Listening sessions

Recordings and Q&A 

On the heels of the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, protests and national calls to end structural racism, UNMC conducted campus-wide listening sessions:

June 29 2020
June 8, 2020

Questions and Answers

Because of time constraints, UNMC leaders were unable to answer all submitted questions. Panelists provided responses to these additional questions:

Provide anonymous feedback or comments via this form.

Anti-racism training  

Q. Is it possible for Student Services to provide anti-racism training for students as part of the onboarding requirement? If not, is there planning to incorporate anti-racism as a core component within the UNMC health professions curriculum?

A. We are considering more training, either during orientation as we welcome students from all backgrounds to help them become acquainted with each other, as well as strengthening current curricula to address these issues.

Black Lives Matter  

Q. There seems to be a growing voice in the black community (at least on social media) saying black lives matter only when whites kill blacks, but not black on black crime. The social media posts are advocating that as a bigger issue and are calling for the black community to address this. This seems to be a major hurdle or source of confusion for many of my white friends in regard to the current movement and gravity of the situation. How do I address this argument?

A. Encourage your friends to get educated on the factors contributing to these issues. Black on black crime is a legacy of hundreds of years of cumulative discrimination that communities of color have had to face. Read books and articles on the long-term effects of slavery, Jim Crow laws and redlining, among others and how these acts of systemic racism have had a damaging effect on black communities. Review the numerous studies that have shown that communities with lack of opportunities for better education, employment and housing are associated with pervasive levels of poverty that lead to greater percentages of persons with adverse childhood experiences and trauma, poorer health outcomes, shorter life spans and a general loss of hope in life. Loss of hope in life is possibly the most important factor in increased crime and violence, as studies have shown that when human beings lose all hope, consequences no longer matter to them. These negative factors are much more commonly found among black communities.

Regarding the term “Black Lives Matter,” this is not a commentary on the value of other lives, but a cry out for recognition that blacks lives are often treated as if they do not matter. National studies (see references 1-4 below as examples) show that blacks are 2-3x as likely to die at the hands of police as whites. Research also shows that blacks and whites are treated very differently during arrests and during sentencing for similar actions. For these reasons, black on black crime, while important, cannot be compared to “Black Lives Matter,” other than both representing ongoing negative consequences of racism. The McGoogan Health Sciences Library has collated a list of books and articles that address these issues, which will be made available to anyone interested in learning more.

Campus police  

Q. Some BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and/or People of Color) students have shared that they have had negative experiences with UNMC/UNO security, who also are police officers. In the past, security were not police officers. First, I want to know if the campuses have seen an increase in complaints in regard to these officers on campus? This may be going unreported on some level. Next, how can we advocate for UNMC to remove police officers from our campus to create a more inclusive and safer campus environment?

A. It is very unfortunate that students have had these experiences. UNMC Department of Public Safety is committed to serving our university and hospital community with professional and dedicated personnel. The police and security staff are an important part of keeping the UNMC campuses safe and have, over the past two years, continued to build strong relationships throughout the campus. Advancements in hiring practices and training – to include implicit bias, cultural competency and de-escalation – is critical for the building of relationships and continues to be a priority. Accountability is key as well, thus it’s important to report any concerns directly to Charlotte Evans, chief of police and assistant vice chancellor for public safety, at (402)554-2772.

Catalysts for change  

Q. You've mentioned a lot of reasons why (George Floyd's death) has been a catalyst for more people to strive for change. My question is do you think that the current pandemic played a factor or that this death was one more too many?

A. The trauma of seeing so many people of color dying from COVID-19 in general has taken its toll. But, the manner in which George Floyd was killed was particularly appalling and painful, especially following in quick succession the also painful killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.

Combatting bias  

Q. I feel that as a minority student (Hispanic) that I have to constantly demonstrate not only on campus but also in society in general, that I am not a criminal, or illegal in the country.

A. It is unfortunate and sad that this is still a reality for some of us. By creating a more inclusive climate, by allowing individuals to get to know each other, and by creating safe spaces, we hope that our UNMC campuses can be a haven of comfort and safety that removes these pervasive biases and increase overall emotional and physical safety.

Culture change and faculty  

Q. How will UNMC engage our faculty? I feel a change in culture has to come from our teachers and leaders we see every day.

A. These are important and ongoing discussions that we are having on a regular basis. The leadership agrees that culture is critical in creating a welcoming environment.

Defunding police  

Q. There have been discussions in communities regarding defunding portion of police departments budgets and reallocate those resources to other departments such as social services, mental health and others. What are your thoughts on these initiatives?

A. This is a great question for our communities, politicians and legislators to review to determine the positives and negatives and the decisions will likely be influenced by the perceived relationship between the police force in question and the community they serve.  In Omaha, the police department works closely with community organizations to forge stronger relationships that have been impactful during recent events. Specifically, the Police Chief serves on the Board of the Boys and Girls Club, Deputy Chief Kanger has been working with UNMC (Dusk to Dawn) and the community and the Black Police Officers Association holds events to build relationships within the community.

Elevating Black voices  

Q. There have been many calls on campus for white colleagues to ask their Black colleagues about their experiences. I recognize that the intent is to acknowledge current racial injustice/inequities and increase cultural awareness, but my concern is that it will result in some of our Black colleagues having to relive their trauma for the purpose of educating well-meaning white folks. As a campus community, how can we elevate Black voices and experiences without contributing to our colleagues’ trauma?

A. Thank you for the thoughtfulness. Asking about their experiences is ok, and your colleagues are not likely to initially reveal something too traumatic. We invite you to look at examples such as #BlackInTheIvory on social media to hear diverse voices on these issues.

Faculty retention and promotion  

Q. Faculty retention and promotion are important, but the statistics do not look good for persons of color. What programs are in place to fix this problem?

A. As a campus community, this is a very important priority for us, and we are working toward improving it within all of our colleges and departments. We believe that to impact the significant health disparities in Nebraska, our faculty, students and staff need to mirror the population mixture of the communities we serve. We will be working with our Faculty Senate and Faculty Affairs leaders to identify best practices to make a positive change and welcome your ideas on this.

Leaders' personal stories  

Q. It's seemingly easier for people lower on the corporate ladder to share their struggles/concerns/mistakes if their leaders do. Are there events where leaders can share their personal past struggles and experiences in the professional world (or even leaders realizing their actions were discriminatory and how they came to change for it)?

A. This is a great topic for discussion in the future as there are times at all levels of our careers that many leaders have experienced discrimination. While some leaders have sometimes shared their experiences as described, it is accurate that many leaders may not feel as comfortable to share because they perceive their space to not be as safe as other spaces to share. We will work to be more intentional in creating safe spaces for leaders to share their struggles and experiences.

Microaggressions / macroaggressions  

Q. Countering offensive language used by patients can be even harder to know what to do with in the moment for students, trainees and faculty, whether aimed at race, sex or religion. Having sample language or “templates” for how to respond in the moment can be helpful; I’ve seen students mentor each other. Do we need to build this into our curriculum for students or faculty?

A. Microaggressions / macroaggressions occur in many areas of our lives and empowering faculty, staff and students is very important. We have some tools that have been used widely on campus such as the “Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts” training. We will be training trainers to expand the use of Ouch! across our campuses. As we strive for a more inclusive culture, the tools and the environment with which to use them will expand. We also recommend individuals continue to educate themselves in all areas of diversity, equity and inclusion to be able to make a difference for all.

More conversations  

Q. This conversation today is incredibly important, and I applaud UNMC for having it as we all need to recognize what is happening with the Black Lives Matter movement. Will UNMC hold similar conversations about racism experienced by other groups, i.e. Hispanic, Asian, Native American, etc.

A. Yes, we will hold additional conversations with diverse panels. We appreciate input on these topics.

Opportunities for dialogue, personal stories  

Q. I wonder about ongoing opportunities for dialogue using the South African model of reconciliation or the current restorative justice model. How can UNMC provide ongoing opportunities for members of the African American community to tell their stories?

A. This is a great thought, and one that we plan on pursuing. By providing spaces, opportunities and an environment for honest and open dialogue, hopefully all members of the UNMC community and the communities we live in will be more comfortable about telling their stories.

Protest safety during a pandemic  

Q. COVID-19 is disproportionately more lethal among minorities. Is there a way to educate protestors to continue safe practices without diminishing involvement in the movement or coming off as a detractor?

A. UNMC is partnering with communities of color to provide messaging on the importance of safe practices and UNMC as an organization also has donated hundreds of masks through our faculty, staff and students to keep people safe at protests. Multiple faculty, staff and students also have been involved and will continue to provide education on the importance of masks and social distancing during these events. While it is not the safest environment with regards to COVID-19, many people, especially those who describe living in fear on a daily basis have stated that their desire for social justice is a more powerful motivating factor for them than their personal safety.

Recognizing students  

Q. UNMC Medical Student Rohan Khazanchi put a lot of unpaid work in the structural competency curriculum. There also are many other students doing work like this across campus. How can we better support students who are participating in these kinds of curricula? - i.e. education credits, compensation, tuition credits, etc.

A. We are proud of the extraordinary efforts of so many of our students such as Rohan who have gone “above and beyond” to make a difference to the campus. We agree it is important to support them and we’ll continue to do all we can as they help to improve the campus for everyone. We believe there are concrete ways to do this, such as the use of digital badge recognition for student activities that can be reflected in their e-portfolios. Such badging programs already exist in some colleges including Graduate Studies and some of our service learning organizations. We will continue to explore other options and look to identify other forums to recognize the great work our students do.

Recruiting diverse job applicants  

Q. I've been involved in the recruiting and hiring of 10 Information Technology staff members in the last 18 months. What can we do to ensure we have diversity in job applicants?

A. We agree that we need to diversify in key areas that we post for positions. IT has been a male-dominated field, therefore, we have to continue to work with our sister campuses and other organizations to build early pipeline programs that encourage more women and minority students to enter IT and other STEM fields. We also are working to train our search committees to be more intentional in seeking a diverse slate of candidates for positions. Most importantly, having persons such as yourself interact with young girls at an early age in a mentoring role or volunteering in the many community organizations that serve these girls and persons of color will go a long way in helping shape their views of IT and similar fields.

Recruiting students, employees of color  

Q. How will UNMC support the recruitment of people of color even when the budget is being cut? It takes a lot of legwork to establish true connections with students.

A. While UNMC has established several pipeline programs such as UHOP, RHOP, SHPEP and SURP, attracting more students of color remains a priority to ensure health equity within our state, within the constraints of the Nebraska Initiative 424 constitutional amendment. From a staffing perspective, UNMC HR also has established many community partnerships and relationships to ensure people of color are aware of the employment opportunities at UNMC.

Reporting racism, discrimination  

Q. Are there any procedures for reporting racism or discrimination, similar to those in place for reporting sexual assault or Title IX violations?

A. We used to have the BART (Bias Assessment Response Team) and are in current discussions to revive this. If you experience or witness acts of racism, prejudice, bias or hate on our campus, please file a report online. You also can reach out to the Human Resources Department as well as the Compliance Hotline.

  1. "Black men sentenced to more time for committing the exact same crime as a white person, study finds".com.
  2. Rehavi, M. Marit; Starr, Sonja B. (2014)."Racial Disparity in Federal Criminal Sentences". Journal of Political Economy. 122 (6): 1320–1354. doi:1086/677255. ISSN 0022-3808.
  3. Arnold, David; Dobbie, Will; Yang, Crystal S. (2018)."Racial Bias in Bail Decisions". The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 133 (4): 1885–1932. doi:1093/qje/qjy012.
  4. Pierson, Emma; Simoiu, Camelia; Overgoor, Jan; Corbett-Davies, Sam; Jenson, Daniel; Shoemaker, Amy; Ramachandran, Vignesh; Barghouty, Phoebe; Phillips, Cheryl; Shroff, Ravi; Goel, Sharad (May 4, 2020)."A large-scale analysis of racial disparities in police stops across the United States". Nature Human Behaviour: 1–10. doi:1038/s41562-020-0858-1. ISSN 2397-3374.
Safe spaces  

Q. I am strong believer of safe spaces …what are your thoughts on having safe spaces for students of color on campus?

A. As mentioned during the forum Q&A, leadership is prioritizing safe spaces on campus. The desire is for this space to be centrally located. Already, the library has developed safe, inclusive space in the new structure and efforts are underway to develop an Indigenous Medicine Garden on campus.

Talking about racism  

Q. As a white person, how do I start the conversation about racism with my family and friends?

A. Acknowledge the discomfort related to the topic and respectfully ask if you can have a conversation about racism. Ask an open-ended type of question like “what are your thoughts on racism?” Educate yourself on the facts and be prepared to listen first and then to educate tactfully.

UNMC initiatives  

Q. We are proud of UNMC and Nebraska, but in light of recent events, what steps is the organization taking (or considering) to make sure UNMC and Nebraska are places other talented people would want to come to work, live and learn?

A. We are constantly looking to make UNMC a welcoming environment for everyone. One in nine of all our strategic initiatives on campus are tied to these goals, but we recognize there remains work to be done. We will work on creating safe spaces and an environment to have difficult discussions. There are many steps that need to be taken and we welcome ideas in this process.

Welcoming environment  

Q. How can we create an environment of welcome to our communities?

A. We will continue to work on creating campuses that are comfortable with having open discussions and letting everyone know that all are welcomed at UNMC.

Where to donate  

Q. Can someone provide a list of organizations that people can donate to?

A. The Empowerment Network, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands, Urban League, 100 Black Men, Girls Inc, 75 North, as well as the United Way of the Midlands are all examples of organizations that help with mentoring, after school programs or employment skills, as well as provide opportunities for volunteers to become involved.