Messages on Racism and Injustice in America
On behalf of the College of Engineering’s Executive Committee, a message from Dean David B. Williams and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Donnie Perkins
sent to students, faculty and staff, and shared on social media on June 4
America has a massive problem. Racial injustice. We’ve all known about it for years. Decades. Centuries. Unfortunately, it has resulted in more tragic, senseless, horrific deaths. May George, Ahmaud, Breanna, Trayvon and so very many others rest in peace, and may we honor them with meaningful, lasting change. Black Lives Matter. And in these problematic times, our voices and deliberate actions matter. Silence and inaction are not options.
Engineers have a reputation for solving problems. Structural, mechanical, chemical, and the like. Cultural and moral problems may not reside in the traditional engineering “comfort zone,” but it is past time for engineers—especially those of us at Ohio State—to get uncomfortable, to take a risk, to innovate and to lead the way to sustainable change.
We can’t solve this problem alone, but we can be part of the solution.
Together as Buckeyes has become a rallying motto for our response to a novel coronavirus. This powerful phrase should also apply to our response and action to the evil virus of racism.
Dear College of Engineering and Knowlton School Students, Faculty and Staff,
I would like to thank the students, faculty and staff who participated in our conversation last Friday about the issues of race and injustice that we face, both in the College itself and across our nation. I apologize that not everyone was able to express their views within the time we scheduled for the forum. It is clear that there is a need for many more such meetings so we can listen to and learn from the African Americans in the College and learn how we can work together to change the culture of the College.
As Dean, and as a white man, I acknowledge the culpability of my race and gender in exacerbating the issues of systemic racism and injustice. I also acknowledge my responsibility to lead the College as we seek better ways to eliminate overt and covert discrimination in the College.
Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Donnie Perkins and I are meeting with the student leaders to debrief after last Friday’s meeting. We will respond to their specific suggestions by this Friday. We will share our commitments with the entire College of Engineering, including plans for additional forums throughout 2020.
This is a journey. I ask everyone in the College to commit to starting this journey today, understanding it may never end, and yet every step is a move in the right direction.
The College of Engineering hosted a Graduate Student BIPOC listening session on racial bias and discrimination on June 26. Dean Williams sent an email to students, faculty and staff about the session and future steps on June 30.
Dear College of Engineering and Knowlton Community,
I first want to thank the graduate student panelists for their participation and contributions in last Friday’s listening session organized by Assistant Dean La’Tonia Stiner-Jones and Diversity, Outreach and Inclusion Senior Director Lisa Barclay. I am also very appreciative of College of Public Health Associate Professor Darryl Hood’s time and expert moderating skills.
As I did during the June 5 virtual dialogue, I heard and learned of several challenges that our Black, Latinx, Indigenous and People of Color face. Many of the challenges are part of a complex system of institutionalized racism, while some challenges reflect the need to better equip faculty and students with a stronger understanding of the value of diversity and the tolls and resources to create a more inclusive environment. I also heard positive statements and recognition of individual faculty and staff that support our students at all levels and positively impact student experiences.
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 demanding action. This evening, undergraduate student leaders are hosting a Zoom meeting with CoE leadership as a follow-up to the June 5 dialogue and to discuss specific actions they have requested. Listening sessions specific to faculty and staff will be scheduled soon. This week, we will invite our alumni to share thoughts and experiences through a name-optional web form.
As this process moves forward, we will be implementing a range of actions and policy informed by these critical conversations. We will update you accordingly and post pertinent information on this web page.
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
The Ohio State University announced new details of a plan to combat racism and racial inequality in the community. Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron and Dr. Hal Paz, executive vice president and chancellor for health affairs and CEO of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, delivered the joint message on July 16.
The following message from President Michael V. Drake was sent to all Ohio State students, faculty and staff on Wednesday, June 10, 2020
The following message from President Michael V. Drake was sent to all Ohio State students, faculty and staff on Juneteenth, Friday, June 19, 2020