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Department of Psychology Statement on Racism, Social Justice, and Change

Department of Psychology Statement on Racism, Social Justice, and Change:

The murder of George Floyd and other Black men and women in encounters with police reflects the enduring racism that permeates the daily lives of Black Americans. The Psychology Department condemns racism in all its manifestations, expresses solidarity with protestors who seek meaningful and lasting change, and supports groups, such as Black Lives Matter, that are actively working towards these lasting changes in social and governmental policy.

A question for all of us is what can we do now – as individuals, a department, a university, an academic discipline – to contribute to making Black Lives Matter in reality rather than simply in rhetoric.

So, what can we do as a department in this time of grief and outrage? 

As an initial step, the Psychology Department is forming an Equality and Social Justice Committee (ESJC), led by Geraldine Downey and Valerie Purdie-Greenaway, that has begun generating suggestions for what we can do.  To get the conversation started, here are some initial suggestions:

  • Seek partners to make psychology more integral to the social justice and anti-racism work being done on campus and in the community.
  • Commit to reviewing courses to ensure incorporation of social justice and anti-racism content.
  • Develop and implement a plan to make psychology an attractive major for underrepresented minority undergraduates. For example, what ways do introductory classes need to change? How can we support minority undergraduate involvement in research?
  • Develop and implement a plan to make our department an attractive option for minority graduate students, including considering changes in how funding is provided.
  • Consider what research and research training and recognition would look like if we prioritized as a guiding principle a just society.
  • Recognize work (research, papers, teaching, public engagement) in social justice/anti-racism with awards.
  • Be intentional about colloquium and Monday seminar meetings so that issues of community concern are included.
  • Participate in an interdisciplinary course on Frontiers of Justice. This initiative of students connected with the Center for Justice will focus on contemporary justice issues.
  • Continue our department’s commitment to the Justice-in-Education (JIE) initiative to provide educational opportunities to people in prison and when they come home from prison. 

The steps listed above do not, of course, represent all the ways in which we can and should act.  The conversation about how to enact just and fair social reforms is complex, has been going on for a long time, and we all have much to learn about how we can contribute from the extraordinary work of scholars and activists addressing anti-black racism. There here are many reading lists to draw on and suggestions for action, including bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES.

Towards this end, the Department supports all members of the Psychology Community – undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, alum, staff, faculty – who seek to engage in conversation and discussion about ways that we can act moving forward. 

We look forward to engaging in this discussion with the Psychology community and encourage your input. We will be back in touch about next steps.

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