In response to the Snapchat incident that occurred recently, many members of our campus community expressed a feeling that our community has much work to do in the area of inclusion, and I agree. The post offended many members of our community, including students, staff, faculty and administrators of various racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as myself.
The UoA desires for us to have a culture and climate where no member of our community ever has to experience the painful and often traumatic feelings associated with behaviors that feel offensive and/or discriminatory. While the world we live in presents challenges to this desire, I believe we can make strides toward an inclusive culture and climate that respects and values the benefits of a diverse and inclusive campus community.
As an institution of higher learning, it is important that we approach situations such as this from a learning standpoint; that is: what did we do well, what did we not do so well, and what needs to happen so that we can minimize the occurrence of future situations and respond better each time a situation does occur.
In my assessment so far, one thing is clear: the response from the students is the most recognized area of strength. As students, you reported the situation quickly to UA faculty and staff, and the majority of students provided room for the faculty and staff to investigate and respond to the situation. In addition, you, as students, have taken and are planning steps to demonstrate solidarity toward one another and to engage in dialog about how we can become a more inclusive campus.
I also understand that you are contemplating other avenues as a way to make your concerns clear. I commend you for your actions and would like very much for you to share your thoughts and ideas with me so that together we can formalize a plan that will position our campus to take proactive steps and actions and to respond in better ways when a situation requires us to respond after the fact.
The chancellor continues to take this incident seriously. Upon his request, I met with the chancellor’s Executive Committee on Monday to discuss response strategies and how to best respond when certain behaviors occur. We too are committed to an ongoing process of learning and improvement. I will keep you posted on our efforts to move toward a culture and climate that values diversity and inclusion; however, please know that I welcome and need your input in creating an action plan.
For those of you who are not aware of what happened, we want to include you in the conversation as well, to foster your understanding of why this is important. Dressing in black face portrays a negative stereotype of black people as a way to mock the physical features, misrepresent the culture and make fun of black people. As such, many people black and non-black, see this practice as a derogatory and offensive action.
In April, I will send out an email to request volunteers for two teams. The first team is the Student Ambassador Team, and the second team is the Faculty and Staff Champion Team. I envision these two teams as helping our campus community to move toward a more diverse and inclusive climate and culture by engaging in several actions.
For example, keeping us informed of perspectives from your various standpoints (faculty, staff and students), making us aware of challenges or potential concerns that come to your attention and helping us to champion and disseminate information about the various efforts we will put in place. Last but certainly not least, you must hold my office accountable to our purpose and vision by providing ongoing feedback and input. I believe strongly that progress requires all of us working together. Thanks for all that you are doing. I look forward to us working together toward our campus priorities and mission.
Dr. Yvette Murphy-Erby
Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion
To read The Arkansas Traveler’s past coverage of the Snapchat, click here.