Equity Task Force January 16 Update
Message from Peter Rodriguez, dean
Dear Rice Community,
This weekend, as we approach the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I reflected on this past year and how he would have seen these challenges — from COVID-19 and the elevation of the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd to a relentless election season fraught with division. A year ago at this time, we didn’t know what the year would bring, and how the first weeks of 2021 would further divide our country.
I think this observance is also a particularly appropriate time for me to thank the Task Force on Racial Equity and Social Justice for their work and to share with you the next steps in this important initiative. The thoughtful and important set of recommendations submitted to me this fall lays the foundation for actions in the coming weeks, months and years for the Jones School and its students, faculty, staff and alumni.
After receiving the recommendations, I held a series of meetings with task force sub-committees to fully understand the context of the recommendations. I also met with senior university and school leadership to begin considering our next steps. Over the next few weeks, Professor Grullon and Valerie Valentine (MBA 2021), the task force chairs, will share the recommendations with students, faculty, staff and alumni. I will also engage in the discussion around these recommendations and the school’s developing plans for implementation.
The task force recommended that a new position leading our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts be created and that this leader report directly to me. I agreed with this and committed to creating a new office of DEI at the Jones School, appropriately staffed and funded with at least two appointed leadership roles. The details of this new office will be officially announced before the end of January. With this leadership team, we will further open this important conversation to the community to generate broader engagement.
Please join me in thanking our task force members for the work they have done. I look forward to your support and involvement in the work that lies ahead.
As our nation observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on two of my favorite quotes from his many letters and speeches. The first encapsulates what should be the enduring aspiration for degree programs: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of a true education.” The second charges us to be strong and resolute in our commitment to justice and equity: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." I know the measure of the women and men in the Rice Business community, and I am grateful to stand with you in this moment in our university and our nation’s history.