The following letter from Dean Gary Bowen was published on our School’s website on June 19, 2020:
Dear UNC School of Social Work Community,
On this day of June 19, 2020, we celebrate Juneteenth, which is an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. I can think of no better day to announce the formation of two new working groups in our School of Social Work: an Anti-Racism Task Force and a Reconciliation Standing Committee. This task force and this committee, including the members identified below, were recommended by Professors Trenette Goings, Gina Chowa, and Michael Lambert. Importantly and much appreciated, Professors Goings, Chowa, and Lambert have volunteered to serve on both the task force and the committee. Other members nominated to serve quickly responded to my email request yesterday with an affirmative response.
I had a Zoom call yesterday afternoon with Professors Goings, Chowa, and Lambert to discuss the recommendation, which resulted from the joint statement, “Confronting Racism from Within: A Joint Statement from Black Full Professors in The University of North Carolina School of Social Work in response to Recent Racist Events in America,” that was sent to the School’s listserv on Tuesday, June 2, by Professors Trenette Goings, Gina Chowa, Michael Lambert, and Iris Carlton-LaNey. The statement presents six points as a starting point to uprooting racism in the UNC School of Social Work:
- Dean & Associate Deans to take leadership on behalf of the school against racism
- Full Professors, Endowed Professors, in particular, to take a position in times of crises
- Support career opportunities for people of color
- Engage in anti-racist solidarity events as a school
- Desist from meaningless emails, conversations, and activities
- Boldly declare our social values of equity and human rights
Two meetings of the Full Professors were held in the interim on both June 4, 2020, and June 17, 2020, to discuss the joint statement and to discuss possibilities for action. In the June 4 meeting, the Full Professors unanimously committed to action based on the six points raised in the June 2 statement.
The charge of both the task force and the committee will undoubtedly evolve over time. However, the work of the Anti-Racism Task Force will initially focus on the six points as a starting point to uprooting racism in the UNC SSW. Importantly, the task force will coordinate with ongoing efforts and activities in the School in respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Reconciliation Standing Committee will serve as a sounding board and potential advocacy group for faculty, staff, and MSW/PhD students that experience racism in the School. The work of the task force will begin immediately (July); the work of the committee after the semester starts (August).
With full commitment and support for this important work,
Gary L. Bowen, Dean
Anti-Racism Task Force
Reconciliation Standing Committee
“Racism is a marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces and normalizes racial inequities.”
— Ibram X. Kendi, How to be an Antiracist (2019, pp. 17-18)