Around 8 p.m. on May 25, 2020, George Floyd walked into a convenience store with the intention to buy a pack of cigarettes and be on his way — that all changed in a matter of 17 minutes. By the end of these 17 minutes, Floyd lost his life, and his name became a symbol for justice and reform throughout the nation.
The College of Information and Communications watched and listened in the days following Floyd’s tragic death. Knowing tensions were high, the CIC, School of Information Science and School of Journalism and Mass Communications released statements expressing their support and commitment to an environment that is diverse, equitable and inclusive to all.
“Here we are at this moment,” says Shirley Staples Carter, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. “Dealing with not only Black Lives Matter but being in the moment and realizing that there is still a movement for social justice by people who have not been a part of the majority.”
The CIC historically has taken steps to ensure that the college is a safe environment for all — from its Brown Bag Let’s Talk About It series to the Dean’s Dive- In Lunches, it has shined a spotlight on conversations around the topic of race. “Race has always been a difficult subject to talk about, even in classrooms,” Carter says. “These series are a way for us to look at those difficult issues and create meaningful solutions and get students involved.”
After Floyd’s death and the movement that followed it, CIC leadership knew they still had to do more — not only for people of color, but also with all students, faculty and staff. “We need to educate on how to act,” Carter says. “You can be empathetic, and you can act in such a way that you recognize not only your privilege but your unique position to be an ally.”
The CIC hosted online forums and diversity training and altered teaching curriculum to emphasize diversity across the board. Kim Thompson, associate dean of academic affairs, worked alongside Carter during these changes. “The goal is that we have diversity, equity and inclusion designed into our courses,” Thompson says. “We aren’t just tagging
it on to the end of our teaching or research — it’s something that we think about all the time so we are able to speak on it whenever possible.”
After a diversity training session this summer, members of the CIC met again to discuss diversity, this time as a panel with faculty from both schools. The panel, composed of Kenneth Campbell, David Moscowitz, Vanessa Kitzie and Nicole Cooke, discussed how they designed courses with diversity, equity and inclusion woven throughout. “It was a wonderful conversation about what they are doing,” Thompson says. “Their readings and assignments are not just from one race, one gender or a single perspective — instead, they’re opening it up and allowing different points of view to follow.”
The changes in the CIC don’t stop at curriculum. Its leadership is working to ensure that everything from the class syllabus to their strategic plan embraces diversity, equity and inclusion.
“We realize there is work to be done,” Carter says. “And although it may not be the best time, we know we have the right tools, energy and expertise within our college to make a strong and important contribution to all of these efforts.”