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UNC Research condemns the most recent atrocious acts against men and women of color. Let us call it what it is – pure evil. Like most of you, I am appalled, heartbroken, and angry. We cannot watch and comment from the sidelines as many face dangers protesting the horrifying murder of George Floyd, all those that preceded him, and those who are afraid they will come after him.

As deeply as I want to assert that systemic and institutional racism that breeds this type of violence does not reflect who we are, regrettably we know that we have many more strides to take towards a truly equitable environment. But we have offered up words and statements before. As many of my colleagues and other offices across campus have acknowledged, this is a watershed moment and the time to act is now. Racism is everyone’s problem.

First off, I want to reaffirm to you all that our organization is committed to building and supporting a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming research culture. I ask that our unit leaders begin each research meeting with vocalizing their commitment to a more just and equal research environment, society, and world. Those are the conditions under which ideas flourish, and how we foster a successful research enterprise.

We need to listen to our colleagues to uncover racism that exists in academia. As articulated in “Toxic Ivory Towers,” by Ruth Enid Ambranah, academia promotes unwelcoming climates that adversely affects the careers of underrepresented faculty as well as their health and well-being. What might be uncomfortable conversations for some of us are the unjust lived realities of others. This week, the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion will offer a space on their website for #YourVoiceMatters where thoughts, perspectives, and feelings can be shared anonymously. This will be a forum from which we can all gain a deeper appreciation for what our friends and colleagues are experiencing.

Let us each acknowledge these painful, ongoing events and educate ourselves about movements for racial justice. The diversity office has provided a list of anti-racism resources to that end. There are also additional resources on our OVCR commitment to diversity webpage. The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research had a workshop scheduled that was designed by the Racial Equity Institute (REI) wherein trainers talk about how to address current day racial inequity. Using stories and data, the training provides a framework for analysis of characteristics of racial inequity. Unfortunately, this training had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we will re-schedule when larger group gatherings are allowed. We must take actionable steps to address inequality.

I have laid out what I hope and intend to be just a start. It is unbearable not to act. While we grapple with how to respond and lay bare the realities of the situation, it is in our power as individuals to learn, grow and change. I myself have much to learn and I commit myself to change.

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