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Our commitment to effecting real change related to equity and inclusion on campus and in the community

President Gary L. Miller's remarks, as prepared, to the Board of Trustees on June 10, 2020:

I would like to begin my comments today by thanking you and the Board for your continuing commitment and wise counsel as we have worked together to navigate the extraordinarily challenging circumstances created by the COVID pandemic. Working together, I am confident The University of Akron will manage through these times and emerge as a strong university and a highly engaged partner in Akron and this region. Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, the COVID pandemic is not the only extraordinary challenge we face today. Even as this country struggles with the isolation, health and economic disparity of this pandemic, we are faced with the reality of the racial discrimination and social injustice that has, unfortunately, been part of this nation's history from the beginning. The events of the past several weeks have brought into sharp contrast the perils of complacency and its power to rend the delicate fabric of our precious democracy and the urgent need to awaken, now, and with uncommon passion and conviction, the long suppressed actions so desperately needed to save that democracy. 

Akron is a city not unfamiliar with the fissures of intolerance and racial discrimination. Like citizens of cities all over this country and around the globe, over the past two weeks or so Akronites have publicly expressed their anguish at the horror of the senseless death of George Floyd.

Akron is also a city of action.  It is a city that agrees with our trustee and Akron Public School Superintendent Dr. David James who recently called for us to demand real change.  Change that does not just imagine social justice but deploys it.  Change not based on just a reading of history but on the wisdom gained from it.  Change not based just on the enactment of policy but on the hard work of walking in someone else’s shoes.   

The University of Akron as a child and servant of this City must be a leader in effecting real change.  This is one of our most sacred obligations as a public university.  It is an obligation to which we must now turn our attention.

Mr. Chairman, I want this Board to know it is my intention in the coming weeks and beyond to lead The University of Akron in a thorough evaluation of how our practices and policies enable or diminish our ability to detect, understand and deal with racial discrimination, unconscious bias, restriction of access and opportunity or our appreciation of the special circumstances of any of our community members. Among other things, we will examine our recruitment and enrollment practices, our policing, our approaches to the needs of students and employees of color, the ways in which we communicate and care for one another, and our goals and methods for diversifying our campus. We will do this because in order to be a leader for the kind of change required at this moment in history, we must first examine ourselves.

As we conduct this self-examination, we will work with uncommon energy with our community partners for real change. For us, that means finding ways to provide higher education opportunities for more people of color in this region, building partnerships with government and sister universities to ensure social justice and applying the vast capacities of our faculty and staff to build new models for community interaction, safety and economic prosperity. 

Yes, we are struggling with great challenges as a university because of the COVID pandemic.  But given the importance of the events of the past several weeks, it is clear to me that merely solving our COVID-related financial challenges is not the mark of a great university like The University of Akron.  A great university like The University of Akron can and must also rise to the important and long-standing national challenges of which the death of George Floyd has so disturbingly reminded us. 

Mr. Chairman, that is my report.

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