A message from the Department Head and Advisory Committee

The recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor by current and former police officers compel us both to condemn these specific acts as well as recognize and acknowledge the long history of systemic racism and anti-Black violence that perpetuates them. In doing so, we must also acknowledge that systemic racism and anti-Black violence take place in our own community, as the recent tenth anniversary of the shooting of teenager Kiwane Carrington by police painfully reminded us. We recognize that these national and local events can have profound and lasting effects on communities, including our own.

We understand that some members of our community, especially our Black staff, faculty, and students, feel the trauma of this moment especially deeply. We affirm their experiences and we stand with them. We also stand in solidarity with those using their right to free speech and protest to condemn this violence and call for broad systemic change.

As researchers and practitioners of communication, we commit to bringing our expertise to bear on the complex issues raised by the challenges of this moment. Systemic racism and its resulting inequities are implicated in all areas of our field; our focus on the role of communication in shaping human experience and societal structures matters. Despite that fact, the department and the discipline have not always addressed issues of equity, justice, and access the way we should. The recent emergence of protests, community meetings, educational initiatives, policy debates, media narratives, and political activism – especially in the context of a global pandemic that has had a disproportionate impact on African Americans – invites not only our attention, our humility, and our commitment to do better, but also our expertise and disciplinary leadership.

Work in our field has shown that we all have biases in how we view others, and there is a tendency to view people we see as outgroup members less favorably than we do those we see as members of our own group. And we know that systemic racism means that the negative consequences of biases have long-lasting effects over certain groups more than others. Thus, we are committed as a department to working toward reducing such biases and fostering an environment where people can mindfully learn from others not like themselves. Where we fall short, we want to hear from each other, and we pledge to listen deeply, understand, and improve. We want our department to be a place where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued.

Moving forward, we make the following commitments:

 - We will continually ask ourselves what we can be doing individually and as a department to make our teaching, research, and departmental practices align with the above commitments.   

- We will remind ourselves that effective communication must involve active listening. 

- We will commit ourselves to hearing each other’s viewpoints, listening without judgment, and being ready to act to promote a department culture of inclusivity.  

- We will continue and build upon our commitments to inclusive hiring, recruiting, and retention of faculty, staff, and students.

- We will collaborate on ways to further these commitments through our undergraduate and graduate curricula.

- We will persist. These inequities and injustices have persisted for generations and will not be solved by pledges or statements alone. But we can commit to persist in redressing them.