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Nearly 90 black faculty and staff from USF sign letter to University President

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Posted at 4:09 PM, Jun 11, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. — Nearly 90 black faculty and staff from the University of South Florida signed a letter to the university’s President asking for change amid calls for racial equality.

The letter outlines a number of steps employees think the university can take, from increasing diversity at administrative and teaching levels to reviewing university police policies and procedures.

“I think every institution needs to reevaluate,” said USF Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Maya Trotz. “There are probably some things that we do better than others. I can say in terms of in my faculty right now, there are three black faculty members, which is great.”

The letter to USF President Steven Curall comes in the wake of George Floyd’s death more than two weeks ago.

Among the recommendations from 88 black faculty and staff from USF include mandatory multicultural competence and sensitivity training for administrators in leadership positions, expanding funding for African and Latin American studies, and evaluating salary disparities.

“We also wanted closer attention to be paid to the retention and recruitment both of black students, but also of black faculty members,” said Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, USF Associate Professor of Sociology. “We wanted there to be a call to action about racial accountability in every department. So rather than looking at individual incidents, we really wanted to recommend that the university propose and enforce a type of racial accountability plan.”

Hordge-Freeman started conversations about creating the letter and helped circulate the idea among other staff. She says if universities are successful in incorporating policies and procedures to undermine systemic racism, everyone benefits.

“What I’m seeing is this kind of ground-swelling of interest in not only talking about systemic racism, but thinking about concrete action and really putting the effort into working towards that and making that an institutional goal at USF,” said Hordge-Freeman.

USF President Currall and Haywood Brown, the USF Vice President of Institutional Equity, co-authored a message released this week. In the message, they highlighted the school's continued efforts to promote inclusion and opportunity, such as with programs like Student Support Services and the USF Black Leadership Network.

The pair also noted what more the university will do to "redouble our efforts," such as looking at pay equity, ensuring black-owned businesses participate as vendors to the university, and considering “innovative avenues to enhance faculty and management diversity in recruitment, development, retention and rewards.”

“Hopefully there can be some consensus and that we actually start to ask questions, okay if we’re going to do diversity, inclusivity, more training, then what’s the budget on that? And what does it look like,” said Trotz.

For a link to the university’s full message, click here.