June 12, 2020
To our BCOE Community:
The Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering at UC Riverside stands in solidarity with our students, staff, and faculty community against social injustice and acts of racism. The violence that has recently taken the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, and countless others, are just the latest examples of unacceptable attacks on our Black citizens. We all have the same rights under law, but not in practice. This must change now.
Each of these deaths is tragic. Combined, they display a disturbing pattern of violence that stems from institutionalized racism in many of our workplaces, communities, and even our educational systems. These deaths, and the many that came before them, are abhorrent and the institutional protections of those committing these crimes must be removed and the criminals prosecuted. Calling out institutional racism is not enough. Every institution must reevaluate its own culture and identify ways to make positive change.
UC Riverside and BCOE have suffered from racial and gender bias. Over the past few weeks, Black students have shared racist experiences both on and off campus and Black faculty and staff have shared their pain in light of recent protests. Years of work groups, task forces, and diversity initiatives have repeatedly identified the same problems, and each has fallen short, resulting in a new committee identifying the same problems every few years. As an institution that creates future leaders, we need to do more to support Black members of our community in this moment of national crisis and moving forward. It is on every one of us not to tolerate racism on any level and to contribute to a culture and environment that welcomes and supports all students, staff, and faculty equally.
We acknowledge that everyone within our BCOE community has been significantly impacted by the recent events. Understandably, our students have found it difficult to focus on coursework when a historic movement so many years in the making has been, in some cases, taking place right outside their homes and in their neighborhoods. We recognize and fully support our students who are lending their voices for change.
We implore every member of the BCOE community to commit to zero tolerance of racism of any kind. We call on the BCOE community to commit to the following actions as the first steps to ensuring BCOE is a safe, inclusive, and equitable community for our Black engineers:
- Speak up and speak out. As a community, we cannot tolerate racist rhetoric, institutional bias, or acts of violence. This is not a political statement. This is human decency.
- Reevaluate recruitment, retention, and graduation rates annually and ensure our Black BCOE students have equitable access and support in their engineering education. We commit to working with our Black students to identify areas in need of improvement within our college as well as collecting recommendations from our students, faculty, staff, and local community to ensure a supportive community.
- Set the standard of acceptance. Our students have asked for training for all BCOE community members, including at new student orientations, new faculty orientations, and staff onboarding procedures to train employees and peers on working with Black audiences. BCOE commits to providing this training to set the standard for appropriate and inclusive behavior by both employees and student peers.
- Evaluate our K-12 outreach effort to enhance Black student opportunities. BCOE has been making efforts to increase the numbers of young Black scholars pursuing careers in engineering with insufficient success. We know we need to do better. By continually reviewing our outreach strategy, BCOE will work to ensure Black communities are engaged and will continue working in partnership with student organization leaders to develop meaningful programs.
- Continue working to establish partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). When it comes to Black student enrollment at BCOE, we fall short. Building partnerships with HBCUs will strengthen the overall student experience and recruitment from these institutions will increase graduate enrollment of Black students in engineering at BCOE.
- Continue working to hire more Black faculty and staff. As the college continues to grow, we must do more to recruit and retain Black faculty and staff and remove the systemic barriers that breed bias, racism, and prejudice in the hiring process. Black students have recommended the hiring of Black faculty, advisors, and counselors to create a community where they are heard, understood, and supported.
- Create an open dialogue. On June 3, we held the first of what will be quarterly student organization leader calls with college administration to discuss challenges our student groups are facing. Feedback from these conversations will allow us to modify, pause, or strengthen programs and to grow the inclusiveness of our college culture.
- Enhance the Equity Advisor role. We must take this time to both redefine and expand upon the role of the college’s equity advisor. In addition to developing a more purposeful mission for this role that helps support the Black engineering community, the college’s equity advisor must be empowered to ensure the successful delivery of these initiatives.
- Develop scholarship pathways dedicated toward supporting Black engineers. In the coming months, we expect to complete our fundraising goal for UCR’s first-ever student organization endowed fund. The NSBE Endowment Fund was launched earlier this year and was established in partnership with the Council for the Advancement of Black Engineers (CABE) and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). We are more than half-way to the $25,000 fundraising goal for an endowment that will support our NSBE students. Once we have reached our goal, we will expand upon this effort to create additional scholarship opportunities.
Eliminating institutionalized racism is a complex challenge. One that requires transformative approaches to enact a change that is long overdue. We call on the BCOE community to recommit to ensuring we have an inclusive environment by holding each other accountable.
Our students, staff, and faculty have endured immense hardship through this quarter – the isolation of quarantine, feeling worried about the health of family and friends, the stress of curfews, and now the level of effort needed to bring about real, long-term societal change. This has been especially challenging for our students who are seeking a degree in one of the most challenging fields of study. It is on us as staff and faculty to support our students who will go on to define our future not just technologically but socially. UCR and BCOE students, we hear you. You have our support. We will emerge from this a stronger community and work together to achieve real change.
On behalf of the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering,
Christopher S. Lynch
Dean, Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering
William R. Johnson Jr. Family Chair