Our Commitments to Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

By John Finnegan | July 10, 2020

Dear SPH faculty, staff, and students:

At the School of Public Health, we believe that health is a human right and that Black Lives Matter. We recognize that, as a school, we have not done all we could to fight injustice and structural racism during our 76-year history. Specifically, in my years as dean, I apologize for not prioritizing, adequately resourcing, and providing stronger leadership against racism. Moreover, I apologize to each member of our school community for the harm you may have experienced because of this.

We can and must take action now to become the school that we want to be: A true force for equity, racial justice, and anti-racism on our campus, and in higher education, the field of public health, and our country. Recent communications from faculty, staff, students, and alumni hold up a mirror of accountability to our school, reflecting where we have failed. They also demand change. As I commit to doing more, I also seek the commitment of everyone in SPH to make the work of anti-racism central to our mission and to hold ourselves and each other accountable.

Over the past month, I have not organized our school quickly enough to take action and drive change. Yet during that time, we have met with diverse groups of faculty, staff, and students from across the school. We will continue to listen to their perspectives, learn from their experiences, and work as a community to organize our collective commitment to change.

Our primary commitment is this: We will make diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism core to the SPH missions of research, education, and community engagement. We will be actively anti-racist and commit to actions that will lead to profound and sustainable change in our school.

To begin, we will accelerate our actions within three critical commitment areas:

  1. Equitable systems and inclusive culture: Develop sustainable and anti-racist organizational structures to drive change and accountability in the school as a whole and in each academic division.
  2. Talent: Increase the diversity of SPH faculty and staff through recruitment, hiring, and retention of faculty and staff who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
  3. Education and training: Increase the representation of students who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color and those from marginalized communities; develop SPH core curricula in health equity, including anti-racism.

Specific actions we are taking now supporting these commitments can be viewed on the SPH Diversity & Inclusion website.

Collaboration, transparency, and accountability: Our current list of commitments and short-term actions is a starting point and far from being final. Long-term actions will require more listening and learning. These will be key to creating sustainable and measurable solutions. As this work evolves and as strategy and planning efforts continue, we will increase communications and transparency to keep you informed of our progress.

All of us — students, staff, faculty, and alumni — have ideas about how to move forward. We will draw on that deep reservoir of knowledge and engage our entire school community to inform, advance, and achieve transformative change. To drive collaboration, we will find ways to gather additional ideas that will build on these first steps.

For now, please continue to share your thoughts and ideas with your division head, Associate Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Lauren Eldridge, and/or share your comments through this online form. Of course, you can reach out to me directly as well.

It is important to remember that this is, and will always be, a work in progress that we will advance collectively. Thank you for your care and concern about this school’s future.

John R. Finnegan Jr.
Dean and Professor, School of Public Health

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