UVA task force wants to earmark nearly $1 billion for racial equity

The University of Virginia’s recently-established racial equity task force is suggesting nearly $1 billion in funding to boost diversity and inclusion projects.

Other proposals include reparations, renaming monuments on campus, anti-racism education, and reviews of local police departments.

The University of Virginia’s Racial Equity Task Force released a dozen recommendations for improving racial equity at the university. The proposal calls for the renaming of buildings, mandatory implicit bias training, reparations for descendants of slaves, and nearly $1 billion in financial investments.

UVA President Jim Ryan launched the Racial Equity Task Force in June in response to the death of George Floyd and subsequent unrest. He asked the task force, led by individuals such as UVA Vice President of Diversity Kevin McDonald, to think of its work as “more of a sprint than a marathon.” 

The result of the task force’s work is a 63-page report, titled, “Audacious Future: Commitment Required,” which recommended 12 policies for the university to achieve by 2030.

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The first item on the list called for up to $950 million for racial equity initiatives. Of this amount, roughly $100 million to $150 million would be immediately available for racial equity projects over the next three to five years, including a new African-American and African Studies department, new faculty chair positions, and undergraduate scholarship support.

Another $500 million to $650 million would be available in perpetuity as a “quasi-endowment” to fund future equity projects, and $100 to $150 million of matching funds and philanthropy would be raised to support scholarships and faculty chairs that represent minority groups.

The task force also recommends various campaigns surrounding hiring and admissions geared toward increasing diversity among the student body and faculty. The university would monitor its progress in these areas with an “equity scorecard.”

Next, the task force recommended the launch of the “Grounds for All” campaign, which would work to rename buildings and other memorials on campus associated with racism. This project would also create new monuments to commemorate “the lived experience of historically underrepresented groups at UVA.”

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The Grounds for All campaign would also address students’ concerns about bias allegedly perpetrated by the University Police, Charlottesville Police, Albemarle County Police, and other law enforcement agencies. 

The task force recommended reviewing the university’s tenure policy, following a years-long incident in which an African-American professor alleged that he did not initially receive tenure due to racism implicit in the review process.

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Another recommendation is “anti-racism education” for all members of the UVA community, which would help students to understand “race, racism, and white supremacist practices,” equipping them to “dismantle these harmful policies and practices.” The task force also suggested launching the “Pay Our Debts Reparative Scholarship Program,” which would grant scholarships to descendants of slaves. 

”UVA should work with partners to reduce barriers of entry to UVA undergraduate and graduate programs and increase targeted support for Black and other underrepresented Virginians who have suffered from systematic racial disadvantages over the past two centuries, with a particular recognition for descendants of the enslaved laborers who built or sustained the university through the Jim Crow era,” the report stated.

Finally, the task force recommended the creation of a Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies, along with new staffing and a tribal liaison. At this point, it is unclear how many of these initiatives will be pursued by the University of Virginia’s administration.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft