Fostering belonging and empathy in CANR
CANR Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Quentin Tyler calls the CANR community to collectively support those who experience bias, racism, xenophobia, prejudice and discrimination.
I’ve heard the words ‘we’re all in this together’ over and over the past few months. While true, I have learned a few lessons already from COVID-19, so far, those lessons include:
- We are all impacted differently by the virus, the stay home orders, the social/physical distancing.
- What happens in places that seem remote and physically removed to some of us are tragically real and relevant for many of our colleagues and students.
- We have amazing faculty, staff and students that have adapted, pivoted and showed resiliency in coming together in a time in which we all needed it the most.
Many of us observed the news reports of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis at the hands of a white police officer, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. The subsequent, and ongoing protests in New York, Atlanta, Louisville, Minneapolis, Grand Rapids and other places around the country bring mixed emotions for me – I am simultaneously brokenhearted and angered. Like many of you, I am sure.
As a campus community, we are not immune to racist behavior – from the situations at the Wharton Center, to nooses found in residence halls, racist surveys and racist comments during an online forum. And while these events aren’t happening on campus now, it doesn’t mean members of our community aren’t impacted by them. They are.
While I am encouraged to read President Stanley’s message acknowledging the impact of racism on people of color, I know that we must do more. Our mission, our privilege calls us to do so.
Isolation from the world around us and from the experiences that many members of our community are experiencing and living in fear of is not an excuse – we cannot just wait until we are back together on campus. We cannot continue to ignore the emotional toll that isolation, unemployment and dealing in so many unknowns takes. If our college is going to be a place where everyone can call home, feel valued, respected and have a sense of belonging, we must know that our separation does not have to mean isolation. We must reach out to each other and understand that while the COVID-19 pandemic is consistent across the globe, how everyone experiences it is not.
I do not have all the answers as we move forward as a department or unit. But I ask that we show empathy and understanding as we collectively act and engage in being allies and in providing support for those who experience bias, racism, xenophobia and other forms of prejudice and discrimination.
Quentin R. Tyler, Ph.D.
Associate Dean and Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources