Today, I want to update you on some of the work we have undertaken in the weeks since and our progress on a number of initiatives.
A Message from President Julio Frenk

August 13, 2020

To the University of Miami Community:

Earlier this summer, as renewed and urgent calls for ending systemic racism arose across the country and around the world, we outlined a series of steps we would take together to advance racial justice here at the U and in our local and global communities. Today, I want to update you on some of the work we have undertaken in the weeks since and our progress on a number of initiatives as we prepare to return to campus for the fall semester.

In recent weeks, I have repeatedly reminded all of us that in these unprecedented times, it is mutuality and reciprocity that will safeguard our individual and collective wellbeing and success. That mutual respect for people from all walks of life is also why we must turn the urgency of this moment into action.

I applaud the efforts of the faculty, who have formed a Committee on Racial Justice within the Faculty Senate. I also want to thank our trustees for acting on the proposal by Chair Hilarie Bass to establish an Ad Hoc Committee of the Board on Social Justice and Diversity to support our action agenda on these critical topics. Their advice and guidance are invaluable as we move forward.

Our new Special Advisor for Racial Justice, Professor Donald Spivey, has already helped shape our work and our thinking, and I am grateful to him for his service to the University. He, Provost Duerk, and I meet on a weekly basis, and Professor Spivey is now a member of my Cabinet, offering our leadership team insight into how best to advance ideas to achieve racial justice on campus. Among the projects on which we are beginning to make progress are the following:

Investment in the Center for Global Black Studies. As proposed back in June, one of our major goals is to elevate the field of Black studies at UM. Today, I am pleased to announce an initial budgetary commitment on this front. The University will provide $150,000 in the current academic year to match the planning grant received by Professor Jafari Allen from the Mellon Foundation to support the establishment of the Center for Global Black Studies based on his vision. In this initial stage, the leaders of this project will further develop a broad and inclusive interdisciplinary vision for the Center. As soon as the proposal is fleshed out, we will begin the implementation phase allocating additional support of $175,000-$250,000 per year to strengthen the Center’s basic operations and structures with the goal of securing a full grant from the Mellon Foundation, as well as mobilizing additional funding sources. Raising a substantial endowment for the Center, based on its track record of success and ongoing support from the University, will be a top priority of our capital campaign.

New Advisory Committee on Historic Names. We have heard from various members of the University community about the need to consider the symbolic meaning of names on campus buildings. To that end, we have formed a special committee to create a process by which we will review historic names and examine the naming and possible un-naming of buildings, structures, and spaces at the University of Miami. The committee is comprised of 12 members, consisting of three students, six members of the faculty and staff—including two co-chairs—and three members of the community. The committee will be co-chaired by the Special Advisor for Racial Justice along with Dean and University Librarian Charles Eckman. The committee will meet to review the names of campus buildings that have been called into question and will present its recommendations on those buildings to me no later than October 31, 2020, for consideration by the Board of Trustees.

New Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. I am delighted to announce that Professor of Law, Dean's Distinguished Scholar, and Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Community Osamudia James has been appointed Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within the Office of Faculty Affairs. In this new role, Professor James will help lead our strategies to achieve the University’s recruitment goals for under-represented faculty, and specifically Black faculty, as well as our efforts to retain diverse faculty by embracing and empowering them to thrive at the U.

New Faculty Co-Chair of the Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Key to continued progress on racial justice is ensuring that the organizational mechanisms already in place to address issues related to race are vibrant and actively engaged. To that end, we committed in June to reinvigorating the Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion by appointing a new faculty co-chair to serve alongside co-chair Dr. Renee Callan, Executive Director of Student Life. I am delighted that Sociology Professor Marvin Phillip Dawkins, who began his career at the U as Director of our Africana Studies Program more than 30 years ago, has agreed to serve in this pivotal role.

It is worth repeating that the efforts described above are steps toward racial justice—not the destination. I am a firm believer in the notion that progress is never final, and I am inspired by grassroots efforts among our students, faculty, and staff to create a more just society.

We welcome ideas from all members of the UM community on ways to continue living out our values. Thank you for your continued commitment to the U, as we advance racial justice and do our part to strive for the ideals of diversity, equity, inclusion—and belonging—that are such an important part of who we are.
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