University to host virtual town hall on racism


Combating racism through daily activities, relationships and challenging conversations will be the focus of a virtual town hall meeting hosted by Robert Sellers, the University of Michigan’s chief diversity officer.

The town hall, set for noon June 5, is designed as a show of solidarity and an effort to provide a platform for the U-M community to discuss race, protest and law enforcement through the lens of education and scholarship.

It is being coordinated by the Office for the Vice President for Communications, in partnership with the President’s Office, Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the Division of Public Safety and Security.

The event will include an opportunity for students to submit questions and concerns in advance, hear personally from institutional leadership and faculty, and participate in important dialogue on current events.

The session, titled “Constructive Conversations for Societal Change,” will be streamed live to U-M’s YouTube channel.

The recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis as well as the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others reinforce the fact that the black community remains vulnerable to discrimination and violence — even during a pandemic — and have sparked protests in cities across the nation.

 “It is important as a university community we acknowledge the anguish people are experiencing,” said Sellers, who also is vice provost for equity and inclusion. “There is also a need for an open dialogue around the issue of racism in America.”

In addition to Sellers, panelists for the discussion will include:

  • President Mark Schlissel.
  • Eddie L Washington, executive director of the Division of Public Safety and Security.
  • Riana Anderson, assistant professor of health behavior and health education, School of Public Health.
  • Eugene Rogers, co-creator of “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed,” director of Choral Activities and conductor of the U-M Chamber Choir, School of Music, Theatre and Dance.
  • Darlena York, undergraduate student in political science and Afro-American and African studies, parliamentarian for the National Pan-Hellenic Council, president of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc., Iota Psi Chapter, and secretary of the U-M NAACP chapter.

The aim of the town hall is to provide an opportunity for the U-M community to come together despite the distance caused by COVID-19 to learn, engage and show support. University leaders as well as individual units, departments, schools and colleges are also exploring ways to continue the conversation of combating racism and discrimination in their respective sectors.

A recording will be available on YouTube following the event.


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