Statement of Solidarity for Racial Justice from the College of Natural, Behavioral, and Health Sciences

On the heels of a global pandemic and the racial unrest sweeping our country, two major forces are converging that will drive change and transformation. The fear, alienation, isolation and sadness as a result of COVID-19 disrupted what we knew as normal — and has now been magnified by the killing of George Floyd. This incident has added anger, frustration, and devastation to the COVID-19 impact. These are strong and negative emotions, but if we use wisdom in our reactions, our strength can be channeled to bring about positive change.

At CNBHS, we recognize both the challenges and the opportunities that this moment represents for our mission. This pandemic has increased our awareness and provided validation for the wide health disparities among underrepresented and marginalized populations. Years of research from scholars such as Dr. Camara Jones, Dr. David Williams and Dolores Acevedo Garcia have proven the direct relationship between social-determinants like housing (segregation), education (quality and access), experiences of discrimination/racism and health.

Data by race/ethnicity indicate that African American and Latinx individuals bear a disproportionate burden of COVID-19–related mortality and morbidity (Hooper, Napoles, & Perez-Stable, 2020). Hooper, et al. indicate that while health disparities are complex, underlying causes are rooted in social and structural determinants of health. Our economic, social, and financial systems have created structural barriers to care. We have a real opportunity to expand our efforts to educate students on social determinants of health that lead to disparities. CNBHS can lead the way toward equity and improved science, health and care.

As CNBHS prepares students to lead in STEM and health professions, we must provide them with knowledge about racial/ethnic inequity and health disparities and equip them with leadership skills to confront, challenge, and create viable solutions in their disciplines. Scientists and health professionals must have the benefit of diverse perspectives in and outside the classroom that prepares them to engage competently and respectfully in a diverse workplace. We are all responsible to affect our University campus culture so that every student is welcomed, embraced, and valued. So, the work begins with each of us! Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it well, "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."

The CNBHS faculty and staff are committed to tackling these difficult issues by committing to the following actions:

  • Responding proactively, the CNBHS faculty and staff commit to individually take on the personal growth and work required to become active anti-racists.
  • Elevating the importance of an equity-centered education.
  • Lifting up accountability from our partners in incorporating an equity lens into clinical education.
  • Incorporating diverse perspectives and inclusive excellence in every program curriculum.
  • Confronting mechanisms of racism manifested through structures, policies, practices, norms, and values.
  • Broadening opportunities to engage students in diverse communities through experiential learning.
  • Integrating content in curriculum addressing violence in public health and social determinants of health.
  • Leveraging our multiple connections with community organizations to support the work of equity and inclusion in STEM and health professions.
  • Supporting the OCIE strategic initiatives to educate faculty, staff, and students on anti-racism.
  • Partnering with HR to actively eliminate disparity of Black faculty and staff in the college through intentional recruitment efforts.

Change begins with each individual, and as a college, we are committed to living, learning, and leading in a manner that challenges the status quo, transforming how we work, teach, and engage.

"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right."
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

July 2020