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Here's what the "I Act On" diversity pledge could mean for UNC

Kevin Guskiewicz Faculty Council March 8
Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz gave updates about the University at the meeting of the Faculty Council and the General Faculty in Genome Sciences Building on March 8, 2019. He discussed the naming of the Adams School of Dentistry, campaign events, the General Education Curriculum and diversity.

UNC Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz signed the “I Act On” pledge on Feb. 20 during the Check Your Blind Spots tour, joining over 15,000 other individual pledgers across the United States. 

“This pledge is a promise, to myself and the University community, to foster an atmosphere and environment where everyone feels included, represented and respected,” Guskiewicz said in a statement. “It’s a commitment to lead by example. When our words and actions align, we are a community that is welcoming to all.”

CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, which runs the pledge, is a collective of businesses devoted to advancing inclusivity in the workplace. More than 600 CEOs and their businesses take part in the commitment, said Crawford Pounds, CEO Action spokesperson and managing partner of Southeast for PwC.

The coalition seeks to increase awareness of unconscious biases, both in the workplace and in relevant organizations, including universities.

“The CEO Action coalition recognizes that in order to drive real change, there must be commitment not only from CEOs and the current workforce, but also our future workforce to collectively create and participate in inclusive environments,” Pounds said in a statement to the DTH.

UNC is now a signatory of the CEO Action coalition after Guskiewicz signed the CEO Action pledge on its behalf, Pounds said. Other university signatories include Duke University and Wake Forest University.

CEO Action’s “I Act On” pledge is an individual commitment that involves both recognizing one’s biases and taking action to change them, Pounds said, and it can be signed on their website.

“The pledge gives people a tangible way to check themselves and their unconscious biases, while standing up for others in the process,” Pounds said in the statement. 

Signers are encouraged to check their biases and take steps to understand and rid themselves of them, initiate meaningful conversations and move outside their comfort zones. 

The Check Your Blind Spots tour, which was brought to UNC on Feb. 20, is another way CEO Action has gone about promoting this awareness.

The tour, which was held on the Blind Spots bus in Hanes parking lot, featured virtual reality and other interactive technology to help show attendees the biases that may exist when perceiving others’ abilities. Guskiewicz and others signed the “I Act On” pledge while at the event.

“It’s vital that students better understand the perspectives of others, especially as they enter the workforce and can play an active role in driving change for more inclusivity,” Pounds said in the statement. “Leaving the tour, I hope students learned a bit more about their own unconscious biases and are truly driven to action.”

Vice Chancellor for Workforce Strategy, Equity and Engagement Felicia Washington said in a statement that she was excited the tour was brought to the University. Despite the rainy weather on the day of the event, she said the tour went well.

“While we wish the weather would have cooperated, we thought it was a great success and hope we can bring it back to campus again,” Washington said in the statement. “Those who participated talked about how eye-opening the experience was, and we are hopeful that many of those who took the chance to tour will also come to the Carolina Conversations later this month.”

Washington emphasized how important she thinks this commitment to addressing biases is, both for students and faculty.

“We want to be well-informed, engaged citizens, and to do that, we must connect with those around us, and those who are different from us,” Washington said in the statement. “... Knowing our biases better positions us all to do so, and this opportunity was just one of many we hope Carolina can provide students and employees.”

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