from the desk of Harlan Sands


Suppose 6-year-old Gianna Floyd, perched on her uncle’s shoulders is right – that “Daddy changed the world.” And suppose it happened because we finally did something more than just had another conversation about racism and police brutality and pervasive discrimination.

Imagine if we truly listened and learned, intent on understanding. And then we took what we learned and replaced hate, fear, hostility, or indifference with empathy, compassion, goodwill, opportunity, and change. Real change.

This kind of change starts in our hearts and minds. This kind of change must stir our collective conscience, acknowledge our implicit biases, and address the impact of our country’s troubled history of systemic racism and its contemporary manifestations. This kind of change requires each of us to act.

At CSU, we’ve expressed our collective support for awakening and change over the past week, issuing a personal statement in support of our students and joint statements with our fellow state universities and our Cleveland community. Today, we begin our commitment to go beyond words.

Step 1 – We will take a good, hard look at ourselves to make certain our house is in order. We will start with our own CSU Police Department, ensuring our trained officers serve as a model for others to follow. We will appoint a special task force to immediately review and update as necessary our police procedures regarding use of force and bias-free policing.

Step 2 – We will elevate, expand, and invest in the work of the President’s Diversity Council, which has been working diligently across the university to advance our collective drive for greater diversity and inclusion and break down structural inequities. They will be asked to make recommendations within 60 days to prioritize those actions that will most impact how we conduct ourselves across campus, how we support and promote our diverse faculty and staff and effectively increase their ranks, and how we support and educate our students.

Step 3 – We will recommit to our “Viking Creed” and further integrate it into everything we do – acting with integrity and civility, embracing diversity and inclusion, and respecting individuals’ freedom of opinion and expression. We will build a community where all will speak up when one of us isn’t living up to our own standards.

Step 4 – We will recommit to doing what we do best to change behaviors – win over hearts and minds with our unique brand of “Engaged Learning” - in the classroom, with our employees, in meeting rooms and board rooms, on our playing fields, in residence halls, across our campus and with our alumni. We started today with an online student discussion forum and will offer a Fall 2020 Semester interdisciplinary course on Race, Racial and Social Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, jointly taught by faculty from our Law School and College of Urban Affairs and other Colleges that wish to participate.

Step 5 – Beginning this fall, to advance our impact on health disparities here in Cleveland, we will expand and grow our ground-breaking work to recruit and educate underrepresented minorities for careers in urban medicine as part of a new CSU “Pathway to Practice” program, where undergraduate students of color will receive intensive, focused support on their way to medical school careers in Northeast Ohio.

This is only a beginning. As we move ahead, we will stand firm with our community partners knowing there is strength in numbers and that none of us can do this work alone. We intend to push forward with the strength of commitment and purpose that has always defined us at CSU. We will help our community heal and grow, one word, one action at a time.

Gianna Floyd’s world changed on May 25th. We don’t have the power to change what happened, but we do have the power to change what happens next. We have a responsibility, individually and collectively, to act.

Our future together begins today. Stay tuned.

Harlan M. Sands, J.D., M.B.A.
Cleveland State University

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