Dear USF Community:
Beginning on May 31, USF’s School of Nursing and Health Professions and several members of university leadership received reports that racist and hateful social media posts were being attributed to a SONHP student. Individuals within and outside of the USF community reported Acts of Intolerance related to the posts. This initial information had a harmful and upsetting impact in the school and across our community due to the imagery and content, including the use of the n-word.
USF’s community standards and our institutional mission are rooted in the value and dignity of all persons. When the university receives complaints alleging hate speech, bias, or racism, the complaints are taken very seriously and are thoroughly investigated.
In this case, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office of Student Conduct, Rights & Responsibilities (OSCRR) immediately began an investigation. Approximately 30 individuals (including persons affiliated and unaffiliated with USF) were contacted. Based on these interviews and other research, investigators determined that the USF student’s Instagram account had been compromised. The posts circulating from 2017 were screenshots of hacked material sent by a burner email account not associated with our USF student. Given the results of this investigation, no action is being taken against our student, who is being supported by members of the SONHP community and Student Life staff.
Even though this incident has been investigated and resolved, USF recognizes that when the hacked posts circulated, many in our community were deeply harmed. Further, USF recognizes that SONHP, the university community as a whole, and American society has a great deal more work to do in terms of recognizing and speaking out against hate speech and anti-Black racism. Further still, all of us – students, faculty, and staff – must engage in rigorous education around bias and racial disparity in systems ranging from health care to finance, education, and more.
By presenting demands to USF at large in early June and to SONHP in the wake of the above incident, the university’s Black Student Union has taken a leadership role in demanding change at USF. The Associated Students of the University of San Francisco Senate (ASUSF) has enacted a formal resolution to honor its commitment to Black students and to verbally and financially contribute toward change. Along with Fr. Fitzgerald and administrative and faculty leaders, I am taking BSU’s specific demands of both the university and the School of Nursing and Health Professions very seriously and am committed to addressing and acting on them.
In addition to what has taken place in the past month on campus and in our community (including the Community Vigil for Racial Justice and Reconciliation on June 3 and pausing as a community on Juneteenth to reflect and remember), I wish to outline some of the work that will move USF forward:
- On June 10, USF leadership affirmed its solidarity with Black-identified students, faculty, staff, alumni, and their allies and pledged to do better in addressing and combating racism.
- Conversations are taking place now across the university – among faculty, administrators, and staff – about issues such as microaggressions, bias, and transformative allyship to support individual and collective change.
- Resources for education and support are plentiful and growing. Please familiarize yourselves with what is available through the Office of Diversity, Engagement and Community Outreach (DECO) link and other departments and divisions, including Gleeson Library, University Ministry, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and many more.
- Our Continuity of Instruction (COI) Working Group was created to guide us through the complexities of teaching and learning in remote, hybrid, and in-person modalities. The group has also taken on the work of finding ways to incorporate what our community needs to learn, unlearn, and relearn about race and racism. COI members are actively engaging with BASE, Center for Teaching Excellence, Center for Research, Artistic, and Scholarly Excellence, University Ministry, Cultural Centers, Student Life and many other divisions, departments, and groups to activate and enhance programs and initiatives for faculty, staff, and students in the semester ahead.
- USF is an active partner in the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), and through that powerful network will continue to work with Jesuit institutions nationally and internationally to promote racial justice. Leaders from DECO and University Ministry are already engaging with AJCU on the network’s next actions.
This is far from a comprehensive or complete list of what we can and should do. There is still much more work that needs to take place, and updates will follow. In these busy and stressful days as we prepare for a very different fall semester and navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our personal, academic, and work lives, I remain proud to be a member of a community that is rooted in values of justice and that works together to educate students who will change the world from here.
Tyrone H. Cannon
Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs