To the USF St. Petersburg campus community,
Like so many others across the country, my heart was burdened by the death of George Floyd in Minnesota this summer as the most recent example of how what we value on our campus is not reflected within important segments of our society. As a campus absolutely committed to diversity and inclusion, and where we create physical and psychologically safe places for all people, we have an obligation to uphold that commitment and live those values.
To that end, I convened a Campus/Community Task Force in July 2020 to explore how we could connect with other educational and community organizations to cooperatively address racial inequalities that exist in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.
The task force was coordinated by Caryn Nesmith, Special Assistant to the Regional Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives. Members who agreed to serve come from the USF St. Petersburg campus, from educational, governmental, non-profit and business organizations within the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County. They were asked to work together to link university efforts with anti-racism efforts already underway in the city and county. Since then, members met monthly to identify existing racial equity gaps and to identify opportunities and initiatives that could be pursued collaboratively.
Task force members established these objectives:
- Increase representation of people of color at the USF St. Petersburg campus among staff, faculty, students, and business suppliers
- Increase accessibility to higher education for students of color
- Strengthen USF St. Petersburg’s campus engagement with the community around diversity, inclusion, and equity practices
- Create a program(s) or initiative(s) that will have a lasting, positive impact on the campus and community
After working through the fall semester of 2020, members endorsed the following specific initiatives to launch in 2021:
- A set of recommendations designed to increase enrollment of underrepresented students at the USF St. Petersburg campus
- Creating a St. Petersburg Higher Education Consortium for Racial Justice
- Increased collaboration between USF St. Petersburg campus and the city of St. Petersburg’s Department of Urban Affairs, particularly through the My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper program.
Members will continue to explore additional initiatives to meet its objectives as they move forward. Additional information will be coming about the three above initiatives.
As Regional Chancellor, I am very excited to work alongside others to create a campus community, city and county that eliminates racial inequalities, becomes a model for educating the community around issues of social justice and social action, and ensures that all USF St. Petersburg campus faculty, staff and students understand, appreciate, and live the ideals of an inclusive community. I appreciate the outstanding work of task force members and their priorities that align with USF St. Petersburg campus priorities.
Regional Chancellor, USF St. Petersburg campus