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Sent by email on June 19, 2020

SHRS Faculty, Staff and Students:

Over the past several weeks, our nation has tragically witnessed history repeat itself. The string of recent events explicitly and publicly showing violent acts of racism and blatant disregard for the lives of Black men and women is sadly nothing new in America. The murders of George Floyd, Ahmad Aubery, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks (who was shot and killed in Atlanta just one week ago today) are some of the few heinous crimes committed against African Americans not only during this decade but since the colonization of our country.

NOW is the time for action at SHRS. We have reached the point where we must overcome barriers and ongoing challenges to combat inequality in both higher education and health care. We are pleased to announce that SHRS has adopted a Framework for School-Wide Action Addressing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The school-wide plan:

  • outlines steps to create an action-forward organizational structure including a steering committee, advisory council and working groups
  • provides a preliminary list of barriers and challenges that must be expanded and addressed further
  • sets processes to establish meaningful and measurable goals
  • highlights potential action items and next steps to realize timely and on-going solutions

The plan calls for far-reaching participation from our faculty, staff and students as well as alumni and community members. As the school-wide plan takes shape, programs and departments will be encouraged to support and supplement SHRS’ plan with their own initiatives and actions. In this way, we all will be positioned to respond in a singular voice with a clear, strong message.

Making our announcement to you today holds great significance. Many of us may not be aware that it was more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that all slaves in America were informed of their freedom. On this day in 1865, enslaved Black men, women and children in Texas finally received official word regarding their independence. Today, 155 years later, June 19 is commemorated and known as “Juneteenth.” Not yet a national day of remembrance, in Pennsylvania the holiday is officially recognized as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day.”

Just as recent and ongoing protests appear to be driving conversations about ideas for real and meaningful change in America, we also need to start recognizing and relating to the true and significant markers of our history. Only then will these changes become permanent staples of our daily lives. Juneteenth marks an end to more than 240 years of Black slavery in America. While all of us should take time to celebrate this day, we should also consider what still must be done to eradicate racism in our country, our city and our immediate surroundings.

Anthony Delitto, Dean
Professor and Dean, SHRS
4029 Forbes Tower
Pittsburgh, PA  15260