The Time for Change Can Wait No Longer

Dear University of Phoenix Community,

Like many of you, I have been trying to process the emotions I have felt over the senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This tragedy follows the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged through his South Georgia neighborhood, and after Christian Cooper was threatened and falsely accused while bird watching in New York City’s Central Park. These incidents are but three of many that have played out daily in a country too long divided by fear and hatred.

While incidents of discrimination occur too frequently based on gender, sexual orientation and other differences, the degree of prejudice shown to the Black community is often the most pronounced. Racism and violence are unequivocally wrong. Witnessing the outrage across our nation, it is clear that we must take action, and that action must be intentional steps toward unity. I believe peaceful protests bring about critical awareness by forcing social discourse that is often necessary to effect real change.

Unification starts with listening, communicating and understanding. We can begin with an open and transparent dialog. This is critical if we are going to make any progress.

That dialog can start with a goal of better understanding how we each experience the world differently from each other. As a university, we will pursue these actions and, from these, learn of other ways we can effect change and play a role in moving toward greater unity:

  • For university faculty and staff, the new Inclusive Café will launch a week from today on Wednesday, June 10, as a virtual meeting space to connect and build community; it will be a place to draw on the diverse perspectives of participants to explore powerful and effective responses as we face this new reality together.

  • For our students and alumni, this summer we will offer a series of listening sessions facilitated by our Office of Educational Equity, where we will encourage and support conversations that foster understanding and greater awareness with an eye toward action. Watch email and social media for announcements of those dates and times.
  • Our Office of Educational Equity has also created a Diversity webinar series. The first webinar is scheduled for Thursday, June 25, 2020 at 11 a.m. PDT. Registration details will be forthcoming soon via email and social media. This series will provide a forum for conversation about cultural understanding and empathy, unconscious bias, and strategies for dealing constructively with historical trauma.
  • Additionally our Provost’s Office, which regularly reviews and updates all of our programs, will look at all aspects of our curriculum to see how our existing offerings can be augmented to further include topics related to race, bias and reform, and extend these offerings to students and organizations interested in training.

This is just a start. Over the days and weeks to come, we will learn from our upcoming listening sessions and consider other changes that could foster a more sensitive environment within our university and our local communities.

We must work together to take the necessary steps to hear and support each other. We must commit to being part of long-term solutions. The time for change can wait no longer.

Sincerely,

Peter Cohen
President