The following is a message from Student Affairs leaders regarding recent events involving police brutality.

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We have taken time to reflect on and mourn the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as countless others impacted by police brutality.  These senseless tragedies stem from much larger systems of oppression, racism and bias throughout organizations, communities and education. As leaders within the Division of Student Affairs, we are committed to confronting systemic racism, create safe and brave places for our students, and open dialogue about solutions to these difficult challenges. Black and brown lives matter, and we plan to demonstrate that through our actions. 

The Division of Student Affairs is uniquely positioned to support our students and create strategies and an action plan with the outcome of a socially just community at UAB. Our goal is to create a culture of social justice and inclusion that inspires staff and students to commit to pursue anti-racism through education and action in our departments as we support our students and each other.

To that end, here are some of our efforts that have either taken place or are in coordination over the next several months.  Many of these initiatives will take place in coordination and collaboration with campus partners.  We commit to elevate the work of Student Multicultural and Diversity Programs and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  While this is not an exhaustive list of actions, and we understand that our commitment will take time, this provides a starting point for our actions as a Division:

  1. Programming:
    1. Re-organizing the Social Justice and Inclusion Committee, which will include students, to develop strategies and programming efforts
    2. Conducting open forums and programs about racism, anti-racism, white privilege and creating socially just culture at UAB
    3. Hosting speakers and artists from a wide-array of backgrounds for student-led programs
    4. Developing a Homecoming Task Force to review historic Homecoming Events through the lens of social justice, equity and anti-racism
    5. Assembling a diverse panel of student, professional and community leaders for the “Let’s Talk About It Live: Mental Health in the Midst of Activism event, which was sponsored by UAB Counseling Services and the UAB Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  2. Training:
    1. Hosting year-round diversity training workshops through a partnership with Student Affairs and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
    2. Requiring managers/supervisors to attend training regarding equitable hiring and supervision practices
    3. Developing a mandatory “tabletop” activity on navigating potentially racial situations
    4. Hosting book groups for staff with topics such as white privilege, anti-racism and black history
  3. Policies:
    1. Convening a group of staff and students to audit Student Affairs policies and guidelines to make sure we have equitable practices and policies
    2. Creating a Social Justice Statement for the Division of Student Affairs embedded in 2020-2026 Division of Student Affairs Strategic Plan.
    3. Requiring that each department create a formal diversity plan through goal setting in conjunction with the Divisional Strategic Plan.   
  4. Communication:
    1. Creating safe spaces in all our departments where staff understand the issues of social justice work to dismantle racist practices, etc.
    2. Sharing Campus Climate Survey results and creating action plans based on the reported experiences of our black and brown students
    3. Developing marketing and communications materials that are reflective of the diversity of UAB, celebrating our students’ voice, and promoting their leadership

We are all called to action, and we will not be silent on issues of racism, racial trauma, and our own privilege. For those of us with privilege, we embrace the challenge of creating safe space on our campus to process, learn and dialogue about racism with a hope to model what a safe, anti-racist environment could be.

We remain ever faithful, ever loyal as Blazers.  And these actions demonstrate a commitment to our community.  It will take courage and a commitment to do the right thing at all times.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”  We will do what is right, what is just and safe, and support our Blazer Community.

In the spirit of Blazers,

John R. Jones, Vice President for Student Affairs
Rebecca Kennedy, Assistant Vice President for Student Health and Wellbeing
Patricia Martinez, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs & Director of Operations
Mary Wallace, Assistant Vice President for Student Experience