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Statement from the Human Sciences Chair on Racial Justice

Erik Porfeli
July 01, 2020

Many of us have witnessed and participated in events over the past several weeks bearing on racism in America. Some, if not many, in our Human Sciences community have directly experienced discrimination and trauma springing from racist thoughts, feelings, and actions. The death of George Floyd, and far too many before him, affirm without hesitation that racism harms and even kills people. As President Drake appealed to the Ohio State community, we can and must create a different future. I believe we have the moral duty to act – now.

The mission of our Department is to advance human health, wellbeing, development and economic vitality across a diversity of contexts. I believe our Department leads the nation in advancing this mission, yet I also believe we have much more work to do especially in terms of how we articulate and advance our mission devoted to diversity.

That challenge involves composing and supporting a diverse community of faculty, staff and students for and from communities demonstrating developmental, health and economic disparities and especially those suffering from racism. We also need to acknowledge that many in our community have unjustly benefited from this historic and contemporary consequences of racism.

We also need to more actively identify and confront racism as well as the systems that overtly and covertly continue to discriminate and divide us. These systems of oppression include, for example, our legal system, criminal justice system, health care system and education system. These systems need to be confronted, interrogated, deconstructed and re-built to yield fundamental and lasting change. I believe the Department of Human Sciences has the capacity to do this important work with our broader community.

For many years, we have relied on champions for diversity, inclusion and social justice to make systemic change. These champions have made a tremendous impact, but history shows that our systems resist change and require more than what a small number of champions can muster. The “urgency of now” requires us to amplify on the work of our diversity champions to include the whole of our community. Therefore, in the current moment, I am calling for teams and the whole of the Department of Human Sciences to join with our champions to rapidly expand our collective effort to identify, combat and eliminate racism and race-based disparities through systemic change.

To achieve this goal, we will need our College and Department to reflect, invent, and act. We are following our Dean as he leads the way with the Executive Council in establishing College goals and strategies to achieve this goal. Based on the announcement of the College strategies, we will convene a series of forums under the leadership of our Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to reflect on best practices, create new initiatives and regularly evaluate our progress. As your Chair, I personally am committed to making improvements within our Department and Community.

Black Lives Matter.

Erik Porfeli, PhD
Professor and Chair
Department of Human Sciences


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