University Alumni Association hosts anti-racism webinar Tuesday, Sep 22 2020 

By Victoria Doll —

The University of Louisville Alumni Association recently hosted an event in response to widespread racial unrest titled “Anti-Racism, Justice and Safety: Compatible or Conflicting Concepts?”

The event was moderated by College of Arts and Sciences Dean David Owens, and included Cherie Dawson-Edwards, associate dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Aishia Brown, assistant professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences; and Keturah Herron, a policy strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.

The conversation began as Owens asked how to reshape our community to make it safer and more humane for all.

Brown advised people to study history. She encouraged people to examine how polices already in place could be racist or have outcomes that have harmed the black and brown community.

Dawson-Edwards said her goal in educating people about anti-racism is to engage in deeper conversations about race despite the discomfort it sometimes brings.

The conversation around racism played into the discussion of the settlement between the city of Louisville and Breonna Taylor’s family. The settlement, which included $12 million paid to the Taylor family, included building community relations between the LMPD and the communities they police.

Herron, who was instrumental in the passing of Breonna’s Law, was excited and hopeful about this part of the settlement but remains hesitant and skeptical about how the policies are going to be implemented.

“It’s imperative that we take community engagement seriously,” Brown said, adding that there needs to be a way to hold people accountable. She said there needs to be guidelines to begin engagement between black citizens and police.

The panelists all agreed that there needs to be emphasis on the idea that the Breonna Taylor case is a race issue, not just an accident.

“To say her death isn’t about race is wrong. The aftermath has been about race. There needs to be awareness around the fact that Black women are treated differently by the state and in society,” Herron said.

The webinar ended with a conversation about how white people can be allies and promote accountability. Dawson-Edwards said that people need to learn from their missteps.

“Trust black women. Don’t try to explain it away. Listen, it will be uncomfortable, but you have to listen,” she said. “Own what you did, tell us how you aren’t going to do that again, don’t do it again, get in line and let’s move on.”

At the end of the event, the panelists encouraged people to educate themselves on instances of police brutality in America and to listen to the people of color in their communities.

“Acknowledge that there has been change, but we still need to push for more. This same thing can happen again if something is not done,” Dawson-Edwards said.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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Interim A&S Dean appoints Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Wednesday, Aug 19 2020 

By Madelin Shelton —

Cherie Dawson-Edwards has been named as the new Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. David Owen, interim dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, made the announcement of Dawson-Edwards’ appointment in an email Aug. 8.

“Dr. Dawson-Edwards brings to the role a deep commitment to belonging, equity, and social justice, along with considerable administrative experience, and a track record of engagement with our local community,” Owen said of the new appointee.

Dawson-Edwards’ prior experience includes being the acting director of the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research at U of L, working with Jefferson County Public School district to conduct professional development training, and consulting others on restorative justice practices.

She has served as the chair of the Department of Criminal Justice since 2018, directs the Social Change program and serves on the national board of the ACLU.

Owen said Dawson-Edwards is an “accomplished scholar,” with four published book chapters, 13 peer-reviewed journal articles and an assortment of other publications. Over the span of her career, she has received over $500,000 in grants.

Dawson-Edwards’ appointment to this position comes at a historical moment at U of L, the city of Louisville and the country. With a global movement calling for racial justice taking place, in part sparked by Louisville’s own tragic loss of Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, discussions of diversity, equity and inclusion are increasingly prevalent.

In response to concerns about structural racism, U of L President Neeli Bendapudi recently committed to making U of L the nation’s premier anti-racist metropolitan research university.

Speaking on Dr. Dawson-Edwards’ ability to lead at such a critical time, Owen said, “Dr. Dawson-Edwards brings the wisdom, compassion, expertise, and experience to lead us as we all work towards becoming a community where all feel they belong.”

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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President Bendapudi’s anti-racist agenda to reshape U of L Tuesday, Aug 18 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi announced U of L’s anti-racist agenda on July 28. The agenda is a part of U of L’s plans to establish itself as a premier anti-racist metropolitan research university.

“We serve a more racially and socio-economically diverse student population than most research universities in the country, and we have a unique, abiding and pervasive relationship with the City of Louisville,” Bendapudi said in an email to the university community.

“But we must do more. In higher education, we have the great good fortune to be able to aspire to the highest ideals of society. In our exploration and growth, I believe universities can be models for the communities in which they exist.”

Bendapudi went on to discuss what the U of L administration has done in the past to promote anti-racism and diversity, what they are currently doing and what can be done in the future.

Bendapudi summarized the university’s past by pointing out that U of L integrated in 1951, making it one of the first universities in Kentucky to do so. U of L was also one of the first universities in the country to create a Pan-African Studies program, which was started in 1973.

She then continued by discussing the current initiatives in place that promote anti-racism and emphasize diversity.

“For instance, half or more of all new faculty hires in the last year in the College of Business, the College of Education and Human Development and the Brandeis School of Law were people of color,” Bendapudi said. “This intentionality on the part of these unit leaders and their teams demonstrate a commitment to anti-racist action in our hiring.”

She also pointed to the on-going construction of the new Cultural and Equity center and a recent study that listed U of L as one of the three most selective universities in the country that provide equal access for Black and Latinx students.

Bendapudi went on to address the new initiatives U of L would be taking on to remain committed to anti-racism.

“Throughout the past seven weeks, I have been fortunate to have engaged in countless conversations with leaders, activists and friends throughout our Louisville Black community and across the nation,” she said.  “From those conversations, it is evident there is an array of perspectives on what must be done to achieve racial equity and there is no quick solution.”

She then discussed the Anti-Racist Agenda, which has it’s own webpage on U of L’s website. The website includes articles about the commitment U of L is taking anti-racism and articles about the current things the university is doing to make progress.

Bendapudi then invited U of L community members to visit the website and share their thoughts on new steps the university can take going forward.

Some students, however, think that U of L has a lot of work to do before they can claim to be an anti-racist university.

David Echeverria is a junior at U of L, an MLK scholar and the former president of the Latino Student Union. Echeverria urges the university to take actions that aren’t just performative.

“We are past the time for panels and discussions, it is time for action from the university,” Echeverria said.  “The responses from the University throughout the summer have been very disappointing and upsetting.”

Echeverria believes that there are several anti-racist actions U of L has to commit to in order to be an anti-racist university. These actions include cutting ties with the Louisville Metro Police Department, giving students of color a platform outside of SGA, prioritizing retention of students, faculty and staff of color and moving towards being precautionary towards racial issues rather than reactionary.

“If the university aims to be an Anti-Racist university, and actually perform as one rather than just acquiring another accolade to recruit ‘diverse students’, then there is a lot of work to be done,” Echeverria said.

“And that work should not be labor put on Black and Brown students, and if their input and work is needed then they should be compensated for the skilled labor, as it is clear those in administration at the university do not have the skills that are needed to move the university towards that goal.”

Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences David Owen also responded to Bendapudi’s announcement. He responded with excitement and said that anti-racism has always been his focus.

“My vision for A&S is one of a community grounded on discovering and sharing knowledge and understandings, where all feel at home and recognized as equals,” Owen said.

“A&S can only enact this vision if we address the systemic problems of justice and equity that are embedded in individual practices and institutional structures. Thus, a primary strategy for achieving this vision is to strive together to build the nation’s premier anti-racist university.”

Owen went on to detail how A&S has the advantage of being able to pull from their numerous diverse academic programs as they proceed with the anti-racist agenda.

Owen said that A&S planned to complete their search for Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within the next few weeks. He also said that he has asked members of A&S leadership to come up with one or two changes that can be made within their department, program or area to promote anti-racism. Owen has also proposed an anti-racist curriculum requirement that will be developed by a committee in the coming weeks.

“Additional areas of work may be identified as we engage our students, faculty, and staff in the university conversation about what the Cardinal Anti-Racism Agenda should mean in practice,” Owen said.

“To that end, please help us build a robust plan of action by visiting the Cardinal Anti-Racism Agenda website and providing your input on historic UofL initiatives that provide an anti-racist foundation upon which we can build; current and ongoing initiatives that represent steps U of L is taking to achieve our anti-racism goal; and ideas for new initiatives that foster equity and celebrate diversity. ”

File Photo//The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L in the midst of a hiring freeze during COVID-19 crisis Friday, Mar 20 2020 

By Matthew Keck —

Amid all of the craziness surrounding the COVID-19 virus, the University of Louisville has placed a faculty hiring freeze in place.

U of L spokesman John Karman confirmed this. “All hiring is paused except for special circumstances,” he said.

This hiring freeze was set in place for two reasons: The economic impact felt from the COVID-19 crisis and U of L is expecting enrollment in the fall to go down. Arts & Sciences Dean David Owen said that they will be preparing and planning for the consequences of both possibilities.

Any prospect where letters of offer have been sent will not be affected by this freeze. The freeze applies to term lines, including new ones, along with on-going lines that are being vacated or filled.

In addition, all hiring of staff will be suspended immediately and is subject to the review of Dean Owen. “I know that we are already running below necessary staffing levels, but I will have to balance the desperate need for adequate staffing with the increasingly dire budget forecasts,” he said in an email.

There is no set timeline for how long this hiring freeze will be in place.

“How long this is in effect depends on how long the pandemic affects us and what the budgetary impact ends up being,” said Dean Owen.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal 

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U of L issues no-contact order to student Monday, Feb 17 2020 

By Maggie Vancampen — 

The University of Louisville issued a no-contact order to the student who passed out anti-LGBTQ+ literature in a classroom Jan. 28.

U of L spokesperson John Karman said it was issued Feb. 13.

The no-contact order prohibits a person from having communication with another person.

Ricky Jones, head of the Pan-African Studies department, posted on Facebook that the student is not allowed to talk to the professor or students, and is not allowed near the classroom.

To further address the controversy, University Provost Beth Boehm said she is gathering a committee to review the current Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, the U of L Code of Conduct and other free speech policies with the Kentucky Campus Free Speech Act of 2019.

She wants a mix of students, faculty and staff on this committee.

Professor Kaila Story, who teaches the Intro to LGBTQ Studies class, is glad this is over and can’t wait to get back to teaching. The U of L community expressed their dislike of the way the university initially handled the situation.

Boehm is planning a forum dedicated to exploring how to balance everyone’s right to free speech.

“We need to learn from this incident so that we can all do a better job of affirming our LGBTQ students — and all our students, faculty and staff,” Boehm said.

Interim Arts and Sciences dean David Owen said there is a list of things to implement. They are:

  • Plan a townhall meeting for the A&S community to campus community members affected.
  • A U of L police officer will be posted outside of the classroom for the remainder of the semester.
  • Priority counseling will be provided to affected students.
  • Review the Student Code of Conduct to make possible revisions.

“I am very proud – and we all should be – of the care and support many in the A&S and U of L community have shown for the students and faculty who have been impacted by this,” Owen said. “I also am proud of the critical analyses and passionate advocacy we have seen, which I am confident will continue and will lead to man[y] fruitful discussions and actions in the future.”

Jones hosted a forum Feb. 10 to discuss the situation.

Photo by Haeli Spears // The Louisville Cardinal

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Interim Arts & Science College dean shares goals for 2020 Monday, Jan 6 2020 

By Matthew Keck —

After Arts & Science College Dean Kimberly Kempf-Leonard submitted her early retirement in December, the announcement came that David Owen would serve as the interim dean. Owen sent an email Jan. 2 to the college detailing his goals for his interim appointment.

“I am honored to have been appointed interim dean of A&S and I look forward to working together to fulfill the A&S mission,” said Owen. “The core of A&S is its people – from engaged students, to talented staff and brilliant faculty – and we must be sure that we recognize the valuable contributions each of us makes to the success of the college.”

Owen said that his main goal during his tenure as dean is to pass on a strong and vibrant college to the next dean. In the email, he listed what he wants to achieve:

  • Take positive steps towards improving morale amongst staff and faculty;
  • End the fiscal year in the black and with the college on sound financial footing;
  • Prepare a FY21 budget that maximizes our ability to fulfill the A&S mission and enables a strategic investment in college priorities;
  • Guide the transition to the new budget model and ensure that department chairs and Dean’s office staff have a comprehensive understanding of the new model;
  • Develop and implement a communication plan that promotes transparency;
  • Build on our on-going efforts to increase retention of A&S students.

“We have exceptional leadership already in place in the college—associate deans, assistant deans, department chairs, and others—who will ensure that A&S can continue to provide exceptional educational opportunities to students,” said Owen.

He is also the Chair of the Philosophy department in the A&S College. His interim term is set to last through the Spring 2020 semester, while the A&S College searches for a full-time replacement.

“I am excited for the opportunity to work with you as we strive to achieve these goals,” said Owen. “And I am very appreciative of the contributions each of you make to our mission.”

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal 

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Interim dean for Arts & Sciences College announced Saturday, Dec 14 2019 

Matthew Keck —

David Owen, Chair of Philosophy, was named interim dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Dec. 13. This comes after Dean Kimberly Kempf-Leonard announced she would be stepping down at the end of this month.

“I am very grateful that David has agreed to take on this large responsibility on short notice and to work with Neeli [Bendapudi] and me to make this a great place to learn, work, and invest,” said provost Beth Boehm. “I am also grateful to the many faculty and staff members of the College who have written me, spoken with me, or attended one of the meetings I held last week to discuss the interim position.”

The search for a new A&S dean has been ongoing since August. Boehm met with faculty and staff then to hear their thoughts about what they wanted in the new dean.

“I am also grateful to the many faculty and staff members of the College who have written me, spoken with me, or attended one of the meetings I held last week to discuss the interim position,” said Boehm.

Owen is the  chair of the Philosophy Department and will serve as the interim A&S dean through the end of the Spring 2020 semester. “I am confident that David is that best choice and that he will be a strong leader for the interim.  I know that the associate deans and dean’s staff will help David in his transition,” said Boehm.

Boehm also thanked Kempf-Leonard for her five years of service and her help with transitioning Owen into the interim position.

Photo Courtesy of The University of Louisville 

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