We kicked off our annual celebration of Black History Month February 1 with several virtual and in-person events hosted by departments and student organizations from across campus. The variety of programing honors Black history and cultural contributions. It also provides us with a space for meaningful reflection.
I hope you have had the opportunity to participate in some of the events this month. If not, we have another week for celebration, including a virtual film screening of Sankofa and our monthly College Conversations series, which is part of the annual Celebration of Black Excellence event February 25.
This month also marks the start of celebrating 50+ years of Africana Studies at UT. Initially called the Afro-American Studies Program, the program was born of the 1960s student protest movement to enhance educational curricula. During the 1990s, the program gained its first tenure-track faculty member and joint hire in the Department of History – Professor Cynthia Fleming. Today, faculty from multiple departments in the college provide their expertise in interdisciplinary studies and research to the program. Learn more about its history and roots at UT.
I want to acknowledge the turmoil we had earlier this month when a professor in one of our classes was accused of using an inappropriate acronym. I do not want to rehash the incident here, but if you want more information, you can read the update online and take part in ongoing dialogue to advance the equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives on campus, including inclusive teaching practices.
I know it seems like we just started the spring semester, but it is time to start thinking about fall. With the dissemination of the coronavirus vaccine, we expect/hope to be back in person by the fall semester. As we have seen with this pandemic, however, we cannot be certain of anything, so please think about the modality you want for the fall semester. If you prefer to be in-person – plan for it. We will allow for changes from in-person to hybrid or virtual should the pandemic not be receding into the past as expected, but it will be much harder to change from virtual to in-person or hybrid than the other way around due to classroom availability.
Finally, just a quick reminder that the annual review process for staff is underway. This year, part of the performance review process will be a discussion of diversity, equity, and inclusion goal setting for the upcoming year. We posted several resources available to help staff set and meet goals to increase accountability for creating inclusive workspaces. Learn more about the 2020 annual review process and available resources at hr.utk.edu.
Thank you for all you do for the college and our Volunteer community. Take care of yourself, wash your hands, wear a mask, and Go Vols!
Theresa M. Lee
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences