STATEMENT ON RECENT EVENTS
UC RIVERSIDE SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY
JUNE 7, 2020
The tragic events of the last few weeks – many involving the killing of unarmed Black individuals, including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor – coming on the heels of the worst pandemic in the past hundred years and record unemployment matching that during the Great Depression have shaken our nation and our faith to the core. They have highlighted the deep racial, social, and economic inequities and injustices that still prevail – and indeed, in some dimensions, are growing – in our society. Even more disturbing, these injustices are often embedded within and perpetuated by social and policy institutions, such as the criminal justice system, higher education, and the new gig economy. While we have been aware of these truths, it is our students and their strong desire - and activism - for change that has redrawn and refocused our attention to these unfortunate realities afflicting our society.
As a school of public policy, our raison d’être is improving the lives of every individual in society through the power of policy – policy based not just on evidence but also on normative values of human rights and social justice. Our students, who come from very diverse backgrounds, are drawn into the major because they feel compelled to act when they see injustice in this world. Likewise, our faculty choose to be in a policy school because they want their research to make a difference in bringing about a better and just society.
The events of the past few months have shown us that our students are our best hope for change and that, moving forward, they should be the engines of social and policy change. We will seek to harness their strong desire to make things better and to equip them with the tools to bring about this change. We plan to listen to them. We have already heard that the fault lines of inequality need more prominence and that policy needs to be more focused on how to address it. We intend to make that happen.
Fortunately, we already have the curricular, research, and partnership infrastructure to enact these changes. For instance, our curriculum is replete with courses and experiential learning opportunities in topics such as poverty, socioeconomic inequities, and social justice. We have four research centers – the Blum Initiative on Regional and Global Poverty, Center for Social Innovation, Inland Center for Sustainable Development, and Robert Presley Center of Crime and Justice Studies – that have active research and outreach agendas that touch upon different dimensions of social injustice and inequities in the inland region – poverty and income inequality, racial equity, civic engagement, access to affordable housing, and the criminal justice system. Between our research centers and the School, we offer the largest and most diverse community engagement effort at UC Riverside. Many of the nearly one-hundred public events (e.g., seminars, webinars, conferences, and speaker series) we offered last year covered issues of social justice, discrimination, poverty, and inequality.
Yet the events of the last few weeks and months have made it clear that we must do better and we must do more. We will actively seek to build change -- real and meaningful social change -- into our existing structures and infrastructure. With guidance from our students, we will take a fresh look at our curriculum to ensure that issues of institutionalized racism, structural inequities, and social injustice – and policy responses to address these – are infused into courses across the curriculum and into the experiential learning opportunities offered to students. We will ask our students to take the lead in establishing a new seminar series starting this fall on social justice, institutionalized discrimination, and public policy. Like all our seminars, it will be open to the public, live-streamed, and saved to our website for maximum access.
We will redouble our efforts and utilize our students, who already have rich connections in the community, to enter into new partnerships with community-based change organizations and public agencies in our region and beyond to collect and analyze evidence on how – and which – public policies can most effectively improve social justice, narrow structural inequities, and eliminate institutionalized discrimination.
From the Vietnam protests to the Arab Spring to Hong Kong, students have often been behind major movements for social change. In the United States, young people of color have been at the forefront of meaningful policy change - from desegregation in education to immigration reform. We will harness our students’ desire for change and their lived experiences to better pursue our mission to improve the lives of people, especially those that are underserved and underprivileged, through more informed, humane, and just policies.