Friday, June 5, 2020
Subject: Racial injustice
Dear Members of the CEAE Family
I feel sure that you have all been affected as much as I have by the recent murders at the hands of police of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, whose only “crime” was being black. Their deaths are but just three of over 750 blacks killed by police since January 1, 2017 (https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/), although to be accurate Ahmaud Arbery was killed by individuals who had been previously associated with law enforcement. Over 540 Hispanics were killed by police in the same period.
Now let’s add this number to the many thousands of people of color who have succumbed to COVID-19 in numbers that are disproportionately high based on population (https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/05/30/865413079/what-do-coronavirus-racial-disparities-look-like-state-by-state)
Add in lack of fair housing, voting rights, job discrimination (there are unfortunately engineering firms we can point to), and it just doesn’t end. Climate change, perhaps our largest looming disaster, is hitting communities of color first (just Google it).
As a nation, state, city, university, and department, we have work to do. Please make no mistake: Black lives matter. Diversity matters.
I hope that you have all had a chance to view the Chancellor’s and Provost’s recent comments (https://chancellor.ku.edu/news/2020/jun2). In plain language, they address the problem of toxic racism. They rightly point out that “Black community members do not stand in isolation. Members of Asian, LatinX, Muslim, immigrant and LGBTQIA communities are also targets of hate speech, discrimination, and racialized violence.” The Chancellor and Provost also describe the positive steps that KU will be taking in the coming months.
The School of Engineering has been and continues to take positive steps as well, as described in the email you received from Associate Dean Andrew Williams on June 1.
CEAE needs to make changes. We need to think critically about our approach, we need to listen, and we need to recognize white privilege. We are very much aware that we don’t have the diversity we want. So, I am asking for your help. We’ll be forming a Diversity and Equity Task Group within the department consisting of students, faculty, and staff. The role of the task group will be to establish steps, and develop active programs to support those steps, to increase the diversity of the CEAE student body, faculty, and staff and to ensure that CEAE offers a fair and safe place to pursue a degree. The only way to achieve diversity is to actively pursue diversity. It does not show up on your doorstep. If you are willing to join the task group, please let me know. With Zoom, we don’t need to wait until fall.
I hope that you continue to remain safe.