Department Statement and Commitment to Anti-Racist Action
June 4, 2020
Dear department members,
The horrific killing of George Floyd has again brought to the fore the persistent stain of our nation’s struggles with the various forms of racism stemming from and reflecting ideologies of White superiority and White supremacy. Society carries this racism forward in a multitude of subtle, overt, conscious and non-conscious ways. The recent killings are the latest painful iteration in a long line of degradation of Black Americans. The science of psychology has had an ugly role in this history, but the data from our field have also documented the irrefutable bias, prejudice, discrimination, and inequality woven into our social fabric. We also endeavor to find ways to remove these strands and combat racism.
As leadership in the Department of Psychology, we have been deliberately weighing the actions that should accompany any statement on this issue. We hope to reflect the magnitude of the current moment and carefully consider what we can do as a department to help our students, our campus, our region, and beyond. We also want to recognize that the fully legitimate protests occur with the backdrop of COVID-19 disparities and the persistent social, economic, and health inequalities they have made apparent for all to see. We recognize that these events directly touch the lives of students, faculty, and staff of color in ways that may not occur for others. We are angry and heartbroken with you. You belong and are valued here. For anyone who finds themselves struggling, we are here to support you. Do not hesitate to reach out.
Any statement must come with a commitment to do more to enhance equity for ourselves and our communities, a commitment that extends beyond the peaks of the current tragedy. Many of our faculty work on these exact issues and are guiding efforts to help address inequality in the justice and healthcare systems, and to combat the unjust biases toward communities of color. We have also generated multiple efforts to enhance representation and inclusiveness in our department, such as pursing joint hires in Ethnic Studies and Women and Gender Studies, and hosting the Diversifying Psychology Weekend. Still, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, accompanied by the vastly unequal COVID-19 infection rate among people of color in our own community show us we have an obligation to do more. We are not perfect and we must strive to continuously improve. We must all seek to be actively anti-racist, including through better understanding of the systems of oppression disproportionately affecting Black Americans and forms of oppression affecting other marginalized peoples. As such, we propose multiple changes that we anticipate being part of a continuous journey that we will pursue beyond the current moment. We realize that many of the steps we outline do not directly address these events, but we nonetheless hope that they demonstrate our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity and our support of you. These include, but are not limited to:
1) Creating new opportunities to host and co-host events on discrimination and its effects, including colloquia, conversation series, and trainings,
2) Committing to the best practices for hiring soon to be released by our Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion, while also pursuing additional strategies to ensure better representation among faculty and staff, including a requirement for all faculty applicants to submit diversity statements,
3) Reinforcing and extending efforts to recruit and retain underrepresented students,
4) Incorporating regular opportunities for feedback from students and others related to climate and equity-enhancing proposals, and
5) Working with faculty to extend the diversity-related metrics by which we evaluate ourselves.
We would also invite you to seek out other voices on our campus who provide leadership in responding to these events, as so many have responded to this moment with eloquence, passion, and determination to bring about change. Marco Barker, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion, is one excellent example. OASIS and BSU have also made vital contributions.
Finally, as educators, mentors, and colleagues, we want to reiterate that we are here to support you.
Associate Chair and Incoming Chair
Graduate Committee Chair
Undergraduate Committee Chair
Clinical Training Director
Neuroscience and Behavior Coordinator
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We support and stand in solidarity with our colleague, Jennine Capó-Crucet, an incredible author and educator. She represents the best that our university has to offer. Her work elevates marginalized voices and invites us to question privilege in academia and beyond. As educators, we are disheartened to see the response to her recent event. Book burning has no place in these conversations, especially in light of its strong historical associations with white-supremacy. The lingering effects of this kind of history are the exact reason her work is so vital. We are proud to work alongside her and have the opportunity to learn from her.
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Given the recent events on campus, the Department of Psychology at UNL reaffirms its commitment to diversity and inclusivity. We strive to be a department where all feel safe and welcome in all of our research, teaching, and service endeavors. As our history teaches us, diversity improves our science and our science confirms the indispensability of diversity. – On behalf of the Sarata Diversity Enhancement Committee and Rick Bevins, Chair of the Department of Psychology.
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The University of Nebraska core beliefs on diversity and inclusion say that “True excellence requires that each individual be able to work and learn in an atmosphere of respect, dignity, and acceptance. Our commitment requires each of us to continuously ensure our interactions be respectful, protect free speech and inspire academic freedom.” The Department unequivocally supports and advances these core values—including, importantly, affirming diversity, pursuing social justice, expressing freedom of speech, fostering a sense of belonging, and instilling a desire for civic engagement.
Rick Bevins, Chair