UArts Community Message from David Yager on Anti-Racism Actions

June 10, 2020

Dear students, faculty and staff,

Over the past week, my leadership team and I have listened to students, alumni, staff and faculty who have expressed anger, outrage, disappointment, fatigue and hope in response to not only the recent events, but longstanding history of oppression and racism through the US and within our institutions. I want to thank those who have demonstrated a fearless commitment to both making UArts better and holding us accountable by bravely speaking out to advocate for change. Your unwavering persistence is inspiring and instills confidence that meaningful change will occur now and well into the future.

Yet the refrain I have heard over and over again in your emails and comments is about action – how is UArts turning from words of acknowledgement and commitment to actual and identifiable change?

I would like to share a few steps of action we are taking right now. That said, I must acknowledge the collective efforts of the many faculty, staff and students who have been working diligently over the past two years as part of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force (DEI Task Force). It is through their labor and thoughtful work that today we have the ability to accelerate meaningful change now. Yet regardless of our past efforts, we must be honest and acknowledge that more could have been done, better plans could have been made, and change could have come sooner.

First, we want to provide resources for all who are eager to take action and support Black Lives Matter. Many of you have already taken to the streets or signed petitions for justice, donated to organizations that fight police violence, or looked for ways to better educate yourself on how you can individually fight racism within our community and beyond. While some of these resources may be familiar to you, we encourage you all to visit this link and consider how you can take action now.

Second, we will empower students to play a meaningful and leading role in institutional anti-racism work. Earlier this past academic year, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force recommended that a student be appointed from each school to serve on the Task Force as a DEI Fellow, a compensated position, for the 2020-2021 Academic Year. We will institute DEI Fellows this year who will join the task force to help imagine and design DEI initiatives and programming, and will ensure that DEI priorities are shaped by and reflective of our students. In addition, each of the Schools will establish formal opportunities for their students to address these priorities within their schools.

Third, we will cultivate meaningful community dialogue about racism in the form of a second Open Conversations event. The event will be sponsored by my office and the DEI Task Force. We hear you loud and clear:  students would like to speak with University leadership. Therefore, senior leaders will be present at the event to listen actively to student voices.

Fourth, the Office of the Provost will formally adopt a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion learning framework created by the DEI Task Force and formally recommended this past March. The Office of the Provost will direct a review and revision of our academic programs based on the values expressed in the DEI learning framework and will work to ensure that curriculum is inclusive, broadly-representative, and truly living out the Core Value of “integrity and diversity.”

Fifth, we will enact the DEI recommendation to provide training and education for our community. This will include anti-oppression training for all of our staff, faculty and senior leadership, and we will ask that the Chair of the Board of Trustees complete training as well.  Additionally, we will establish ongoing Campus Life diversity programming and an anti-racism learning and discussion series for faculty and staff.

Sixth, we will continue to evaluate the institutional role and position of diversity, equity, and inclusion at UArts, and explore the creation of an office or center and budget dedicated to these critical issues.

We view these steps as only the beginning, and know that the work to develop a proactive plan is never done and will continue to evolve. In closing, I am deeply grateful for every member of our community who has reached out and demonstrated such conviction for the continued advancement of our University, and I look forward to continuing these important discussions with all of you. A reminder to also please visit and bookmark the uarts.edu/dei page, where  initiatives, updates, calls to action as well as resources will be provided.

Best wishes,

David