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Solidarity: Statement from Dean Niles

Dear School of Education Community,

The murder of Mr. George Floyd and the past week's events stand as the most recent evidence of the degree to which racism flourishes in the United States.  Indeed, our country has evolved within a racist cocoon of white privilege since its inception.  Today, Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people and three times more likely to die from COVID-19.  People of color are also less likely to have access to quality healthcare and, therefore, more likely to die from preventable diseases.  African Americans are also imprisoned at more than five times the rate of whites.  Racial segregation in public education has been illegal for 65 years, but public schools remain largely separate and unequal with significant consequences for students of color. 

These inequities tragically diminish our country, commonwealth, universities, and schools.  We are all less than what we could be because systemic racism works to limit some people from being all they can be.  And no group becomes greater by treating any other group as if they are less than. 

As Dr. King noted, there is a "fierce urgency of now" that requires us to triple down on our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  As educators preparing the next generation of teachers, leaders, counselors, and school psychologists, and those in training to perform these roles, this task must be front and center in the work we do-  and we have much work to do.  The signs are clear, and in a period of history in which we are intent on bending the curve, we remember that the "arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." It bends as we each commit to liberty, justice, and opportunity for all through our actions.  Dr. Ibram Kendi reminds us there is no middle ground; either we are actively combating racism or are passively enabling it. 

My hope for our School is that we adopt an antiracist pedagogy and that everyday patterns of antiracist behavior become routinized in all that we do.  Taking this perspective requires us to honor the humanity in each of us.  To be vulnerable enough to admit that no one has all the answers and that we are all part of the collective whole where the best of what we can be resides.  That we embrace the fact that our most effective solutions to our greatest challenges require each of us to be empowered to contribute. That we work tirelessly to confront racism in ourselves and to address it in our institutions. 

As a white male with unearned privilege, I say to my colleagues of color that I realize that there are no words that can adequately condemn the racist behaviors of those of us in privileged positions across our society.  I commit to you that I will triple down on my commitment to be antiracist.  Your lives matter.  Your contributions matter. Thank you for being an essential part of our community.

This week, we will gather virtually to speak strongly for racial justice and to offer an opportunity for discussion regarding the urgency for our school to take an antiracist stance in our work. I hope you will join us.  Please look for the announcement of this event on the School of Education website in the next day.

In solidarity,

Spencer Niles
Dean and Professor

Update on virtual event:

Courageous Conversation: June 2, 2020 at 6:00 p.m.
Join fellow School of Education students in a safe space to discuss how we move forward as scholars and educators in the current climate. We'll focus on support resources for students of color, the role of allyship, and actionable steps we can all take to support one another and create an inclusive culture characterized by equity and open dialogue. 

Dr. Natoya Haskins, Dr. Janise Parker, Dr. Leandra Parris, Dr. Katherine Barko-Alva, and Dr. Kim Lee Hughes, president-elect of the Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development, will facilitate this courageous conversation. We hope you will join us on Thursday, June 4th, 2020 at 6:00 p.m.

Register now

*Important: Register with your W&M email address.