Response to letter: Conversations about inequity need to continue

I’m grateful for this opportunity to respond (to a letter from Michael Vanyukov), and I find it encouraging that — as evidenced by this letter — conversations about inequity and unequal opportunity are continuing on college campuses, including our own. As with all deeply rooted social issues, individual viewpoints and experiences vary.

I respectfully disagree with the reference to systemic racism as a baseless statement — and one that seems more pop culture driven than data driven. I would offer the American juvenile justice system as an example among a number of others.

Researchers have illuminated the desperate experiences of youth of color when compared to their white peers. At nearly every stage of the juvenile justice system — whether it is delinquency referrals, formal petitions, pretrial detention placements, or residential placement commitments — youth of color experience what can only be classified as harsher penalties. This unfortunate divide exists despite youth of color and white youth generally offending at similar rates.

One thing that I think we can agree on is the great work of scholars here at the University of Pittsburgh. They are joining others throughout the world in identifying disparities of opportunity and exploring the root responsible causes. I invite you to review some of this work and consider how we can continue the efforts to rebuild systems that are more equitable for all. This is no doubt a monumental task that will take the efforts of many.

Step one in this work, of course, is recognizing that some of the current systems are flawed — even if you can’t see their cracks. And even if they still work in your favor. 

Clyde Wilson Pickett
Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion