Dear NC State Students, Faculty and Staff:
As troubling events over the last many months have demonstrated time and again, our nation and our state are facing challenging, critically important issues that affect us all. Unfortunately, many of these issues more negatively impact the underrepresented members of our NC State family.
Among the most serious and troubling issues is the state of race and equality in America. Most recently, we’ve watched several nights of demonstrations and protests as our neighbors in Charlotte responded to the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. This incident also sparked many other protests and demonstrations across the country, including at NC State on Friday.
I first want to thank all our students who peacefully and respectfully participated in the NC State Blackout at Wolf Plaza and the Die-In inside Talley Student Union on Friday. In particular, I want to acknowledge Student Body Vice President Brayndon Stafford and Achaia Dent for their leadership.
I, along with many others at NC State, appreciate how you represented yourselves and your university, and also the personal, bold and honest remarks of all who spoke. Specifically, to our Black students, you are being heard. We are here to stand with and support you. But, I know words are not enough.
I look forward to working with student leaders to address concerns and with Student Government in reviewing suggestions they are gathering from campus related to improving the experience of people of color at NC State.
One specific concern many of us share is the diversity of our student body. Although NC State is more diverse than ever in its history, we’ve still not made enough progress. In particular, the number of African American students on our campus has significantly declined over the last decade. This is an unacceptable trend; we must do better.
To that end, I am appointing a task force to review programs focused on bringing underrepresented students to NC State, as well as to examine our recruitment and admissions processes. The task force will include students, faculty, staff and alumni. We’ll release more information once all members have accepted the request to participate. I expect the committee will begin meeting in October and move judiciously toward making recommendations.
In my January letter to the campus community, I reviewed a number of activities NC State was undertaking to advance diversity and inclusion. We’ve been making progress but haven’t done as well at updating the community. To better ensure transparency and community involvement, within the next few weeks the university will launch a web page outlining the variety of diversity- and inclusion-focused meetings, trainings, forums and additional activities that have occurred and are scheduled to occur.
One critical step identified for moving forward was charging the University Diversity Advisory Committee (UDAC) with engaging the campus community and making recommendations about improving cultural competence and the racial climate at NC State. Provost Warwick Arden and I have accepted the committee’s recommendations. At the first UDAC meeting of the year this afternoon, the Provost will announce an implementation strategy. UDAC will release more information in the coming weeks.
Another big step moving forward for NC State was hiring Dr. Linda McCabe Smith, NC State’s vice provost for institutional equity and diversity. Linda began her duties in August and is already having a big impact. I have included Dr. Smith on the Chancellor’s Cabinet to ensure matters of diversity and equity are embedded in all university decision making.
These are important steps toward enhancing a diverse and inclusive campus environment, but clearly more will need to be accomplished to achieve all our goals. Equality and diversity are all our responsibilities. Ultimately it will take administrators, students, faculty and staff — the entire NC State community — working together to ensure a truly diverse, inclusive and supporting campus culture. I look forward to working alongside you in this critical endeavor.