Letters to the UMB Community

Social Justice Town Hall and Conversation with Ray Lewis

June 5, 2020

Dear UMB Community:

Last Friday, as a response to George Floyd’s death, I asked my team to quickly organize a Universitywide discussion so the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) community could come together in sorrow and reflection. Grief, exhaustion, anger, helplessness, confusion, difficulty concentrating — these are just some of the feelings expressed in Wednesday’s virtual town hall, “A Social Justice Crisis in America.”

Diversity Advisory Council chair Elsie Stines, DNP, CRNP, assistant vice president for special projects and initiatives, UMB, and Russell McClain, JD, associate professor and associate dean for diversity and inclusion, Francis King Carey School of Law, moderated a discussion with guests Wendy Shaia, EdD, MSW, clinical associate professor and executive director, Social Work Community Outreach Service, School of Social Work, and Chaz Arnett, JD, associate professor, Carey School of Law. I am pleased that over 800 participants spent time with us to grieve, listen, learn, and offer suggestions to help UMB — and each of us — address systemic oppression. If you were unable to join, please watch the recording.

I cannot thank our moderators and guests enough for sharing their intellectual and emotional energy to take us through this discussion. I know that, as a white man, I am the beneficiary of privilege, and I am committed to learning more about how I can be a better ally. I am also very committed that this conversation serve not as a response, but as a starting point for UMB’s path forward.

As an anchor institution, UMB can set a public example by examining our own faults and not being afraid of what may be uncomfortable or inconvenient. I am thankful to all who shared their experiences, resources, suggestions, frustrations, and ideas in the chat. I want you to know that UMB hears you — and I hear you. To be true to our mission to improve the human condition, we must address these issues together.

On Thursday on my Virtual Face to Face program, Ray Lewis, former Baltimore Raven and current UMB Foundation board member, and I began our conversation by reflecting on the killing of George Floyd and the outrage that we feel, collectively and as individuals, about his death and so many other injustices. We, as a country and a community, are in pain. Ray reminded us that there is some pain we have to go through, not around, and we have to use that pain to change. We have to hold people accountable. We also have to find the places where we are disconnected from each other because, in the end, we are better together.

And I am hopeful that together we will create change. I want to share with you steps that we have already taken and those yet to come:

  • I am considering establishing a cabinet-level position to oversee diversity, equity, and inclusion across the University. In the coming days I will discuss my desire to do so with the deans and vice presidents to get their input and feedback and update you with our progress.
  • I was pleased to support the deans’ efforts in the Schools of Law and Nursing to recruit under-represented minority faculty to UMB. Our increased focus on hiring diverse faculty through our faculty diversity initiative is already bearing fruit.
  • We will create programming for all faculty, staff, and students on structural oppression that will leverage the work of our School of Social Work, School of Law, and Graduate School. The program will discuss an array of topics including cultural competency, structural and institutional racism, how policies such as redlining have affected and continue to affect our present communities, and more. We want to extend and facilitate understanding of and conversations about these topics. We also will seek to increase institutional awareness of the history of the black experience in the nation and in our community.
  • I will charge the Diversity Advisory Council with an examination of areas to improve or change, including policies or procedures, with resulting recommendations to the president, and also the creation of a framework to evaluate how our decisions moving forward — through the COVID-19 recovery and beyond — are viewed through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • In the coming months, we will stand up the Intercultural Leadership and Engagement Center, which is focused on advancing student success and the development of cultural competencies to inform students’ professional practice. This center is the result of a task force that was created in fall 2018 to explore the possibility of creating a multicultural center at UMB. The task force was formed due to feedback expressed by students to then-president Dr. Jay A. Perman and Dr. Roger Ward regarding strategies and resources that could enhance the campus climate for diverse students.

I also will host additional town halls and share more ideas and resources from this week’s conversations, knowing that there are still more questions to be answered and voices unheard.

Thank you for your participation, your honesty, and your commitment to UMB and to each other.

Sincerely,

Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS
Interim President


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