University of Utah vows to fight racism in research

((Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Protesters chant in front of the Park Building at the University of Utah on Wednesday, June 3, 2020.

The University of Utah’s research community participated this week in #ShutDownAcademia, a day dedicated to conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement.

On Wednesday, faculty and students from universities across North America stopped researching and instead had conversations about how to value diversity within their departments.

Andy Weyrich, the U.’s vice president for research, encouraged different departments to participate in this endeavor and learn more about systemic racism.

“As the vice president for research, I stand in unity with the fight against systemic racism, white supremacy, and the ongoing oppression of the black community,” he wrote Thursday in a staff announcement. “As a reminder, racism and discrimination of any kind will NOT be tolerated in the U. research community.”

In the coming year, Weyrich’s office pledged to prioritize seed grant initiatives and research programs for partnerships and efforts that support diversity and inclusion. Weyrich said the U. also will engage leaders, researchers and other members of the black community to learn how to bring about sustainable change in the school’s research areas.

“Amplifying and prioritizing voices from individuals in the research community who experience the effects of systemic racism and discrimination,” he stated, “is essential in helping us establish a culture that works to dismantle systematic inequities.”

Pearl Sandick, associate professor in the department of physics and astronomy, said participating in the day of discussion was worthwhile.

“It was important to me to learn more about the reasons there are so few black physicists and black students pursuing physics degrees,” she wrote in an email, “to discuss with my colleagues the role that we, as faculty members at the U., have in changing that, and to make a plan for lasting change.”

Weyrich said that conversations about inclusivity, equality and diversity will need to continue, and he hopes the community will move forward.

“There is so much more work to be done, and I know this is only one step in addressing the systemic racism that has been ingrained in our nation’s historical foundation,” he said. “I am committed to holding myself and our research community accountable as we move forward in the fight for equality.”