This guest post is written by Lerner College Dean Bruce Weber
In his recent campus-wide “We can do better” message, President Assanis asked the UD community to recommit “ourselves to ensuring that our institution continues to be a source of pride for all students, all faculty, all staff, all alumni … all people.”
I am extremely proud of the Lerner culture, our organization, and our beneficial impact on students’ lives and the business community we serve. However, we cannot sit still. I ask everyone in Lerner to re-commit themselves to anti-racism and respect for the equality of all people.
Our own shortcomings, viewpoints and actions may—even inadvertently—be contributing to a climate in which not everyone in Lerner feels at home in Lerner. We will continue to work together through our programs like UDream and the Lerner Diversity Council to ensure that our College and everything that happens in it reflect our values and instill a sense of belonging. “Cultivating diversity” and building an inclusive community are key elements of the Lerner mission statement and more than ever that is what we will do.
I see first-hand that business and economics education expands opportunities for graduates, and that business enterprises are a force for positive societal change. Yet, U.S. businesses fall short. Black Americans are 12.3% of the U.S. labor force according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and represent 10% of college degree holders, but are only 7.2% of the professional and managerial workforce. Black leaders hold just 3.2% of senior executive positions according to a 2019 report from the Center for Talent Innovation, and only four Fortune 500 firms—Merck, Lowe’s, TIAA, Tapestry—have a black CEO. To improve the representation of Black Americans and all people of color in professional and leadership roles, businesses and educators must work to change our cultures.
We stand in solidarity with the black community and with people of color. Lifting inclusive excellence means finding ways to listen, comfort and inspire our students, especially those who may feel vulnerable. Our students look to us to speak out for justice, fairness and equality for all. I am encouraged by Ken Frazier, CEO of Merck, who told CNBC on Monday that:
“Business needs to go to the seat of government not only for its own economic self-interest in the short term but also to think about how to create a society that is going to actually be good for business. We can’t have this toxic environment for much longer.”
Practical advice also comes from the President of National Black MBA Association, Bruce Thompson, who calls:
“on our business and academic partners, civic, faith and philanthropic leaders, as well as other organizations and people of good will to join with us in committing to the difficult, long-term work of improving racial equity and ensuring greater accountability, especially for those in positions of authority. It may be unrealistic to think in terms of a ‘solution’ to racism, but let’s work diligently and urgently in assessing and reforming the current state of affairs.”
At Lerner we are dedicated to working against racism and discrimination and to supporting a more just society. With my fellow UD deans, we want our college communities to know that we are here to support you in any way we can, including matters that go beyond standard academic activities. We are here to talk about how we can be better allies, how we can create more opportunities for inclusion and diversity and to listen to any of your ideas, comments or concerns.