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Sunday April 11th

Committee on Community and Diversity works to pursue roadmap for racial equity

A group of students wearing masks study together at the quad, Polk Place, on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020
Buy Photos A group of students wearing masks study together at the quad, Polk Place, on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020

The Committee on Community and Diversity held a virtual meeting Tuesday to urge the University to keep equity goals in mind despite COVID-19 restrictions.

This committee's purpose is to promote social interaction and respect amongst the various diverse groups at UNC. It is one of several committees appointed by the chair of the faculty, consisting of five faculty members and two students.

The committee focused primarily on its goals related to the Roadmap for Racial Equity and advocating for campus centers.

The Roadmap for Racial Equity was put forth in June by several UNC faculty members with the goal of achieving racial equity for faculty who are people of color. They proposed a three-year plan that calls for several actions, including the renaming of campus buildings, creating cluster hiring programs and integrating more voices in campus decision-making. 

In the meeting, members of the Committee of Community and Diversity reiterated their wishes to collaborate with the roadmap’s authors to further the goals expressed in the document. 

Terri Phoenix, a committee consultant and the director of the LGBTQ Center, said working to advance the roadmap’s goals should be one of the committee’s main focuses.

“I think there has been a lot of thought and a lot of work put into that project,” Phoenix said. “For this committee to be explicit in our support of helping to improve the living document and to push it forward on leadership’s agenda feels like a good priority for this group.”

Sheila Kannappan, a committee member and professor in the department of physics and astronomy, said there is already momentum in implementing the roadmap.

“Some of the things in the Roadmap to Racial Equity are actually already in progress, so some of the cluster hiring is now in motion,” Kannappan said. “We should engage in such a way where we are focused on how it expands, grows and builds from the original.”

The committee also discussed promoting campus centers through the upheavals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Though no decisions have been made regarding budget cuts for the coming semester and next academic year, the committee expressed concern that revenue loss could take resources away from campus centers related to diversity, such as the Carolina Women’s Center, LGBTQ Center and more.

Jay Aikat, a committee member and research associate professor in the department of computer science, said in the face of budget cuts, these centers could be at risk.

“I worry that as we start looking at budget cuts next year, those will be even more vulnerable,” Aikat said. “If there is anything we can do as a committee to show our support for them, we should.”

Jonathan Sauls, the associate vice chancellor of student affairs, said working to promote the survival of these centers in the face of possible COVID-19 budget cuts is an important job for the committee.

“There is going to be pain, so how we help to inform decision-makers that (the centers) are not add-on things that we do as a luxury if we happen to have enough money, is important,” Sauls said. “They’re core to how we provide the kind of services for the community and the environment we need to have.”

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming spring semester, the committee is working toward these goals with flexibility in mind. Several members acknowledged the need to be agile in the face of changes sure to come.

“A lot can change within the three months until January," Sauls said.

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