Standing in Solidarity with the Black Community

CIENCIA would like to thank Dr. Aletha M. Harven for her vision and leadership on this timely statement. We hope that our words and recommendations will inspire real change. If readers would like to use our statement, we ask that you seek our permission and cite/reference CIENCIA appropriately. Thank you.

June 17, 2020

Dear Stan State Administrators, Faculty, Staff, and Students,

CIENCIA stands in solidarity with the Black Community in supporting racial justice. We support radical reform to end anti-Black racism, racial discrimination, and racial violence, including police brutality, in our communities. Our diverse team of educators, scholars, and mentors acknowledges the painful struggle that the Black Community has been forced to endure for hundreds of years in America, and around the world. It is highly disturbing that in the year 2020 the Black Community is still fighting racism and racial violence in its many forms, across many contexts.

We’re not even half-way through the year and we’ve already observed many high-profile acts of racial violence against Black people, including the murders of George FloydBreonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. They unfortunately join an endless list of Black people who have been threatened, arrested, or killed for engaging in everyday activities from bird watching and sitting at Starbucks to holding a mobile phone and wearing a hoodie. These racially charged acts are traumatizing for the Black Community, especially when there is little or no accountability for the aggressors. Sadly, the Black Community has long suffered from torture and abuse, erasure, stigmatization, and limited access to critical resources and support, which have continued to perpetuate conditions of inequality across multiple generations. For centuries, the general public has either ignored, misunderstood, or supported the damaging effects of systemic racism on the Black Community. However, with the most recent murders, there is now a collective sense of outrage, sadness, and frustration spilling into the streets, with protesters around the world and across color lines shouting: “Black Lives Matter,” “No Justice, No Peace,” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”

As a campus community, we cannot be indifferent to the ways in which these horrific events increase community distress, pain, and trauma. We cannot ignore that we live in a divided society that needs mending, healing, restoring, and revitalization. While activism and protest around issues of systemic racism have captured the attention of the media and public in a tremendous way at this unique point in time, it is imperative that we sustain and grow this support into transformational change of every aspect of our society. We desperately need a radical and systemic transformation of our society based on principles of justice, democracy, and decolonization that effectively addresses issues that are unique to the Black Community. We must reimagine our law enforcement and justice systems so that they protect and care for all people, including Black people. Radical change must also reach our schools and universities, so that Black administrators, faculty, staff, and students are supported, not penalized or ostracized for speaking out against the injustice they often experience.

CIENCIA is committed to working towards this radical change to our educational system broadly and here at Stan State. Equity and inclusion are core values of our program, where our work fosters anti-racism among our team members and faculty participants. We are an institutional initiative that challenges the status quo within our professional community. We are committed to improving the educational experience of historically underserved students, including Black students, and in supporting faculty in challenging a culture in STEM fields that for too long has failed to pursue anti-racism and social justice.

While much of our focus is on fostering inclusive classroom environments, we also emphasize the importance of developing and sustaining a critical stance on racial justice, and social justice more broadly. Without a critical perspective on our explicit and implicit biases regarding Black people and on what is occurring in our communities and around the world, we are condemned to perpetuate social dysfunction. Critical social awareness starts with questioning ourselves and the institutional contexts in which we participate. It is essential that we engage in critical dialogue by asking ourselves and those around us challenging questions. We ask you to answer the following questions and to sit with any feelings that arise from your answers.

Critical Questions:

  1. What steps am I taking to support the Black Community in their continued fight for racial justice? What am I willing to risk to support the Black Community?
  2. How am I leaning in to conversations about racial justice, as they pertain to Black people? To what extent am I willing to be uncomfortable in these conversations?
  3. Is it possible that I perpetuate hatred, violence, and intolerance through my language and behavior? What about through my silence?
  4. How much effort am I investing in learning about, respecting, and valuing Black people?
  5. How am I contributing to a commitment within my office, academic department, and program to recruit, retain, and support Black colleagues and students?
  6. How am I helping students, faculty, administrators, and staff to actively and critically engage in learning about cultural diversity, cultural sensitivity, and inclusion?
  7. Given the injustices and inequities in our society, how am I addressing the real challenges and problems in my local community concerning Black people?
  8. How are we, as members of the academic profession, learning from our Black students and empowering them to use their voices to speak up against injustice, while pursuing their educational and career goals?
  9. How are we, as an educational institution, using our expertise to transform the places in which we live, so that Black people feel a sense of belonging?
  10. How are we, as members of the professoriate, using our power to create a more humane and civically engaged community?

It is essential that we work to continually interrogate our own beliefs and commitments. However, we also need to engage in immediate action to advance equity and justice at our university for Black administrators, faculty, staff, and students. Our CIENCIA team has identified and engaged in the following list of critical actions that we will continue to advance within our academic spaces. We expect that further discussion with the campus community will identify additional actions and avenues for change. We ask university leaders and the larger campus community to join us in this critical work.

Critical Action Items:

  1. Fostering a campus climate that acknowledges the ways in which Black people are othered in university spaces and in our broader society.
  2. Creating a curated list of resources to support people in doing the essential work of educating themselves on Black History and Culture. 
  3. Continuing to offer professional development opportunities that foster the cultural competency of faculty on issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice from a critical perspective, including:
    • Faculty peer observations for feedback and reflection.
    • Assessment of effective instruction and the classroom environment.
    • Training on culturally relevant pedagogy and active learning.
  4. Supporting faculty, particularly in STEM, in understanding the value of curricula that helps students develop a critical understanding of race, racism, and white supremacy.
  5. Pursuing practices in relation to human resources that place greater value on contributions to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, including:
    • Facilitating the assessment and effective use of diversity statements by search committee members.
    • Supporting essential training for all new and existing faculty on diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, especially as it relates to anti-Black racism and the unique characteristics of our student body and campus community as a whole.
    • Emphasizing the retention of Black faculty through greater support and funding for community building, scholarship, mental wellness, and recognition.
    • Acknowledging through Retention, Promotion and Tenure (RPT) policies and procedures the ways that racial and gendered expectations differentially impact faculty workloads, faculty evaluations, and contributions to justice work.
    • Revising RPT elaborations and procedures to set expectations that emphasize and value justice and equity-related work.
    • Addressing the racial disparity between temporary and tenure-track faculty by supporting just and equitable hiring practices, including pathways for Black faculty to transition from temporary to tenure-track positions.
    • Creating a faculty award and other incentives that acknowledge outstanding faculty contributions in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.
  6. Advocating for increased funding for academic and student services programs that support Black students, including at the Stockton Center, where these programs may be targeted during budget cuts.

Black people have always shown incredible strength and resilience across generations in the fight for racial justice; however, radical change is crucial to ending anti-Black racism and racial violence against Black Lives. As members of this campus community, we commit to interrogating the biases within ourselves and the racism within our university. We commit to transforming the ethos of our work to prioritize (a) care for our community, (b) empathy for each other’s cultural realities, and (c) justice for the Black Community and all oppressed people. In this challenging time, we invite you not to be indifferent, but to reconnect with your humanity. We hope you will collaborate with our team in this challenging work for racial justice and a more equitable society.

In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
~ Angela Y. Davis

Dr. Aletha M. Harven
Dr. Matthew Cover
Dr. Virginia Montero Hernandez
Dr. Harold Stanislaw
Dr. Sarah Bissonnette
Dr. Wing To 

Updated: August 08, 2023