Please see words written by Chief Diversity Officer, Tiffany G. Townsend, PhD below.
Dear Augusta University Family,
These are certainly unprecedented times and the past several weeks have been challenging for us all! Within the context of a pandemic that has taken countless lives, a disproportionate number of them people of color, we witness the horrifying death of two unarmed black men (Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd), and learn of the unjust killing of an African American woman (Breonna Taylor), all within the span of a few weeks. Each day, I turn on the news, only to be reminded that members of my family and my community face a higher risk of contracting a life threatening illness due to deep-rooted racial inequities in our health care system or could face mortal danger simply because of the color of their skin. I have to confess that my heart is heavy!
But, at 10 a.m. May 30, 2020, I felt a glimmer of hope. As I watched the young scholars graduate from Augusta University, the words of James Cleveland’s classic gospel song came to mind, “I don’t feel no ways tired. [We’ve] come too far from where [we] started from…” This diverse class of graduates reminded me that we are ushering in a new generation that is civic minded and interested in social change. As a community, we need to nurture this desire for civic engagement in our students and stand united in our efforts to ensure equity, justice, and the end to oppression of all kinds. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
While I am emboldened by some of the progress that we have seen, I am mindful of how far we have left to go. Most importantly, our community and our society need to heal! One thing I know for sure is there is healing power in social advocacy. It’s empowering to serve as an agent of change. Knowing that you can make a difference provides purpose.
In our efforts to support this healing through advocacy, AU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) is offering a summer outreach experience for Augusta University students that not only enhances the student’s academic profile, but also nurtures the student’s desire to serve as an agent of change by supporting their efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion throughout our community. More information about this program and instructions for applying will be released within the week. ODI is also working with the Multicultural Student Engagement Center to coordinate a Listening Session at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 4, 2020, via TEAMS. This session will provide an opportunity for our community to support each other, while also providing a safe space for those affected to express their fears, frustrations and concerns. More information concerning the session will be available on the Augusta University calendar.
In closing, I want to extend heartfelt words of comfort to those in our AU community who have been especially affected by the recent events, particularly our students, faculty and staff of color. Know that we stand together.
Tiffany G. Townsend, PhD
Chief Diversity Officer
Office of Diversity and Inclusion