On July 20, University of Georgia President Jere Morehead announced upcoming diversity initiatives for university students, faculty and staff via an ArchNews email.
Morehead announced the establishment of a task force on “race, ethnicity and community” and a planning committee on “diversity and inclusive excellence.” Two additional initiatives include the creation of community conversations held on campus and a forthcoming celebration of the 60th anniversary of desegregation at UGA.
“Embracing our values of diversity and inclusion remains absolutely critical to reaching the heights of excellence we all desire for our great university,” Morehead said in the email. “During my tenure as president, we have taken many steps together in this direction, and we all recognize that much more must be done on this campus and elsewhere.”
Race, ethnicity and community
The task force on race, ethnicity and community consists of 16 individuals in charge of identifying issues and developing recommendations set to “improve our campus culture and strengthen our learning environment,” according to the email. The task force is designed to “foster a more welcoming and supportive learning environment for Black and other underrepresented members of our campus community.”
Morehead said he is committing $1 million of private resources from the UGA Athletic Association “to implement promising ideas developed by this group.”
Vice president for student affairs, Victor K. Wilson will lead this task force as chair, along with Jeffrey Brown, president of the Black Alumni Leadership Council and several professors, undergraduate and graduate students.
Diversity and inclusive excellence
Morehead said the planning committee on diversity and inclusive excellence “will cast a longer vision for the future of our university.” The planning committee will develop a plan of action to build off of UGA’s most recent diversity plan, Morehead said.
The committee will be led by Michelle G. Cook, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and strategic university initiatives, co-chair will be Kyle Tschepikow, special assistant to the president and director for strategy and innovation, and other professors, staff members and undergraduate and graduate students.
Conversations and anniversary of desegregation
“It is paramount that we engage in open, thoughtful, and constructive dialogue around difficult and complex issues such as race and racism,” Morehead said. “Community conversations of this nature broaden our understanding, lead to new learnings, and promote positive change and unity.
The university is organizing a series of facilitated discussions to take place over the upcoming school year. They will be open to all members of the community and facilitated by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, Morehead said.
In the fall, UGA will celebrate the 60th anniversary of desegregation at the university. Through a series of programs and events, Morehead said the university will honor Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton E. Holmes, who were the first Black students to enroll at UGA in 1961.
Morehead said more information about the anniversary celebration is forthcoming.
After highlighting UGA’s first college to be named after a Black alumna, Mary Frances Early, in 2019 and the establishment of diversity grant and scholarship programs, Morehead said the university is not done addressing change.
“Yet, we all recognize that there is more work to be done, and we will do it together. This is an important moment for our university,” Morehead said. “I have high expectations for these new initiatives to further unify us as an academic community and help us build a better, stronger UGA for the future.