University Makes Progress on Antiracism Initiatives

By Maryland Today Staff

September 28, 2020


Since the first day of his tenure on July 1, UMD President Darryll J. Pines has spoken of the urgency of addressing two simultaneous and intertwined pandemics: the public health challenge of COVID-19; and the ongoing pain and suffering caused by a racially unequal society. 

Neither, of course, can be solved in a few months, but several initiatives are under way at the university to come closer to fulfilling its mission of fostering a “diverse, united, proud and empowered community of people from every background who work positively to impact our globally connected society.”

Some projects acknowledge how, like many of our country’s institutions and organizations, the University of Maryland has not always met those standards; other efforts will give students, faculty and staff who may have not felt seen or heard more support and opportunity. And as part of the new TerrapinSTRONG onboarding program, all members of the Terp community will learn how diversity is one of our strengths and essential to a healthy campus climate. 

Next up: A new university-produced “End Racism” PSA video will make its broadcast debut during Maryland’s Homecoming football game against Minnesota on Friday night on ESPN. Here’s where other new antiracism efforts stand today:

Expanded opportunities to build a supportive, respectful and inclusive environment: The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is leading efforts on campus to recognize and stop inequities and disrupt the cycle of racism. It launched #UMDSolidarity to centralize a robust schedule of panel discussions, lectures, seminars and performances to learn about antiracist practices and for solidarity and reflection. It also is working with diversity officers across campus to design diversity scorecards for schools and colleges, and will unveil an equity officer training module. 

Launched racial justice initiative in Athletics: Maryland football student-athletes debuted new nameplates on their jerseys, helmet stickers and warm-up shirts to make personal statements about the fight for racial justice before their season opener against Northwestern on Saturday night. The expressions, including “Equality,” “Unity, “Justice,” “I Got Your Back” and “Speak Up” were created by Maryland student-athletes and reflect the department’s commitment to social justice.

Renamed the women’s studies department: Thanks to years of effort by College of Arts and Humanities faculty, the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies now honors the Dorchester County, Md., native best known as an Underground Railroad conductor and advocate for freedom and justice. It draws inspiration from her efforts to promote women’s rights, while reflecting the department’s scholarly and institutional identity.

Created the 1856 Project: As UMD's chapter of the national consortium of Universities Studying Slavery, the 1856 Project seeks to enhance our collective understanding of the Black experience at UMD. It will investigate the history of that experience on campus and in the surrounding community, analyze documentation on the university's historical connections to U.S. slavery and its legacies, then share its findings and recommendations with campus stakeholders and the public.

Hired a program coordinator for immigrant and undocumented student life: Rocío Fregoso-Mota began in the permanent position on Oct. 12. A first-generation Mexican American with a mixed-status family, she advocated for DACA-friendly admission policies and scholarship opportunities while working in undergraduate admissions at Alvernia University, then was a senior admissions counselor for DACA and Latinx students at Catholic University. Fregoso-Mota most recently worked in UMD’s School of Public Policy as a student affairs coordinator and was active in a committee there leading anti-racist initiatives.

Developed the TerrapinSTRONG onboarding program: Staff led by Carlton E. Green, director of diversity training and education in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and Ramsey Jabaji, acting director of the Office of Global Engineering Leadership in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, are creating a program for students, faculty and staff featuring an introduction to our history and traditions as well as training on important issues such as diversity, equity and inclusion; anti-racism; and sexual harassment. KerryAnn O’Meara, the new special assistant to the president for strategic initiatives, will assist with several TerrapinSTRONG initiatives, including advancing faculty diversity and enhancing inclusive climates.

Proposed naming two residence halls: Pines submitted a request to name two residence halls under construction on North Campus in honor of courageous, trailblazing Terps who helped integrate the campus and enrich its diversity: Hiram Whittle, the first African American to be admitted, in 1951; Elaine Johnson-Coates ’59, the first African American woman to earn an undergraduate degree; Pyon Su, the first Korean student to receive a degree from any American college or university, in 1891; and Chunjen Constant Chen, who in 1915 became the first Chinese student to enroll at the Maryland Agricultural College. 

Partnered with Bowie State to form the Social Justice Alliance: The two institutions are collaborating to honor the memory of 1st Lt. Richard Collins III, who was killed on the College Park campus in 2017, by creating new opportunities to learn about and foster social justice. Top faculty and staff with relevant research experience will work to integrate social justice principles and concepts on and between campuses. UMD has also created a scholarship in Collins’ name, with special consideration for ROTC students. Plans for a memorial are expected to be unveiled soon.

Formed the Task Force on Community Policing: This new group will make recommendations to enhance public safety and community policing that helps UMD move toward more collaborative and trusting partnerships between public safety officials and the university community. It will examine community attitudes, experiences and values along with policing structures, resources, practices and policies. Led by College of Arts and Humanities Dean Thornton Dill and College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Dean Greg Ball, the task force includes a diverse group of faculty, staff and student leaders; as well as city and county officials, state legislators, a retired judge, alumni and members of law enforcement. 

Introduced the Common Application into the admission process: This new option to apply for undergraduate admission joins the existing MyCoalition platform to reduce barriers to the college application process. It makes the fee waiver process more efficient for students in need; connects students and those who support them to additional tools and services, such as financial aid and scholarship information; and offers round-the-clock technical support.