Campus News

Tripathi forms advisory council on race


Published June 22, 2020

“As a scholarly community, it is imperative that we explore, understand and respond to racism and systemic inequality. ”
President Satish K. Tripathi

President Satish K. Tripathi has established the President’s Advisory Council on Race to address issues of race and culture at UB, and guide and shape the university’s programs, policies, activities and traditions.

The work of the council, comprised of faculty, staff, students and alumni, will inform how UB can harness its tripartite mission of education, research and engagement to battle racism and dismantle structural barriers to equality.

“We know, as a university community, that we can effect change through the education of our students, our research, our creative work and our clinical care,” Tripathi said in an email to the UB community announcing the formation of the advisory council. “More than ever before, UB should serve as a bastion of hope and a community of action compelled by the greater good.

“As a scholarly community, it is imperative that we explore, understand and respond to racism and systemic inequality,” he said.

Tripathi will sit on the council, as well as Despina Stratigakos, vice provost for inclusive excellence.

Other council members are:

  • Mark Alnutt, director of athletics.
  • Jonathan Anguiano, a senior studying psychology.
  • Raven Baxter-Christian, PhD student in the Graduate School of Education.
  • Luis A. Colón, A. Conger Goodyear Professor, Department of Chemistry.
  • Margarita L. Dubocovich, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and senior associate dean for diversity and Inclusion, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
  • Ellen E. Grant, deputy mayor of the city of Buffalo.
  • Dante Haynes, a junior business major and student-athlete.
  • Dexter Johnson, chief, Structural Dynamics Branch, NASA Glenn Research Center.
  • Ndubueze L. Mbah, associate professor, Department of History.
  • Lee H. Melvin, vice provost for enrollment management.
  • Sharon Mitchell, senior director, Student Wellness, and director, UB Counseling Services.
  • Tolulope F. Odunsi, assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, and lecturer in law, legal analysis, writing and research, School of Law.
  • Raechele L. Pope, associate dean of faculty and student affairs, chief diversity officer and associate professor of educational leadership and policy, Graduate School of Education.
  • Melissa Sloley, a medical student and president of the UB chapter of the Student National Medical Association.

Tripathi also noted in the email that Provost A. Scott Weber will lead efforts on several other initiatives, including:

  • Enhancing research priorities, pedagogies and curriculum to build a deeper understanding of racial disparities and injustice, “so we can actively contribute to solutions.”
  • Developing and implementing more effective ways to recruit, support, professionally advance and retain underrepresented minority faculty — particularly black faculty.
  • Fostering meaningful conversations toward “cultural and structural transformation” through “Let’s Talk about Race,” a series of university-wide lectures, town halls and other events. The series kicked off last Friday with a livestreamed talk by the Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington titled “Real Talk about Race.” More than 700 people, including alumni from 24 states, took part in the event.

“This is a university-wide call to action,” Tripathi said in the email, adding that the work of colleagues in the College of Arts and Sciences and the 11 professional schools, as well as Undergraduate and Graduate Education, Student Life, Athletics, University Police, Human Resources, Information Technology, Research and Economic Development, and others, will complement the efforts of the advisory council “and bring tangible measures to the fore to help realize the ideals of social justice.”

Tripathi said the efforts he has outlined “are not intended to be definitive or exhaustive approaches to the deeply embedded problems of racism and systemic inequality. Rather, they are how and where we begin the work of enacting change.”

In the meantime, individual units at UB have been responding in a variety of ways. Every school and college, as well as units such as the Department of Transnational Studies, the LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association, the Community Health Equity Research Institute and the Academic Health Center, have developed statements supporting the protests and expressing a commitment to speak out against racism, address social injustices and foster a culture of inclusion, diversity, equity and awareness.

Some units have held town hall meetings for their own faculty, staff and students. Others, like the School of Law, have held events that are open to the entire UB community. Still others, including students, medical residents, faculty and administrators of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB and the units in UB’s academic health center, took part in a “White Coats for Black Lives” protest.

More information about upcoming and past events can be found on the Office of Inclusive Excellence’s website.

“By no means do we believe we have all the answers — or that we have asked all the right questions,” Tripathi said. “However, we do believe that we must purposefully, thoughtfully and collectively move toward a just and equitable society for our black students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and neighbors near and far.”