Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

A Statement from the School of Public Affairs

by Dr. Sherry Ryan

Dear School of Public Affairs Students, Recent Graduates, Faculty and Staff,

I write to affirm the School of Public Affairs’ solidarity with the Black community in outrage and pain about the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Alfred Olongo, and Tony McDade. We condemn these recent violent acts of anti-Black racism, as well as all similar acts of the past centuries. Our country has reached a tipping point; we are witnessing a visceral rejection of the systemic racism and inequality that infects so many of our communities and institutions.

Our School’s mission is to educate and train students to work in public service for the public good. The recent events underscore the importance of this mission and the need to work harder to confront and break down the many ways in which White supremacy dominates our public institutions and the array of decisions, policies, and programs that systematically produces benefits for Whites and marginalizes Black and Brown communities. Many public institutions are strongholds of racism, sexism, oppression and power imbalance, and function as such in plain sight. All of us – faculty, staff and students – need to recommit to the thorough examination of policy actions and governance in all realms and at all levels, and continue our work to shine light on both the veiled and overt negative impacts that accrue to racial and ethnic minority communities, to those who practice minority religions, to people with disabilities, to women, and to LGBTQ persons.

We are called to use our position as educators, advocates, scholars and students to take action. I outline below the steps our School has taken and will continue taking in the coming weeks and months.

  • We worked hand-in-hand with University Senate officers to draft the recently approved University Senate Resolution in Response to the Racial Violence Targeting Black People and Communities in the United States. Our School participated as a critical actor in drafting this resolution and in outlining action steps for changing our curriculum in response to racial violence by developing and implementing, among other actions, a new Race-Relations in Criminal Justice requirement for all CJ undergrads.
  • We are convening a Race and Justice Committee of faculty to conduct a schoolwide assessment of how well topics related to race, gender, poverty and justice are integrated into each of our five degree programs’ curricula.
  • We will be holding a series of Healing Circles to help our faculty, staff and students cope with racial violence and inequity.
  • We are currently working with World Campus to offer a race and policing course and certificate program aimed at enhancing training for police officers.
  • We will identify anti-racist or Black-led organizations actively involved in criminal justice reform to partner with on our Graduate Capstone Course.

I welcome your ideas about any additional actions we can take, as the School of Public Affairs, to position justice and equality more centrally in the work we do.

Wishing you all strength and peace in the weeks and months ahead!

Sincerely,

Sherry

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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