A Message from President Julio Frenk

July 1, 2020

Dear Fellow ’Canes:

Like many values-driven organizations around the world, over the past month we have been taking a hard look at how we can help heal the pain we see manifest in our communities. The University is simultaneously responding to three crises that converge at this moment in history: the COVID-19 pandemic, its economic consequences, and the persistence of systemic racial injustice.

The social outrage at institutionalized anti-Black racism has been fueled both by the disparities apparent in the impact of COVID-19 and its economic ramifications, and by reprehensible acts of abuse of power on the part of law enforcement agents, such as the killing of George Floyd. We have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to channel that indignation into urgent and useful action, rather than divisive or destructive behavior.

Our 2020 Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees took place on Juneteenth, and it was not lost on any of us that this year’s celebration occurred against a backdrop of widespread mobilization to confront the systemic forces that sustain racial injustice. In my time at the U, we have made progress on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, but as I told the Board, I am not satisfied.

As I shared with you on May 31, universities have a crucial role to play in modeling racial justice. I have also heard loud and clear the desire to ensure that we do not turn our attention to issues of race only when there is a crisis. We can and should allow crises to accelerate progress on how we live out our values, but the work must go on even when distressing episodes do not dominate the headlines.

Following meetings with our trustees, academic leaders, students, faculty, and staff—as well as recommendations shared with me in writing—today we announce additional steps the University of Miami will take in our pursuit of racial justice on campus and beyond.

Organizational Commitment
  1. New Cabinet-Level Position: Special Advisor to the President on Racial Justice. I will appoint a distinguished member of our University community to support racial justice efforts across the institution. As an active participant in my Cabinet reporting to me, this person will mainstream our efforts to advance racial justice by working closely with vice presidents, deans, department chairs, and others, setting clear goals, metrics, and timelines. We are fortunate to have significantly improved diversity among deans and senior leaders in the central administration, including the recruitment of the first two Black academic deans in more than a decade, out of only four in University history; the first Black treasurer and chief investment officer; as well as a new executive director of student life, new multicultural student affairs director, and dean of students. The new Special Advisor to the President will work with the Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Diversity and Inclusion Round Table spearheaded by Human Resources, and a new Task Force to Promote Racial Justice at the Miller School of Medicine to facilitate a formal, multi-year strategic plan that increases recruitment and retention of Black faculty, staff, and students.
  1. Reinvigorating the Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Established as part of the recommendations of the 2015 Task Force on Concerns of Black Students, this standing committee coordinates actions across the entire University community. A new faculty co-chair will be appointed who will work closely with the current co-chair, Dr. Renee Callan, Executive Director of Student Life. They will collaborate with the new Special Advisor to the President and all university leaders in a renewed effort aimed at improving access—a key ingredient to racial justice—in addition to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  1. New Office for Faculty Inclusion and Diversity. The Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs will oversee an Office of Inclusion and Diversity to support the recruitment, retention, and professional development of under-represented faculty, specifically Black faculty members. Since 2015, we have grown from 159 Black faculty to 200, an increase of 26%. Black faculty members now represent 5.1% of the total at the University, which is well above the national average for our peer institutions, but not yet enough. We have committed to increasing that proportion over the next five years. Since 2017, the University of Miami has required that all searches include women and minority candidates in the applicant pool before an offer is allowed to be extended. By 2025, at least 80% of faculty searches will have diverse candidates not just among applicants, but among finalists. In addition, the new office will focus on strategies to achieve our faculty recruitment goals, including but not limited to: introducing loan repayment programs, incentives, and intentional interventions to strengthen our competitiveness; developing programs for growing talent and building the pipeline; and providing the access, support and resources necessary for faculty to thrive in an environment that is embracing and empowering.
  1. New Chief Diversity Officer for the Department of Athletics. Senior Associate Athletic Director for Administration Renae Myles Payne has been named chief diversity officer for the Department of Athletics. As a member of the executive staff with direct access to the athletics director, she will be responsible for implementing a diversity and inclusion plan for our student-athletes, administrators, and coaches. The plan will begin with a nine-week educational process focused on race relations, and will also include implicit bias testing and training, a review of hiring practices and policies, and customized sessions on specific topics, partnering with University offices and organizations.
  1. Holding Business Partners and Ourselves Accountable. We will insist on transparency around who is representing the University and how we do business. We will require firms bidding to have UM as a client to engage in governance and leadership practices that reflect our values on diversity. We will enact clear procurement policies that support diversity, building on efforts such as our founding membership in the South Florida Anchor Alliance, targeted outreach efforts to minority candidates via job boards and executive search firms, as well as hosting minority vendor events through our bronze sponsorship of the Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council. We will also commit to creating specific incentives for Black and minority-owned businesses, conferences, organizations, and entities to use on-campus facilities. In addition, the University will conduct an annual, internal demographic audit of faculty, staff, and students to determine factors such as, but not limited to, racial, ethnic, and gender-identity composition, to be made public on a diversity and inclusion dashboard.

Student and Faculty Support
  1. Racial Climate Survey. We will conduct a comprehensive survey to assess the current state of our racial climate. We are analyzing benchmarking data and will announce the survey during the fall semester to be completed this academic year. The outcomes will be made public and will inform additional action to improve the racial climate on campus, with the aim of making every person at the University feel safe and included.
  1. Comprehensive Training on Implicit Bias. We will launch comprehensive training on implicit racial bias, microaggressions, and how to engage in the necessary yet difficult conversations around structural racism, abuse of power, and societal healing for students, faculty, and staff. The training will be completed annually and will also entail diversity and inclusion evaluations of University and classroom practices. We have made arrangements to purchase the EVERFI Diversity and Inclusion module for all students, which will be mandatory and rolled out in January 2021 by the Dean of Students Office. The Office of Academic Affairs will work with the Faculty Senate to identify and make available training options for all categories of faculty members. With respect to staff training, we will build on two pilot programs completed in FY20: the course on Harassment and Discrimination Prevention already completed by 97% of supervisors and the Diversity Interactive Theatre that customized workplace scenes on how to address bias and micro-aggressions, which was piloted with 59 leaders and received 100% positive feedback. We will also offer two online courses on “Managing Bias and Diversity: Inclusion in the Modern Workplace” for all employees, which have already been completed by 98% of University of Miami Police Department officers.
  1. Programs to Support Black Faculty Recruitment. The College of Arts and Sciences has piloted a program to promote Black faculty recruitment and is making adjustments that will support a commitment of five faculty lines to Black scholars in the sciences. The Provost will work with deans to explore the potential of similar commitments across all schools and colleges, as well as a special opportunity hire program in collaboration with the deans of the Frost School of Music, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Education and Human Development.
  1. Attracting, Retaining, and Supporting Black Students. The number of Black students entering the U has risen from 147 in fall of 2015 to 216 in fall of 2019, an increase of nearly 47%. In fact, since 2015, first-year enrollment of Black students at the U has risen from 8% to 11%—one of the highest among our peer institutions. This increase is due, in part, to the commitment we made to meeting demonstrated financial need. The number of Black students earning prestigious awards has increased dramatically. We went from having no Singer Scholars who were Black in 2016 to 24 in 2020—one third of all recipients. Similarly, among our Foote Fellows, we went from 12 Black recipients in fall 2017 to 77 in fall 2019—a jump from 3% to 32%. We will continue to put strategies in place to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need at admission by 2025, including a renewed commitment to scholarship programs for Black students. Moreover, our work to not only draw—but retain—the best and brightest Black students to the University will include building a central database on courses, research programs, activities, and initiatives that support underrepresented students, and Black students in particular. The aim will be an online resource similar to the public facing site available to University employees at hr.miami.edu/diversity, which is the product of collaboration through regular roundtables among 35 individuals who are involved in diversity initiatives across the University. This resource—to be spearheaded by the Special Advisor to the President and implemented across divisions—will be one of the ways we highlight and continue to build a welcoming environment for Black students beginning with the admissions process and continuing through graduation.

Research and Scholarship
  1. Supporting, Amplifying, and Extending Faculty Research on Anti-Black Racism and Bias. We will empower scholars in this area with funding opportunities. For example, the Provost’s Office has announced plans to fund up to 10 teams of faculty representing at least two distinct disciplines through a special U-LINK award aimed at catalyzing interdisciplinary collaboration to advance understanding of individual, institutional, and structural racism, as well as its associated impact on multiple outcomes of interest, such as health, educational achievement, income inequality, practices in the criminal legal system, and public policy. To ensure rapid action on these issues, proposals via the InfoReady system are due July 15, 2020. The Office of Academic Affairs will announce additional support for scholarship in this area in the coming months.
  1. Center for Global Black Studies. The University earned a planning grant from the Mellon Foundation to establish a Center for Global Black Studies. We will support the work of this Center with the aim of making it a unifying platform to assist in the holistic coordination of multiple initiatives addressing structural racism and structural inequalities, both internally and externally. The Center will have the opportunity to become a highly visible public-facing link between the University and Black communities both locally and globally, making it integral to the intellectual and cultural life of the University.
  1. Support for Identity Programs: Full Funding for Students of Color Symposium. We will strengthen the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and launch a consultative process with student leaders to identify priority programs starting in the fall. Additionally, we are committed to fully funding the Students of Color Symposium each January.
  1. One Book, One U on Racial Justice. We will expand the existing One Book, One U program and commit to using it as a platform for exploring issues of racial justice and equity. Expansion of the program will include campus-wide activities such as the selection and common reading of a book related to the topic, as well as sets of lectures, events, and roundtables to facilitate discussion of the book.

Community Outreach
  1. Investment in and Partnership with the Black Community. We will invest in service-oriented initiatives, working with the community in creative ways to address racial justice locally and globally. These efforts will empower faculty, staff, and students to live out our values. Among these initiatives, we will commit to providing educational resources, admissions programming, and other forms of support dedicated to Black and other marginalized communities in Miami, such as Overtown, Little Haiti, Coconut Grove, and South Miami, to help foster community ties and increase representation at the University from these communities. In addition, working through the Butler Center for Service and Leadership and the Office for Civic and Community Engagement, we will launch an internal grant program to support interdisciplinary teams of faculty, staff, and students to implement tangible initiatives to fight racism. More details about the application process will be forthcoming.
  1. Engagement with Local Police Departments. While we already require all certified UMPD officers to complete discriminatory profiling training, the University will convene a conversation with both the University and Coral Gables police departments to share best practices and open lines of communication for students, parents, faculty, staff, and other members of the University community to express concerns and recommendations for improvements to policing practices. One aim of this conversation, which will include representation from students, will be to agree upon de-escalation policies, community action steps, diversity, and sensitivity training.

These 15 actions are not an end product; they are a starting point. I will continue to seek input from trustees, faculty members, staff, students, and alumni on ideas that put our values into practice.

We are committed to making the University of Miami an exemplary institution. We will be tireless. We will be passionate. We will serve as a beacon for others. And we will help our community begin to heal, together.
President Julio Frenk signature
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