep personal understanding of issues related to race and equity, power and privilege in their lives, in their work and in their communities. By providing historical context alongside tools to address bias and racism when witnessed, this initiative helps empower and inspire our community to seek greater understanding across differences. It also sets its sights on addressing institutional bias and racism both within the UW and in the community, including attention to changes in both policy and climate.

Specific actions under way, to date

  • A lecture series on issues of race and equity hosted by the Graduate School and the UW Alumni Association
  • Facilitated conversations for students, faculty and staff to discuss personal experiences around race and equity, and explore actions that they can take to address these topics
  • Increased support around teaching and learning about diversity, bias and more
  • A Hate Bias Report with recommendations and protocols for how the UW responds to campus incidences of biases/discrimination
  • Student roundtables to share updates, gather input and ideas
  • Spotlighting people and programs who are working at the UW on issues of race and equity, like those featured in this report

Under development for later this year and next

  • A single online resource to find an inventory of programs, available information and tools to support diverse UW communities and promote diversity
  • Increased community outreach and engagement efforts with the UW’s partner communities
  • New workshops and trainings for faculty and staff to promote greater personal and professional development around issues of race and equity
  • Faculty search committee training on implicit bias, as recommended by a recent Faculty Senate resolution
  • A climate assessment to help identify and prioritize areas for further action around improving climate and addressing institutional racism


Race & Equity Further Reading

Collins, Patricia. “Toward a New Vision: Race, Class, and Gender as Categories of Analysis and Connection.” Race, Gender & Class 1, no. 1 (1993): 25-46.

DiAngelo, Robin. “What does it mean to be white?” The Seattle Times (Seattle, WA), Aug. 9, 2014.

Gonzales, Roberto G. Young Lives on Hold: The College Dreams of Undocumented Students. New York: The College Board, 2009.

Lewis, Kristen, and Sarah Burd-Sharps. “The Measure of America 2013-14.” Social Science Research Council. June 19, 2013.

McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Peace and Freedom Magazine, July-August 1989. (A publication of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Philadelphia, PA)

Sensoy, Ozlem, and Robin DiAngelo. “Developing Social Justice Literacy: An Open Letter to Our
Faculty Colleagues.” Phi Delta Kappan Magazine 90, no. 5, 345-52.

Staats, Cheryl. State of Science: Implicit Bias Review 2014. Columbus, Ohio: Kirwan Institute, 2014.

Steele, Claude. Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011.

Stevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2014.

Tatum, Beverly Daniel. “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”: And Other Conversations about Race. New York: BasicBooks, 1999.

Taylor, Quintard. The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District, from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era. Emil and Kathleen Sick Book Series
in Western History and Biography. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.

Tough, Paul. “Who Gets to Graduate?” The New York Times Magazine, May 2014.

UndocuScholars Project. In the Shadows of the Ivory Tower: Undocumented Undergraduates and the Liminal State of Immigration Reform. Los Angeles:
The Institute for Immigration, Globalization & Education, 2015.

 Report Acknowledgements

Many thanks to the UW faculty, students and staff who contributed their stories and photos for the features in this report, and to the UW subject matter experts who lent their advice and assistance, including Anne Browning, Sapna Cheryan, Angelina Godoy, Alexes Harris, Marisa Herrera, Ralina Joseph, Norma Rodriguez, Anu Taranath, Joy Williamson-Lott and Joyce Yen.

A special thanks to members of the Race & Equity Initiative Committee: Zoe Barsness, David Eaton, Gabriel Gallardo, Mary Gresch, Beth Kalikoff, Kate O’Neill, Sharon Parker, Terryl Ross, Paul Rucker, Denzil Suite. Thanks also to colleagues supporting the initiative, including Jodene Davis, Nicole Dierks, Jeanette James and Jason Johnson.

Additional contributors to the report series include Norm Beauchamp, Tomitha Blake, John D. Burkhardt, Carlos Escutia, Sean Ferris, Alice Few, Yuriana Garcia, Lisa Hall, Verena Hess, Elizabeth Lowry, Molly McCarthy, Luis Ortega, Alicia Palacio, Larissa Reza, Erin Rowley, Alina Solano, Drew Stone, Conrado Tapado, Leigh Tucker and Kristian Wiles.

Editorial Directors

Gerald J. Baldasty, Interim Provost and Executive Vice President
Ed Taylor, Vice Provost and Dean, Undergraduate Academic Affairs
Marisa Nickle, Director of Strategy and Academic Initiatives, Office of the Provost

Research, Writing, Design and Photography

Lead Writer: Jill Reddish, Graduate Student Assistant, Office of the Provost

Lead Designer: Katie Kirkland, Project Manager of Strategy and Initiatives, Office of the Provost

Kirsten Atik, Communications Director, Undergraduate Academic Affairs
Siobhan Bauer, Undergraduate Assistant, Office of the Provost

Editing and Proofing

Kay Pilcher, Communications Manager, UW-IT
Christy Kessler, Administrative and Special Projects Coordinator, Academic and Student Affairs Advancement

A Selection of Race & Equity Resources at UW

From research to student communities and more, discover the many ways students, faculty and staff make diversity a part of life at the University of Washington. Visit the Diversity Portal to learn more or explore these resources: