From the Senior Vice President
and Senior Vice Chancellor

July 20, 2020

More than eight weeks have passed since the death of George Floyd, and that tragedy continues to fuel a movement across the country, and even across the globe, to address systemic racism and make meaningful changes for equity and justice in our world. In early June, we committed to taking several actions, and we're pleased to provide you with this update.

Our overall commitment is to a unified, integrated approach to enhancing diversity and inclusion throughout the Institute. A new UTIA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council is being formed that will include representation from all departments and units. This standing council will have rotating membership that ensures all aspects of our education, research, and outreach programs meet the ever-evolving needs of all employees, students, and stakeholders. It will operate with an annual budget to support its work, and its members will be expected to establish specific, measurable metrics and outcomes that represent positive progress for our diversity and inclusion efforts. Regular communication to all members of the Institute will be provided, and the council will be expected to provide quarterly updates to the UTIA Executive Committee, which in turn will be expected to support and promote the council's work. The council guidelines are available at the UTIA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion webpage.

We also have made a commitment to create a new full-time position for a director of diversity, equity and inclusion. This position will provide leadership for the new council and will be responsible for leading the implementation of action plans and programs envisioned by that group, while working with other appropriate faculty, staff, and students. Funding for the position will be provided by the Herbert College of Agriculture, UT AgResearch, and UT Extension, as well as the UT Knoxville Office of Diversity and Engagement. A position description is being drafted and the search committee formed, with a goal of filling this position by fall 2020. Diversity programs and initiatives in the College of Veterinary Medicine will continue to be led by Michael Jones.

In addition to taking these two actions, our departments and units are also engaged in individual efforts. For example, UT Extension is continuing its new program for faculty and staff, Coming Together for Racial Unity, and the College of Veterinary Medicine has been engaging faculty, staff, and students in a dialogue called Continuing the Conversation – the Open Space Forum on Justice and Equity.

The information we are sharing today is not the end of our actions to support diversity, equity, and inclusion, but rather the beginning. We believe appointing a council and hiring a full-time director are only the first steps of many that the Institute must commit to in order to be sure all are welcomed and served. We ask for your support and your engagement as we begin this journey. Please consider how you can contribute your voice, your talents, and your experiences to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion within UTIA. Let's build upon our culture of treating one another as family, and let's make sure each and every member of our family is valued and appreciated by all.

Tim Cross
Senior Vice President and Senior Vice Chancellor

Caula Beyl
Dean, UT Herbert College of Agriculture

Scott Senseman
Interim Dean, UT Extension

Jim Thompson
Dean, UT College of Veterinary Medicine

Hongwei Xin
Dean, UT AgResearch

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University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
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