NOTE: The following message was sent to the UO research community on June 15
Dear University of Oregon Research Community,
The events of the past few months have vividly shown how racism and inequality remain deeply embedded in our societal institutions. First, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the disproportionate impact of racism and economic disparity on the health of Black people compared with those of us who have privileged access to health care. Then the killing of George Floyd, and many others before him, became a clarion call for all of us to look inward at our own behaviors, biases, and practices that promote inequality. As with many of you, these killings have left us outraged, frustrated, and despaired.
The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We recognize the injustices of systemic racism that exist in North America and around the world.
Research universities suffer from and often perpetuate these same systemic challenges. As one example, proportionally few Black people choose the sciences as a profession. Institutionalized inequalities in educational opportunities, healthcare, and access to services beginning very early and persisting throughout life pose unacceptable barriers to entering higher education professions. Research communities on college campuses too often extend bias and systemic racism, both consciously and unconsciously.
It is not enough for us to merely pledge our support. We need to listen carefully, educate ourselves, and act on what we learn. Now is the time to take stock of what is not working and figure out our next steps toward concrete action. There is much to do on numerous fronts including but not limited to: student, faculty, and staff recruitment and retention; leadership and service; mentorship; composition of lab groups and team dynamics; human subjects research; recognition and awards; connections to the Eugene community; and innovation and commercialization opportunities.
We thank the many of you who participated in our open forum on the day of the #Strike4BlackLives. We were heartened by the outpouring of ideas and perspectives, some of which can be referenced on our Black Lives Matter to Research webpage. The forum was the beginning of conversations and actions that we commit to continue in the weeks and months ahead.
This may feel like an overwhelming undertaking; racism has such a long history in America. And, yet, our country also has a long history of abolitionists, civil rights activists, and ordinary citizens taking actions that have changed the face of America. Thankfully, it’s now happening again throughout the nation. At this pivotal moment, at our university, we too can make a difference. Let’s seize this opportunity to confront the inequalities embedded in our institution.
David and Cass