Message to Students on Diversity and Social Unrest

Dear Students and Recent Graduates,

We have often referred to our college atmosphere as a family. A family comes together in times of challenge, holds each other accountable, builds each other up, and provides a safe home for its members. We want you to know your College of Agriculture family is here and listening. As we uphold LSU’s mission, we will continue to be “dedicated to creating an inclusive and respectful environment that embraces individual differences in race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, age, spirituality, socioeconomic status, disability, family status, experiences, opinions, and ideas.”

The recent murders and acts of violence against the Black community in our country is unacceptable. What has been brought to light in the recent events represents years of oppression of the Black community, and it is not enough to passively oppose racist acts of violence or speech. As we think about our role within the lives of our students, we want our College of Agriculture family to know, we stand with you as you struggle to cope personally and fight for equity within society.

The staff members in the College of Agriculture Dean’s Office are committed to addressing racism and advocating for the students we serve. We know we have much work to do, and there is much more to this work than issuing a statement. We must be proactive and challenge ourselves to think about the community we create.

As cultural inclusion is a priority in the mission of LSU, we want to share with you some action steps we are taking as a staff and resources to use. We invite you to offer feedback and suggestions of how we can do more.

  • The College of Agriculture Dean’s Office staff is participating in a workshop with guest speakers to lead a discussion on allyship and how we can use our roles to create an inclusive community for our students. The office staff has also organized weekly meetings to engage in discussions and reflection to rethink how we frame programming and support for our students of color.
  • The LSU Office of Diversity recently hosted a virtual town hall meeting to give insight to how we can continue to work towards creating change towards acts of racism. Along with the LSU administration, the college promoted and attended the event to listen, learn, and be active in the discussion. We look forward to attending and promoting continued open discussions for our students, faculty, and staff so we can develop a vision for change.
  • We are proud of our growing Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) chapter and the opportunity to see its members be recognized as leaders across our college and the nation as they participate in regional and national conferences. Our leadership is working with the members of MANRRS to develop more meaningful ways to support this outstanding organization and expand their membership.
  • The College of Agriculture Dean’s Office is working to implement additional training and discussion opportunities regarding race, inclusion, and equity for key student leadership groups within the college, including the Les Voyageurs, Peer Mentors, and the Agriculture Student Association. We hope that by engaging our student leaders in these conversations, they will carry the message into other organizations and share with their peers.
  • To those of you who have not personally experienced racism, you are now afforded the opportunity for some reflection and growth, and we would like to share some anti-racism resources. It is critical that we promote change that allows the Black community to thrive and advocate for Black Students. This starts with educating ourselves and doing some internal reflection.

We want you as students to feel comfortable in sharing your thoughts and feedback with our staff. Our doors are always open, even if that is in a virtual capacity via our Zoom rooms. Please reach out and share your voice so we can advocate for you. While we serve in an academic capacity, we have the ability to connect you with a support system that can assist with mental health counseling, group therapy, and general student advocacy. The College of Agriculture Dean’s Office staff is here for you.

As we reflect, we need to continue to listen carefully. We know these small steps are just a start to where we need to make committed efforts for change. The meaning of family in the college becomes void if we are not listening to, learning from, and making our home a safe place for all. We must acknowledge racial injustice and advocate for our students of color. We are here. We are listening, and we plan to stay in the conservation with you as long as it takes to get this right.

Sincerely,

William B. Richardson
Dean, LSU College of Agriculture
LSU Vice President for Agriculture
June 12, 2020

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