iCons Students, Alumni, Faculty, Staff, and Friends,
I write to you today with deep sadness and with a renewed sense of urgency in the face of recent cases of extreme police brutality against Black communities. I am also deeply troubled by the militarized police responses to Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the country. While so many are lamenting the global pandemic and its resulting economic recession, many others are fighting an even uglier battle – one against institutionalized racism and cruelty. Given all this, I feel compelled to ask – what can we do today to make a difference?
As I consider this question and the events of the last week, I’m reminded of the basic tenets of iCons – the power of human diversity to solve our greatest problems, and the need for communication and collaboration skills to unleash this power. Even so, we in iCons must take a long, hard look in the mirror to begin rooting out our own institutional racism. Indeed, we cannot claim to foster human diversity when that diversity is not fully represented within our own community.
Towards that end, we will conduct an internal review of the processes by which we admit iCons students, recruit iCons faculty, and choose the societal problems we tackle in iCons. For example, racism and racial inequality are historically and inextricably tied to public health problems – the kind of problems that deserve our full attention. The question is not if we need to change, but how. The website Taking Action at UMass Amherst to Combat Racism and CNS Dean Tricia Serio’s recent statement both give us roadmaps for how to start.
I am hopeful that, together, we will emerge from this process with an even better, more equitable iCons Program.
Scott M. Auerbach, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering
Founder & Mahoney Family Sponsored Executive Director