The Graduate School, the Graduate Council, and the University Committee for Graduate Student Success and Retention stand in solidarity with those protesting anti-Black racism and racial violence. We condemn discrimination in all its forms and pledge our support to the members of our community who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC).
We know that the problem is not just the racism of individuals. Nor is it just the implicit biases we carry. While it is those things, it is also the deep racism endemic to our institutional structures. We acknowledge the role of our three University bodies in the harms our institutional structure has done and continues to do. Moreover, we acknowledge our responsibility to work and to use our privilege to counter systemic racism in its many forms.
While some of us live systemic discrimination every day, others among us are only now becoming more fully aware of how pervasive that discrimination is. We are therefore committed to listening to our BIPOC colleagues, and particularly to our BIPOC students, so that we can more effectively fight for racial justice at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and in the communities it serves. Moreover, we commit to making this work intersectional, responding to discrimination based on race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, gender, age, religion, ability, and socioeconomic background.
Last year we created a Diversity and Inclusion Standing Committee dedicated to fostering those ends within our graduate community; in collaboration with the Office for Campus Diversity, we have facilitated workshops to provide faculty and students tools to further these ends in their programs; and, with the support of the University, we have provided funds to recruit and retain underrepresented graduate students. But those are only initial and insufficient steps.
First, we promise to do more, including:
• Providing faculty and administrative support to expand the work of the James Jackson Community of Scholars, which gives space, safety, and support to graduate students of underrepresented communities.
• Requiring faculty responsible for graduate admissions to complete training on holistic admissions practices that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.
• Requiring applications for Graduate Faculty membership to demonstrate an ability to work constructively with all graduate students, including students from underrepresented communities. Moreover, offering leadership, guidance, and professional training to help faculty improve and demonstrate their mentorship and advising abilities.
• Offering workshops for graduate faculty and graduate teaching assistants on how our curricula, course offerings, and classrooms can be actively inclusive and anti-racist.
• Providing faculty and administrative support to encourage, support, and facilitate initiatives from our various colleges, departments, and graduate programs that further anti-racism, pro-inclusion, and pro-equity goals.
• Providing more faculty and administrative support for our BIPOC undergraduate and master’s students in their applications to graduate/doctoral programs.
• Advocating for a full-time professional ombudsperson who will provide an impartial and confidential mechanism by which our graduate community may report conflict, discrimination, inequity, or exclusion. Until such a position exists, establishing a confidential mechanism for the graduate community to provide feedback on their experiences in our graduate programs to the Graduate School, and, moreover, taking action, as Dr. Savoie has pledged, to counter “any statements, behaviors or actions by current or prospective members of the University community that do not align with our institutional values of respect, kindness, cooperation and accountability.”
• In recognition that the above commitments are only the next steps in the process, reviewing our Graduate School policies to see what other changes should be made, and ensuring that the Diversity and Inclusion Standing Committee has the opportunity to review future policies before passage.
• Holding ourselves accountable by having the Diversity and Inclusion Standing Committee rigorously evaluate and report each year on our progress on these and other anti-discrimination initiatives.
Second, we echo the support offered by the Faculty Senate and other bodies for Dr. Savoie’s recent re-commitment to the success of the University’s Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence. Fulfilling these actions will require support for diversity, equity, and inclusion in our graduate education community. Therefore, we call on the University to commit in the following ways:
• As the University works to align faculty demographics with student demographics, that hiring include faculty at all ranks, since the instruction and mentorship of graduate students is dependent on tenure-track and tenured faculty.
• As the University works to set admissions goals that better reflect Louisiana demographics, that our goals be inclusive of our graduate student community with funds and support specifically dedicated for recruiting, retaining, and completing graduate students from BIPOC and other historically underrepresented communities.
• As the University works to provide additional grants and scholarships to support Black students, that funding be expanded to support more students’ participation in the SREB Doctoral Scholars Program, to provide additional tuition waivers for McNair Scholars who continue as master’s degree students, and to extend tuition waivers to LS-LAMP students who want to pursue graduate degrees at UL Lafayette.
• As the University works to provide additional personnel and budgetary support for the Office for Campus Diversity, that consideration be given to including new graduate assistantships and fellowships dedicated to providing professional experience to graduate students who can benefit from and support its critical work.
Finally, the University's mission includes the charge to “develop leaders and innovators who advance knowledge, cultivate aesthetic sensibility, and improve the human condition.” We call upon the members of the graduate education community—especially those with privilege—to be leaders and innovators on this human rights issue: to listen to our BIPOC community, to be actively anti-racist, to deploy privilege to protect those more vulnerable, and to work to dismantle racist structures.
When we see discrimination, we cannot be silent.
The Graduate School
The 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 Graduate Councils
The University Committee for Graduate Student Success and Retention