Message from University leadership: Update on race, equity and inclusion

Dear Campus Community:

As we begin an exciting new academic year, we wanted to reach out and share some important updates about our continuing efforts to make our campus a welcoming place for everyone. Conversations about diversity, race and inclusion are taking place not only in Chapel Hill but around the country. Many of us have been deeply affected by the tragic events that occurred across the nation this summer. These events and the ensuing dialogues remain at the forefront of our thinking, just as they were during the last academic year. A number of working groups were established to focus on areas that the Carolina community identified as priorities. The work continued over the summer and will move forward through this academic year.

Now that the semester has begun, we wanted to update you on our work:

  • Climate survey: In the spring, we asked staff, undergraduate, and graduate students to complete a survey to help us understand the lived experiences of our campus community. We will share the results later this semester. The findings will inform our efforts and future initiatives. We will also work on an appropriate assessment for faculty.
  • Spaces:The newly renovated Upendo Lounge, a dedicated space for Black students to gather and meet as a community, is open in Student Academic Services Building (SASB) North, and meeting rooms have been upgraded. This space is just outside newly upfitted space for the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, which moved from the second floor to the first floor of SASB North. The legislature provided funding for a new veteran’s center in Odum Village and plans call for the renovated space to be open for the 2017-2018 academic year. We know that there are other campus groups that would like space and we are working on a plan on how to address these requests moving forward. We are also reviewing proposals for two sites—one near SASB and the other in the Upper Quad—where markers could be installed to represent the nine National Pan-Hellenic Council groups and display their history and contributions to our campus. A committee is working to develop a fundraising plan for the markers.
  • Diversity Learning and Development Experiences:Nearly 400 members of our faculty and staff attended THINKposium, a day-long event on Aug. 17 that focused on the importance of recognizing that people from different backgrounds experience the world differently. As promised, both the Board of Trustees and University leaders have had diversity training including one for the Cabinet and Deans on implicit bias in mid-August.
  • Carolina Conversations:We will continue our Carolina Conversations series this fall with monthly events. Beginning on Monday, Sept. 19, from 5-6:30 p.m., students, faculty and staff are invited to attend a discussion on the multiple identities of individuals and their interplay in inclusive classrooms. Location, as well as other dates, times and topics, will be shared in the coming weeks.
  • Mental health:Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and Student Wellness have worked to enhance their services by hiring more mental health professionals to better serve all students.
  • Gender-Neutral Restrooms:UNC Facilities is on track to add 150 GNR facilities to our campus (bringing the total to close to 300) and has created an interactive map to identify locations for these restrooms. Based on concerns that were shared last week about signage, we are changing signs for all GNR facilities to a pictogram of a toilet and the word “restroom,” which follows federal government recommendations and are similar to signs used around the world.
  • Naming opportunities: Another great suggestion was to honor more people who represent Carolina’s rich history.  We are excited to announce that we have identified a number of individuals—all of whom are noteworthy firsts in our shared history—as deserving candidates to have currently unnamed need-based undergraduate grants named in their honor. We will announce these newly named grants periodically over the course of the semester and anticipate additional naming opportunities next year and beyond, as well as opportunities for community members to nominate possible honorees. These grants will continue to be awarded exclusively on the basis of demonstrated need.
  • History Task Force:The Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History has spent the summer focused on developing an exhibit for Carolina Hall, which tells the story of the building and how it was named and then re-named. This work will continue through September, with a proposed installation set for November. In addition, the research team is developing information for contextualizing McCorkle Place, including updating information about historical objects, names inside buildings and campus tours.
  • Diversity liaisons:More than 60 volunteer diversity liaisons embedded in departments, schools, and institutes across our campus will meet periodically throughout the academic year to discuss events and how best to communicate diversity and inclusion efforts across the campus.
  • Communication:With so many diversity-related events, services and programs taking place across campus, a new central calendar for those events launched over the summer. In addition, a new and robust website for the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs website is planned for this winter.

We continue to closely watch court proceedings related to House Bill 2, including the Aug. 26 preliminary injunction granted by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder in the Carcaño case. We have long said that the University has not and will not be taking steps to enforce House Bill 2. As reflected in long-standing University policy, we do not discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, and we are fully committed to being open and welcoming to individuals of all backgrounds.

We are grateful to everyone who has shared their thoughts and ideas with us. We look forward to hearing from you and working with you as we continue to make progress this year.

Sincerely,

Carol L. Folt
Chancellor

James W. Dean Jr.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

Winston Crisp
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Felicia A. Washington
Vice Chancellor for Workforce Strategy

Published August 31, 2016.