Mischaracterizing diversity efforts at the University of South Florida (letter)
To the Editor:
I write in reference to the February 3, 2022 article entitled, “Shouting Down an Empty Hallway.” In contrast to the mischaracterization in the article, during my presidency at the University of South Florida (USF), we demonstrated a deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
As examples, my administration took specific actions to reach the following milestones:
- The incoming class for autumn 2021 showed an increase of 16% in Black students, 3% in Hispanic students, 14% in Asian students and 17% more students who self-identify as two races or more (first time in college undergraduates). Those gains were achieved while maintaining nearly 40%, of Pell grant eligible students.
- Secured a $60,000 grant from the Helios Foundation to strengthen recruitment of Black undergraduate students.
- Met regularly with the Black Employee Steering Committee (BESC), the Black Leadership Network, the Tampa Organization for Black Affairs, Mayor’s Hispanic Council, and the Latin Community Advisory Council. I also actively supported the Asian American and Pacific Islander Association by advising them and joining their events.
- Elevated the role of Vice President for Institutional Equity to membership in USF’s Executive Leadership Council.
- Created the new position of Senior Advisor to the President and Provost for Diversity and Inclusion.
- Appointed the Interim Vice President for Institutional Equity, which subsequently led to national, regional, and local awards for USF such as the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award, the Not Alone Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award, and the Hispanic Heritage Orgullo Award.
- Supported creation of the Diversity, Anti-Racism and Equity (DARE) Dashboards to set and track diversity goals regarding student, faculty, and staff data.
- Reorganized administrative processes to improve the efficacy of investigations of gender-based violence on our campuses and support for victims of such violence.
- Allocated $500,000 to create USF’s Anti-Racism Research Initiative.
Reflecting the impacts of our actions, in a letter dated July 27, 2021, members of the BESC expressly recognized my “sustained commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism . . .” The BESC letter went on to state:
“Your deep belief in equity and social justice, grounded in the Principles of Community, has led USF to extraordinary achievements in a relatively short period of time. You harnessed your courageous leadership by collaborating with campus partners and particularly BESC. These partnerships have laid the foundation for a future journey in which diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism will be paramount to USF’s future aspirations and success. Thus, we are appreciative of your authentic, ethical, and transformational leadership. You have made USF a better place through your stellar leadership and dedication to equity, diversity, and inclusion.”
During my presidency, we took concrete steps that reflected my lifelong commitment to welcoming individuals from all backgrounds.
–Steven C. Currall
Professor and Former President
University of South Florida