By SUSAN JONES
Danny Lopez used his last meeting with the Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Advocacy committee to give an impassioned plea for Pitt to move ahead now with changes to the University’s nondiscrimination policy that would add protections because of ethnicity.
Lopez, a postdoctoral associate in the Graduate School of Public Health who received his Ph.D. from the Pitt School of Social Work in 2019, said he was “beyond frustrated” that Pitt has not added ethnicity to the nondiscrimination policy, even though he’s been fighting for it for years. This particularly leaves people who are LatinX vulnerable to discrimination with very little recourse, said Lopez, who is Latino and is the Pitt Postdoctoral Association representative on the committee.
He cited several instances where he experienced discrimination on campus, including being called “brown boy” by an administrator and having a security guard call the police when he and two Black students entered a lounge to study.
“I’ve been here for six years. I started with no protection for me and I’m leaving again with absolutely no protection under the discrimination policy,” said Lopez, who will start as an assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Social Work in July. “This is something that needs to be addressed, and I feel it’s been minimized; I feel it’s been swept under the rug; I feel it’s not been prioritized.”
The nondiscrimination policy was making its way through shared governance in late 2019 and early 2020 when objections were raised by Faculty Assembly and some Senate committees about the call for mandatory reporting of suspected harassing or discriminatory speech. The policy was sent back to a revision committee to work out changes, but in the meantime it has languished because of the pandemic and other delays.
Ally Bove, co-chair of the EIADAC committee, also sits on the nondiscrimination policy revision committee. She said the revised policy under consideration currently says, “Discrimination against a protected class, race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, genetic information, disability or status of a veteran is prohibited.”
Bove said Lopez’s comments highlight “what the delay in getting these policy revisions through is actually doing. … The 2003 policy stands until these revisions go into effect. And even though the revisions do include language that would rectify that, this process has gone on for a really long time and in the meantime, it’s obviously having real consequences.”
The revision committee’s goal is to have the policy ready by the end of June and then have Faculty Assembly take it up at its first meeting in the fall, Bove said. No one on the revision committee objected to the protected classes that are included in the policy, she said.
“In hindsight, the correct thing would have been to literally just change the first paragraph of the 2003 policy as an interim while all of the other procedural type things were worked out,” Bove said. She planned to suggest to the policy committee that the protected class language be changed as an interim policy, “and then continue to work on the other things that we’re currently working on.”
Members of the committee also announced several upcoming events related to diversity and inclusion.
Two of the events will mark Juneteenth, the day that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States.
The History Of Emancipation Celebrations, noon-1:30 p.m. June 15. A panel of historians and archivists discuss the history of Juneteenth and the different emancipation celebrations across the country and in Pittsburgh. Register here for the online event.
From Swing Low To Strange Fruit: The Sounds Of Liberation, noon-1 p.m. June 18. A narrated selection of performances will reflect the liberating spirit of Juneteenth and the music of African-American culture. Featured acts will include gospel choirs, soloists, and hip-hop artists. Register here for the online event.
Other diversity-related events:
Race, Faith, and Health: Generations of Activism, noon, May 26: The event is in recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month, and is sponsored by the Office of Health Sciences Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Register here for online event.
Eddie S. Glaude Jr. on “For Such a Time as This: Acknowledging and Leveraging African American Resilience, Fortitude, and Vibrancy for Local and National Change,” noon, June 2: Join the African American Strategic Partnership and the Pitt Center on Race and Social Problems for a keynote address and award ceremony focused on African-American leadership and resilience. The keynote address by Glaude, chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton, will start at noon and be followed by annual award presentations from AASP and CRSP.
CUESEF 2021: Forging Futures Through Black Educational Histories, June 16-19: This annual event sponsored by the Center for Urban Education and the Heinz Endowments will focus this year on Black education traditions. Participants will engage dynamic historian dialogues, study groups, and webinars to foster thinking about the reparative practices and systems that rectify ongoing educational injustice and inequity and build futures. Register here for the online event.
Pitt Pride Month LGBTQIA+ Creative Gallery: To help celebrate Pride, the Center for Creativity and Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion are hosting a virtual Pride Gallery. Any faculty, staff, student, alumni, or Pittsburgh community member can submit works by June 18. They will be shared on the C4C social media or you can share your work by using the hashtag #PrideatPitt21 on Instagram. Find details here.
Diversity Forum 2021 — Dismantling Oppressive Systems: Building Just Communities, July 26-29: This year’s forum will address manifestations of the different forms of systemic oppression on individual, group, and institutional levels, and detail policies and practices to advance the well-being of individuals and groups who continue to experience oppression based on such factors as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, socio-economic status, and religious beliefs. Find more information here.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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