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Campus Briefs

University Implements Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training

American Indian Students Walking on CampusThe University is implementing online diversity, equity and inclusion training for faculty and staff, University leaders announced in a campus message on Feb. 26.

The program, similar to the required Title IX awareness and violence prevention training, is designed to teach new concepts, broaden perspectives and provide the campus community with a common set of terms. Announced last June in a campus message, this required training is part of a series of actions to support campus-wide dialogue, healing and structural change.

The message came from Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz; Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert A. Blouin; and Special Adviser to the Chancellor and Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Interim Chief Diversity Officer Sibby Anderson-Thompkins.

“We remain committed to fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive community where everyone feels welcome and inspired to do their best work,” Guskiewicz, Blouin and Anderson-Thompkins wrote. “This goal is at the core of the first initiative, Build Our Community Together, in our strategic plan Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good.”

The initial course, Managing Bias, explains that understanding bias in the workplace is the first step in handling it. The training defines bias and describes how it influences the workplace and how to reduce its negative effects. Participants will learn how biases affect their actions and impact others when left unchecked, including creating unhealthy work environments and reinforcing unjust practices.

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Henry Louis Gates Jr. Draws Parallels Between Post-Reconstruction and Present Day

Henry Louis Gates Jr.During the Frey Lecture, Emmy Award-winning scholar, filmmaker and cultural critic Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. offered eye-opening commentary on how Reconstruction after the Civil War gave rise to Jim Crow, and how the impact of those eras shaped inequities we see in American today.

To begin the lecture, Gates showed a 12-minute clip from his PBS docuseries, “Reconstruction: America After the Civil War,” to illustrate how the years after the Civil War brought a taste of freedom for Black Americans that was followed by a strategic reversal of rights and the rise of white supremacist ideologies.

Gates developed the idea for the docuseries and his book “Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow” after visiting Michigan’s Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia during Barack Obama’s first presidential term. He was shocked to find racist images of the sitting president already in the collection. He said his knowledge of history foretold what could come in the years following Obama’s election: a rollback of progress that had similarly followed Reconstruction.

“I had no idea of the vehemence that the presence of a Black person in the White House could provoke. When I left the Jim Crow Museum, I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I have to tell this story, that there’s a terrible thing that’s coming. And I’m going to tell it in a historical way.’”

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Debt, Doubt and Dreams: Understanding the Latinx College Completion Gap

CLC staff and studentsTogether with the UNC Center for Community Capital and UnidosUS, the UNC School of Law released the first report arising from a Lumina Foundation grant to study the relationship between debt, achievement and equity in higher education, with a specific focus on Latino students.

Debt, Doubt, and Dreams: Understanding the Latino College Completion Gap analyzes 1,500 surveys of individuals who started but did not complete a college program. With 35 percent identifying as Latino, the data speaks directly to the barriers facing all students seeking higher education and identifies barriers that disproportionately burden Latinos.

“Although Latino students show incredible drive to pursue higher education, completion rates for Latinos continue to lag,” said Kate Sablosky Elengold, assistant professor of law and director of Carolina Law’s Consumer Financial Transaction Clinic. “Our data illuminates and complicates a traditional narrative about Latino debt aversion, placing it in the context of other financial and environmental barriers to completion, many of which disproportionately burden Latino students.”

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Racism, Selfishness, and the Crisis of American Democracy

Centennial Speaker Series: An Evening with Eddie S. Glaude Jr.Eddie S. Glaude Jr. spoke on “Racism, Selfishness, and the Crisis of American Democracy” during the third event in the UNC School of Social Work Centennial Speaker Series on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Glaude is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor and chair of African American Studies at Princeton University. Highlights included his comments on Inauguration Day and the future of democracy. He spoke of the need for the Biden-Harris administration to grapple with the reality of death, loneliness and selfishness. “I think all of these three elements fertilize the killing fields of American democracy…We have to understand that racial justice if it is to be genuine, isn’t a philanthropic enterprise. It isn’t an act of charity. Equality is not yours to give to anyone.

He also addressed COVID-19 and the value of human life, noting, “We all suffer from a kind of loneliness that can get in the way of share suffering. We’re stuck in our homes, and our pains and joys are hidden behind masks. Even before the pandemic, public health experts were already concerned about the epidemic of loneliness in the United States. This loneliness stands alongside selfishness. The idea of deep care for others has been lost in rhetoric that made selfishness a virtue…specific people are dying disproportionately. Those who are now considered ‘essential workers’ were once [considered] ‘disposable.'”

Referencing James Baldwin, who relentlessly exposed the lies that America tells itself, he said, “America’s never been a beacon of virtue. It has never been an example of democracy achieved, nor is it the shining city on the hill. We’ve always been a work in progress. We’ve always been shadowed by our ghastly failures. We tell ourselves this story in order to protect ourselves from what we’ve done.

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CAPS has a Remedy for Students of Color Struggling to Find Mental Health Support

Karly Smith
Photo: Cynthia Liu, The Daily Tar Heel

For many years there were stigmas surrounding seeking mental health support in communities of color. Now that people of color are searching for resources, they are having trouble finding it.

Karly Smith, a senior studying sociology and co-chairperson for P.E.A.C.E, a Black-centered mental health student organization, said economic constraints and finding professionals that share their identities make seeking help difficult. “In communities of color, there’s a lack of health insurance and access to being able to find a therapist that you can identify with, and with all those different barriers, it can be really hard,” Smith said.

Ayah Eltayeb, a sophomore studying psychology, believes there need to be more therapists that people of color can relate to in order for them to seek help. “I would love to see more therapists and other therapists of color,” she said. “I think that is a huge first step to feel as though you have some sort of kinship with your therapist, and you guys view each other as more than just clients, but rather like people.”

In September of 2020, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) launched a program that would do just that. The Multicultural Health Program (MCHP), a program co-facilitated by Erinn Scott and Cherish Williams, two Black female psychologists at CAPS, serves Black, Indigenous and other students of color. MCHP features four Black female therapists that students can request to work with.

“The main goal of MCHP program is to be forward-facing, to go into student groups and organizations, doing outreach and being present in student meetings,” Scott said. “We want you all to know that if and when you’re ready to start seeking support, CAPS is here and here’s the program that we have for you.”

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Sharing the “Lost History” of the Civil Rights Movement

Charles CobbCharles Cobb, an activist who spent his teenage and young adult years organizing change in the 1960s, aimed to paint a more complete picture of the civil rights movement Tuesday night as the keynote speaker of Carolina’s annual African American History Month lecture.

“Largely missing from the narrative about the civil rights movement and the work that went into building it is that, in many instances, it was led by young people,” he said.

Cobb’s lecture, which was held virtually this year, was part of a 21-year tradition of inviting leading scholars and activists whose work centers on African Americans’ lives from both historical and contemporary perspectives to speak at the University in celebration of Black History Month.

Even though the lecture was not held at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History this year, Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said the event provides the Carolina community another opportunity to understand and learn from history.

“Events like this lecture highlight incredible research on African American history and inform our efforts to achieve greater racial equity — here on campus, but also across the state and our nation,” he said at the lecture.

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University Libraries Project Uses Machine Learning to Identify Racist Language in State Laws

Librarian and Laws & Resolutions of the State of North Carolina documentTwo years ago, a high school social studies teacher in Caldwell County, North Carolina, approached Sarah Carrier, North Carolina research and instruction librarian at the University Libraries, in search of a resource for teaching about the era of Jim Crow. Had anyone produced a comprehensive list of all the Jim Crow laws passed in the state of North Carolina?

Carrier’s short answer to his question was no. The closest source would be Pauli Murray’s “States’ Laws on Race and Color,” published in 1951.

Though volumes of public and private North Carolina session laws have been digitized, their pages exist as online pictures, with no way to analyze the text they contain. “Helping teachers is a big part of what I do, and I try to do it as fast and efficiently as possible. But downloading and searching through files to find race-based legislation was incredibly time-consuming. It wasn’t feasible,” explains Carrier. “I was taking a workshop to learn more about text analysis,” she recalls, “and I brought this to Matt Jansen, our data analysis librarian. Was this something we could do?”

With an interdisciplinary group of librarians with expertise in special collections, data analysis, digital research and data visualization, plus subject matter experts in African American history and African American studies, the answer to this question was yes. The result is On the Books: Jim Crow and Algorithms of Resistance, a project that uses text mining and machine learning to identify racist language in legal documents.

The first iteration of On the Books went live in August 2020. Viewers can read or search through all the Jim Crow laws that the project identified. The site also includes a downloadable text file of the laws; a separate file of all North Carolina statutes from 1866 to 1967; the computer programs written for the project; a white paper describing the project’s methods; and resources for educators and researchers that contextualize North Carolina segregation laws.

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