We, in the Cato College of Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte), stand united in our opposition to the systemic racism and injustice that permeates society. Recognizing our role in preparing teachers, school leaders, counselors, higher education administrators and faculty, educational researchers, and learning technologists who will shape the thoughts and beliefs of future generations, we have a responsibility to disrupt systemic racism and all forms of social injustice. In line with our mission to be a national leader in educational equity, we have already taken steps in this pursuit. We have, for example, re-designed programs to better prepare professional educators to work in professional and personal settings, sought and received grant funding to recruit a more diverse pool of teacher candidates, school leaders, and counselors, developed anti-racism curricula, and appointed a new Director of Diversity and Inclusion. While these actions represent steps in the right direction, the consciousness raised by recent events have made it abundantly clear that we continue to have a lot of work ahead of us.
To guide and inform our path toward the disruption of systemic racism and injustice, we must first better understand how we arrived at this point, and what we can do to leverage our own privileges to dismantle it. The vast majority of the Charlotte region, including the Cato College of Education, stands on Catawba, Waxhaw, Cheraw, and Sugeree land as an outcome of chattel slavery and genocide, is an example of systemic racism. We seek to more deeply understand our positioning in structural anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, and white-supremacy as a starting point for any systemic or individual change. We as educators must better educate ourselves. To support this reflection and growth, we commit to earmarking funds to offer continued professional development opportunities for faculty and staff (i.e., workshops, book talks, coursework, guest speakers) and promoting greater participation among all faculty and staff in the Cato College of Education. We also commit to compensating faculty who lead this work and provide them with the resources necessary to do so.
We commit to preparing our future teachers, school leaders, counselors, higher education administrators and faculty, educational researchers, and learning technologists to center the needs of historically excluded students (Black, Brown, LGBTQ+, disabled, undocumented, English Learners, people at all intersections), which means we are meeting the needs of all students, and not just those who look like them or live in the same neighborhoods in which they were raised. We are committed to preparing our students for their professions by giving them tools they need to interrupt racism, leverage their own privileges, and navigate challenging and necessary race conversations. In this pursuit, we commit to examine our program curricula for racial bias, promote discourse on systemic racism and injustice, and implement culturally sustaining pedagogies that challenge systems of oppression that pervade our country, including our educational systems. We also commit to ensure our future teachers, school leaders, counselors, higher education administrators and faculty, educational researchers, and learning technologists are given multiple opportunities to work with and support diverse populations during clinical experiences and internships.
While re-designing curricula and program experiences are critical steps in achieving our mission of educational equity, we also recognize that it is still not enough. The focus on equity and justice that we commit to infusing into our curriculum must also be visible in the future educators we prepare. We need more teachers, school leaders, counselors, higher education administrators and faculty, educational researchers, and learning technologists of color. With this fact in mind, we commit to recruiting and retaining a more diverse student body and ensuring that the process is free from bias by policy and practice. We commit to analyzing patterns in application and admission data to determine who is and who is not getting into our programs and asking why. Seeking external funds to support access for diverse candidates and focusing the efforts of our Education Recruiter on the recruitment of such candidates will be a top priority. Likewise, we must ensure that the diversity we see in P-12 classrooms, and hope to see in our aspiring teachers, school leaders, counselors, higher education administrators and faculty, educational researchers, and learning technologists, is also reflected among our faculty and staff. We commit to recruit, support, and retain a more racially diverse group of faculty and staff in the Cato College of Education at UNC Charlotte. We will focus on: 1) investigating related best practices of successful institutions around the country, 2) following hiring and recruiting processes as outlined by our Faculty Affairs and Diversity Office, and 3) providing mentorship for faculty, staff and students of color. We will hold ourselves accountable by developing an annual report of our progress.
In our commitment to dismantle systemic racism and all forms of social injustice, we are uniquely situated as North Carolina’s only designated urban research institution. In alignment with this important designation, we commit to encourage and support research that embraces multiple ways of thinking and operating to inform our understanding of race, racism, and education particularly in diverse urban environments. Equally important, we commit to disseminating this knowledge broadly to increase its impact on disrupting racism beyond UNC Charlotte.
Lastly, we must also recognize that we cannot do this important work alone. To dismantle systemic racism and all forms of social injustice, we must all come together in our efforts and hold each other accountable. We in the Cato College of Education commit to partner with schools and community support agencies to pursue initiatives that align with our mission of educational equity, and commit to pursue external funding opportunities to help implement related initiatives.
Undaunted by the work that lies ahead, we are energized by the great potential for societal change. We commit to coming together with our partners to dismantle racism not only because it aligns with our mission, but because it is quite simply the right thing to do and what we believe. We invite you to join us in our work to end racism.
Statement on the Derek Chauvin Verdict
The death of George Floyd was a national tragedy and necessitated reflection on injustices suffered all too often by people of color. In the recently concluded trial of Derek Chauvin who was criminally charged with the death of Mr. Floyd, twelve jurors found the former police officer guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. This moment evokes feelings of accountability served and a collective exhalation for so many. Yet, it remains a rare example of an individual in a position of power being held accountable for racial violence.
It is difficult to find the words to describe the impact this event and other violent interactions between police and citizens of color over recent years has had and will have. We know the Cato College of Education has a critical role to play in creating a world where these instances no longer occur.
A strong educational system that values and affirms all people helps create a society in which we look at each other with fairness and an earnest desire to disrupt oppression when we see it. There are deep-rooted challenges that remain, and our college is committed to doing its part in creating the conditions that lead us toward a better and inclusive future.
You can find Chancellor Gaber’s message of support here. In this message, she mentions several opportunities to engage in dialogue for faculty, staff, and students.
Should you or your students need resources please explore those below: