Message from the Dean

Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan

In May 2020, as the United States grappled with the harmful impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country was reminded that racism—another insidious virus—lingers in the hearts, minds, institutions, and structures of the U.S. In addition to the disconcerting reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the infection and death rates among racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately high, Black Americans fare worse in terms of the pandemic’s economic impact.
The month of May was also riddled by three increasingly troubling racially charged incidents in which unarmed Black people were killed by armed White people during the pandemic—events that subsequently contributed to an international awakening regarding racial injustice and police violence in the United States and abroad. The most disturbing incident and catalyst for worldwide protests involved George Floyd Jr., a 46-year-old Black man who died after Derek Chauvin, a White police officer, kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while Floyd laid handcuffed on the ground pleading for his life. In the days following George Floyd’s murder, Black Americans, in particular, expressed anger, frustration, grief and outrage at the seeming lack of mattering of Black lives and the protracted fight for racial justice, and called for action to address systemic racism and police violence.
As the nation faced its race problem on the world stage, Black students on college campuses expressed their disappointment and frustration with their experiences in college. Many of our Black students expressed what they described as Pitt’s general lack of fulfillment of its values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Students expressed that they were tired of enduring racial aggression on campus, both inside and outside the classroom. In short, members of the Black Senate (a group of student leaders who represent historically Black student organizations), Black medical students, and Black student athletes, among others, communicated the expectation that the University support its statements of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice with immediate action and demonstrate accountability with respect to addressing racism at the University of Pittsburgh.
The following strategies and initiatives were generated from several conversations with Black undergraduate and graduate students about their lived experiences at Pitt and the ways in which the University could help improve Black students’ experiences. An overarching theme from these discussions is that the University must adopt an antiracism strategy. In other words, students expect an intentional and sustained commitment by the University to identify and eliminate institutional systems, organizational structures, policies, practices, and attitudes that perpetuate racism and inequity.
I invite you to read the plan in its entiretyand to utilize the racial justice resource toolkit in order to enact change in your space. Our action plan reflects the work we do in Student Affairs to meet the needs of our Black students. Student Affairs is also committed to advocating for students across the University in every School, department, and division.
Student Affairs is committed to protecting and supporting the well-being of Black students, and we proudly stand in solidarity with them. Our students rightly demand a Pitt experience that is not marred by racism. Student Affairs accepts the responsibility to advocate for racial justice, diversity, equity, inclusion, and engage in meaningful efforts to dismantle racism and other forms of hate. We will continue to listen to students, audit and assess our work, and hold ourselves accountable for achieving our goals and adhering to our core values. We stand with our Black students, faculty, and staff and remain committed to ongoing resources and initiatives that advance social justice and support inclusive community building and belonging.
Kenyon R. Bonner, EdD
Vice Provost and Dean of Students