Commitment to Diversity
June 16, 2020
Dear College of Humanities & Social Sciences Faculty, Staff, and Students:
Our country and the world are undergoing meaningful social change in response to the murder of George Floyd and numerous others in the Black community. I stand with you in recognizing that these painful tragedies are rooted in a long history of institutional racism, discrimination, and injustice.
Our college has a responsibility unmatched on this campus to bring scholarship in the humanities and social sciences to bear on eliminating racial inequalities in health, wealth, criminal justice, education, the workplace, and other social institutions. The humanities ask and answer important questions about the world and inspire empathy through writing about and exploring race relations in language, literature, and history. The social sciences illuminate the roles institutions and social groups play in perpetuating racial inequalities and help us understand human behavior and well-being more broadly. Together, scholars in our college explore what it means to be human and how such a world in its ideal sense could and should look.
The humanities and social sciences come together most explicitly in our interdisciplinary programs, where faculty and students employ a diverse set of approaches to better understand the social world. Most critical to the challenges we face today is our African & African American Studies program where faculty provide intellectual leadership on matters related to the African American experience and advocate for the unique needs of Black faculty, Black staff, and Black students. AAAS educates and inspires everyone to fight for social justice.
LSU owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Black students, Black staff, and Black faculty who have consistently endeavored to move racial inequality to the forefront of our campus dialogue. Our students, especially, have challenged us to create a more inclusive university. The College of Humanities & Social Sciences has answered and will continue to answer their calls for change through the following actions:
African & African American Studies
In the coming months, I will partner with the leadership of our African & African American Studies (AAAS) program to raise the profile of this important program and seek the creation of an independent degree program and department. It has been a longstanding desire of the program to become an independent department and degree program.
AAAS provides everyone, but particularly our Black students and Black faculty, with a defined presence on campus. More importantly, AAAS leverages the many intellectual traditions in our college to create the next generation of leaders. This action reflects not only the values of our students as expressed in a recent student government resolution, but also in the message of the Consortium of Chairs and Directors of Black Studies in the Southeastern Conference. AAAS is not only an important academic unit where faculty teach critical courses about race and produce new knowledge, but it is also a catalyst for social justice and central to the campuswide recruitment and retention of Black faculty, staff, and students.
HSS Diversity Committee
Our college’s inaugural Diversity Committee developed an action plan for HSS during Spring 2020. The core objective of the committee was to establish a broad strategy for creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for HSS faculty, staff, and students. I am committed to the recommendations from the committee. Key action items developed by the committee include:
- Establishing a standing HSS Diversity Council
- Creating a Chief Diversity Officer for our college
- Identifying funding to support HSS Diversity Awards for faculty, staff, and students
- Establishing the Diversity Distinction honor for graduate and undergraduate students majoring or minority in African & African American Studies, among other areas of study
- Creating dual enrollment between LSU and Southern University students in at least one section of AAAS 2511 Race Relations
- Exploring possibility of establishing an endowed chair in diversity for a professor whose work reflects a commitment to social justice issues
Enhancing Student Connectivity in HSS
HSS will continue to invest in programming at the undergraduate and graduate-level to ensure that students from underrepresented groups establish immediate and impactful connections with our faculty and staff. I welcome suggestions from HSS students, faculty, staff, and from the HSS Diversity Council as to how such connections can be supported and enhanced.
Our college will continue to partner directly with the LSU Office of Enrollment Management to co-sponsor the Pre-Scholars Academy. This program enhances accessibility to LSU, provides students with a framework for student success, and a dense network of campus mentors. At the graduate-level, our HSS Summer Bridge program (in partnership with the LSU Graduate School) helps incoming graduate students build social capital across campus and group solidarity prior to the start of their first semester.
Faculty Hiring and Retention
We maintain our commitment to establishing a faculty that reflects the diversity of our students, community, and state. We have been successful in hiring brilliant scholars who do significant teaching and research on race relations. We will continue to find new ways to support and celebrate that work in order to retain those faculty.
In Fall 2020, LSU will welcome the largest and most diverse freshman class in the history of our institution. Every one of these students will interact with us through their coursework or by choosing one of our major or minor degree programs. As a college, our faculty and staff hold a special responsibility to make sure each LSU student finds a pathway to connect with the campus community. We will not fail in this regard.
The mission of our college is to position our faculty, staff, and students to be visionary leaders in their respective fields. We have been called upon to be leaders in creating the most inclusive and welcoming version of our campus. Intellectual leadership involves not only the sharing of knowledge, but also learning from those we wish to educate. More importantly, we will continue to listen and use our scholarship to promote social justice. The action items outlined above are a priority for the college. As dean, I am fully committed to ensuring HSS answers the call for change in creating a more inclusive university.
Dean, College of Humanities & Social Sciences
Professor, Department of Sociology