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From the Dean: Message on Racial Bias and Discrimination

Mirror Lake

July 1, 2020

Over the past three weeks we at the College of Engineering have asked for and received valuable, courageous and sometimes heartbreaking feedback from our students, faculty and staff concerning the pervasive racial discrimination that continues to exist in various forms in our college. We have hosted two virtual community dialogues and more are being scheduled, because there are more voices that need to be heard and understood. We want to listen to our alumni on these issues as well. We welcome your thoughts, experiences, frustrations and suggestions via this name-optional web form.

I believe we learn from our mistakes, our failures. The Ohio State University College of Engineering has failed to fully establish a welcoming and equitable environment for Black and Brown students, past and present. With many initiatives launched since I arrived in 2011, I thought we were making progress in diversity and inclusion. And perhaps we were, but much too slowly. I apologize for inaction on my part.

Acknowledging failures, learning from them and acting upon those lessons can lead to real progress.

It is past time for engineers—especially those of us at Ohio State—to get uncomfortable, take risks and lead the way to sustainable change. We must eliminate, once and for all, both overt and covert racism in the College of Engineering.

Our most important action at the moment is to listen and learn. Toward that goal, I will continue to convene ongoing discussions with diverse students, faculty and staff to identify issues that require action. As that process moves forward, we will be implementing a range of actions and policy. We will update you accordingly and post pertinent information on our website.

I would like to close by sharing excerpts of a note we received from Distinguished Alumna Colette Pierce Burnette ‘80, president and CEO of Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, in response to our statement posted on social media in early June:

"I was the only African American (and one of a small handful of females) in my graduating class in the summer of 1980. I love my alma mater… Forty years later I am encouraged to see my alma mater make a bold statement such as this. I am hopeful that the administration is serious and intentional this time recognizing and embracing that Black Lives Matter… a movement and so much bigger than the words ‘diversity and inclusion’. I am hopeful that it won’t take another 40 years before my beloved alma mater makes another bold and innovative change."

I am hopeful as well. Making bold and innovative changes in racial equality and equity will be our senior leadership team’s top priority. We don’t claim to have all the answers and can’t promise there won’t be missteps as we take on institutionalized racism. However we will listen and work alongside our students, staff, faculty and alumni to make our College of Engineering more inclusive, equitable and welcoming.

David B. Williams
Monte Ahuja Endowed Dean's Chair
Dean of the College of Engineering