University President Jim Ryan has faced recent backlash following his community statements concerning the killing of George Floyd and race related issues at UVA. In a follow- up email on Friday morning, his message reflected urgency about creating racial equity at the University.
He previously introduced a task force which he developed to dismantle racism within UVA as an institution and address not only current demands, but ones that have been raised for years in an attempt to create a more comfortable and inclusive experience for Black students and faculty. Ryan appointed Kevin McDonald, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Ian Solomon, Dean of the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy; and Barbara Brown Wilson, co-founder and Faculty Director of UVA’s Equity Center.
Vice President McDonald has committed much of his career to promoting diversity in college communities, having worked similar roles at the University of Missouri, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Virginia Tech. His expertise on how to handle race related situations will add legitimacy to the task force.
Dean Solomon is committed to teaching his Batten students that leadership comes with the responsibility to stand up for what is right. His perspective is unique and valuable to the task force because of his willingness to facilitate uncomfortable conversations about race. An example of his efforts is an open conference call he will host on June 18th on the “Leadership of Diverse and Divided Communities”.
Professor Barbara Wilson has done her own research on various structural inequalities, as many of her classes focus on developing students’ cultural competence and empathy. Wilson’s co-founding of UVA’s Equity Center is just one example of her commitment to bettering the community, and she will be essential in pushing this task force forward. These three will work alongside students and faculty to address the needs of the black community, and report recommendations to President Ryan, who has spoken out on his willingness to use his platform to help make positive change.
Ryan’s statement served to update students of how the task force will operate. He reached out with this message to ensure students and community members that their voices were heard and will continue to be. They were prompted to send all concerns and demands to firstname.lastname@example.org, at which the task force can be contacted. Ryan also announced that there is a website in the works, where additional input will be submitted.