Welcome back. It is heartwarming to be able to share that greeting as 2020 proves to be an ongoing challenging year. It is my hope that against the backdrops of a global pandemic and the ongoing fight against systemic racism, police brutality and social injustice, we remain united, courageous and hopeful.
Our courage and hope does not go unnoticed in this season, whether:
intentionally engaging in the RIT daily health screens, wearing a mask, socially distancing and washing hands;
demonstrating enthusiasm and active participation in classes or in going the extra mile to fulfill various job-related responsibilities;
electing to protest through marches, vigils, essays, letters, and/or addresses;
stimulating discussions in safe spaces through staff meetings, classes, residence halls, student clubs/organizations, popup courses, National #ScholarStrike, or workshops;
or simply providing ongoing support and services to the populations we serve via MCAS, HEOP, MOSAIC, the Office of Faculty Diversity & Recruitment, Diversity Theater, Diversity Education. DDI MARCOM and the list goes on.
Again, such courage and hope does not go unnoticed.
We as a university continue to be challenged to reexamine how we deliver education in the midst of this global pandemic as well as reexamine our own history and commitment deficiencies regarding Black, Indigenous and people of color—whether regarding access and success of students, staff and faculty or effectively creating the climate of inclusion we endeavor to establish. We continue to listen, learn and make necessary changes to be a more welcoming community to all.
I am greatly encouraged as steps are underway to prioritize the many anti-racism and social justice recommendations, seeing some already addressed. For example, we applaud Academic Affairs who has already implemented diversity education sessions for College leadership; Academic Senate and Staff Council, who have already voted to establish a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Standing Committee and/or ad hoc committee, respectively; Student Government who is exploring similar options; outreach efforts by the Office of Faculty Diversity & Recruitment to HBCUs and HSIs; and communication between the College of Liberal Arts and NTID regarding the recommendations to explore a black studies major at RIT. I am also pleased to see innovative zoom discussions planned, such as the School of Communication’s “Reporting while Black” scheduled for October 1st, exploring how race impacts journalists of color and the COS Inclusive Excellence virtual event with award-winning journalist, consultant and activist, George M. Johnson, on Wednesday, October 21st. Other diversity activities include a yearlong program being implemented to celebrate 100 years of women’s right to vote, plans by Wardell Lewis and the RIT Gospel Ensemble to host a Social Justice concert later this Fall and plans by Thomas Warfield to host “Dance for Hope” later this year.
The Division of Diversity & Inclusion embraces the opportunities to partner all the more as we, as a university, endeavor to implement lasting change. We can all be encouraged by civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis, who shared, “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a liftetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” We thank you for sharing positive, constructive feedback, recommendations and/or support in this journey. Know that we are committed to staying the course.
So, “welcome to another exciting academic year!” Please check out the Division of Diversity and Inclusion’s Tiger Imprint Showcase for the 2019-2020 Academic Year. Join us, also, in welcoming Orlando J. Ortiz as the 2020-2021 RIT Minett Professor. And, in addition to partaking in innovative heritage month celebration approaches, be on the lookout for our regular Spring semester celebrations—“Let Freedom Ring” and “Expressions of King’s Legacy”.