March 22, 2021
Dear College of Fine Arts Community,
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic—and amplified by the horrific events in Atlanta—we have seen an increase in racial violence and incidents of hate directed at members of the Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. We are sending a message of support to our Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community members in the College of Fine Arts amid this escalating climate of anti-Asian and anti-Asian American sentiment.
We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in the Center for Asian American Studies, Department of Asian Studies, Center for East Asian Studies, Asian/Asian American Faculty Staff Association and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, who have authored this message to the entire UT Asian American community.
The troubling trend of Asians and Asian Americans increasingly being subjected to hateful rhetoric and violent acts is undeniable: anti-Asian crimes have risen by 150 percent in the past year in the United States, particularly in large cities. Media outlets report fear and prejudice toward Asians and Asian Americans, from insults to physical attacks. The recent shootings in Atlanta underscore the terrible violence and justifiable fear that so many of our Asian and Asian American students and colleagues have experienced. Together, we must call out the reality of this situation, and do more to support our AAPI community members.
Our colleagues Amy Tao-Foster at the Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMCH), Tony Vo in the Center for Asian American Studies and Hollie Yang in the Multicultural Engagement Center have thoughtfully shared a number of resources to assist anyone in our community who is in need of support and assistance during this time. Thank you to Amy, Tony and Hollie for sharing the following resources.
Workshops for Confronting Anti-Asian Racism
The Center for Asian American Studies and BeVocal created an anti-Asian racism bystander intervention workshop last fall. They are offering two workshops the week of March 29.
Asian Voices @ UT and Community Newsletter
Amy facilitates a drop-in group called Asian Voices @ UT every Tuesday from 4:45 to 6:15 p.m. In tangent with the group, she also releases a newsletter with mental health and community resources that is identity-affirming. Students can sign up for the newsletter, which includes information on how to sign up for the group’s Zoom.
Virtual Office Hours via The Center for Asian American Studies (CAAS)
Amy has traditionally held office hours at CAAS where students can drop in for support and community, or ask questions about mental health and other resources. Amy will hold office hours from 1–1:50 p.m. on Tuesdays. Students who are interested can email Amy to schedule a Zoom meeting for office hours.
Counseling Appointments for Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American (APIDA) Students
Staff and faculty can also refer students directly to Amy as the Diversity Counseling and Outreach Specialist. If students are hesitant to call CMHC to request an appointment, they can be referred directly to Amy at 512-475-6943. If she is unable to answer, they can leave a message with their name, EID, and phone number, and Amy will be able to call them back to set up a phone or video counseling appointment.
Coping with Racial Trauma
Amy’s Diversity, Counseling and Outreach colleague, Dr. Connesia Handford, also holds a workshop series for students of color on Mondays from noon to 1 p.m., where they can learn helpful tools and techniques for coping with racial trauma. Students can sign up here.
Once again, there is no room for racism, hate, or violence in our society, and we encourage all members of our community to continue supporting each other as we build a stronger, more inclusive environment in the College of Fine Arts.
In solidarity and partnership,
John A. Yancey
Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Dear College of Fine Arts Community,
I hope you are all settling into something of a routine in a fall semester that feels anything but routine. We’ve been closely watching positive cases of COVID-19 in the university community via UT’s dashboard, and I am heartened to see no great surge after Labor Day or the first football game. Cases so far are within the range of what UT’s health experts had projected.
We are also experiencing cases in the COFA community. We know there will be more. Proactive voluntary testing is going to be imperative as UT works to isolate and contain cases on and off campus.
We trust in the UHS contact tracing process to notify anyone who may have had close or prolonged exposure to a COVID-positive individual. Unavoidably, this process can take days or longer. Therefore, to the best of our ability and with the best available information, when we have strong confirmation of close or prolonged exposures, the college will notify exposed students, faculty and staff as quickly as possible that an exposure has been discovered. This commitment relies on an honor system of our community following our reporting protocols and on department and college leadership responding quickly and intentionally.
Many have questions about what to do if you have symptoms or have tested positive, or if a colleague or student reports symptoms or a test status to you. The following provides guidance. A graphic decision tree is included to help you.
- Faculty members with symptoms or a positive test should report that information to UT’s Occupational Health Program (OHP). UT has created a helpful infographic about this process.
- Faculty who have symptoms or who have tested positive for COVID-19 are also asked to notify their department chair and COFA Director of HR Kevin Crook.
- For faculty members who have been notified by a student about a COVID-19 case, they should notify their department chair and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Studies John Turci-Escobar (for undergraduates) or Senior Associate Dean Holly Williams (for graduate students). Your chair can advise on appropriate notification protocols and provide notification templates, if needed.
- Staff members with symptoms or a positive test should report that information to UT’s Occupational Health Program (OHP).UT has created a helpful infographic about this process.
- Staff who have symptoms or who have tested positive for COVID-19 are also asked to notify their supervisor, chair and COFA Director of HR Kevin Crook.
- Supervisors are asked to consult with the Director of HR Kevin Crook and/or the Dean Dempster about any notification protocols so that we can keep information as private as possible. Please do not forward a mass communication disclosing an employee’s health status. HR can provide templates for notifications.
- Students experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who have received a positive test should report that to University Health Services (UHS). UHS has created this helpful testing guide for students about how and when to get tested.
- Students should also contact their faculty members so their absence can be accommodated.
Because of ADA and FERPA, please withhold the name of an individual experiencing an illness in any communication to members of your department. Any interim action we might take is in addition to the official contact tracing and other steps that the university may take.
A faculty member or staff member who is concerned about the well-being of a distressed student, staff or faculty member (including if that distressed person is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms) should call Behavior Concerns and COVID-19 Advice Line (BCCAL) 512-232-5050.
We are all in this together, and we want to keep our community as safe as possible. Please take care of yourselves, and help us take care of one another by following these testing and reporting guidelines.
Dean Doug Dempster
July 15, 2020
Dear College of Fine Arts Students, Faculty and Staff,
You have all by now seen Interim President Hartzell’s message “UT Austin: A More Diverse and Welcoming Campus,” that went out earlier this week. In his message, he shares updates on steps UT is taking to make campus more welcoming to Black students. I’m grateful to him for dealing with these issues promptly in a head-on manner that acknowledges our institutional shortcomings while also reaffirming our resolve and ability to do better.
I wanted to update you on the latest efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in the College of Fine Arts. While our college has made significant progress in the past several years toward achieving the goals outlined in our Diversity Strategic Plan, we know that we are falling short in important ways. We can and must do better.
I’m pleased to announce that Professor John Yancey, who has long served as the chair of the Fine Arts Diversity Committee, has accepted an executive appointment as the college’s first Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In this position, he will lead efforts to advance diversity and inclusion in our student recruitment and admissions, in faculty and staff hiring and retention, and the college’s cultural climate. The Fine Arts Diversity Committee has also, from its inception, advocated for a more inclusive curriculum that exposes and sheds entrenched racial and ethnic exclusions coded into our disciplinary canon. Associate Dean Yancey will continue to lead the Fine Arts Diversity Committee and the various subgroups and task forces associated with that and will serve as our college’s liaison to other university councils and committees focused on equity and inclusion. I will renew long-standing funding commitments to the Fine Arts Diversity Committee so it can act with autonomy in our college.
In the coming year, Associate Dean Yancey will be leading the charge as the college focuses on these goals:
- Create a college statement of diversity, equity and inclusion that aligns with the university’s statement and addresses the needs specific to an arts college
- Revisit and update the college’s 2015 Diversity Strategic Plan and action priorities.
- Create an annual report on college demographics to provide transparency and accountability in our recruitment and retention efforts
- Continue and enlarge anti-racism training opportunities for our faculty, staff and students
- Collaborate with Admissions and our academic departments to strengthen our recruiting efforts to attract a diverse applicant pool and to yield a diverse class of incoming students
- Explore new, more effective strategies to recruit and retain a more diverse body of faculty and staff
- Collaborate across the college to ensure we are offering enough support to make transformative experiences, such as study abroad or professional development programs, equitable and accessible for all students in the college
While we know there is much work to be done, I do want to acknowledge the hard work of the Fine Arts Diversity Committee since its formation in 2014. Our college has made significant strides in meeting many of the goals outlined in the strategic plan.
- We will see our most diverse class of undergraduates ever this fall semester in the College of Fine Arts. With an overall increase in applications of 19%, our college saw particularly large increases in applications from Black, Latinx, First Generation and low-income students.
- In an effort to support more proactive efforts toward attracting a diverse candidate pool, all faculty searches include a diversity advocate from the Fine Arts Diversity Committee. We are evaluating the results of this process and how it can be more effective in future searches.
- The college partnered with the People’s Institute for Undoing Racism to offer anti-racism training for 180 faculty and staff members across the college.
- The committee provided funding this past year to support 10 student projects through its FADC Student Project Support Program, and the committee also provided funding to bring in nine guest artists who furthered the FADC’s mission of diversifying our community and programs.
Additional progress on the goals in the strategic plan is summarized on this FADC page. I’m grateful to the hard work of the Fine Arts Diversity Committee members, and I look forward to working with Associate Dean Yancey in this new role as we work to make our college a more equitable, inclusive and welcoming environment for our students, faculty and staff.
Dean Doug Dempster
June 18, 2020
Dear College of Fine Arts Faculty, Staff and Students
Many of us have been doing serious soul searching and no small amount of worrying about the persistence of racism in our society and our lives. Tomorrow is Juneteenth, a 155-year-old, national commemoration of the end of slavery that began in Texas. It’s also a significant occasion for reflection on our national and our university history.
Below are some activities for your consideration as you make the most of Juneteenth, 2020. For some members of our community, these may be well-known resources and frequented sites. For others, they may offer critical, perhaps overlooked, histories and artistic offerings of our community. Some of these are activities you can do from home and online, and others allow you to get out in the community—including some activities to do with young family members. Please exercise social distancing—wear your masks—while you’re out and about.
With your supervisor’s permission, you may use work time on Friday to engage in these activities for some portion of your day.
- Educate yourself further on Juneteenth History by exploring online resources from the Briscoe Center for American History.
- Learn about UT’s racial history. Take the UT Austin Racial Geography Tour, led by UT Professor Ted Gordon, online.
- Learn about West Austin’s African American history by taking the Juneteenth Weekend Driving Tour through the Neill-Cochran house.
- Visit East Austin murals, including Rhapsody mosaic by UT COFA Visual Art Professor John Yancey at 1021 East 11th St., at the intersection of E. 11thStreet and Waller Street. A second mural—“Black Artists Matter”—is being installed in the next few days on East 11th Street, so there will be some street closures between Waller Street and Lydia Street. But the area will still be open to pedestrian traffic. Creative Action also has a self-guided tourof murals in East Austin. While there, support black businesses; maybe grab takeout at the Rolling Rooster (Old Victory Grill).
- Participate in the Stay Black and Live Virtual Juneteenth Festival, June 19, from 6 to 10 p.m.
Thanks to the Fine Arts Diversity Committee for these suggestions.
Dean Doug Dempster
February 10, 2020
Dear Faculty, Staff and Students in the Department of Art and Art History,
I am pleased to announce that, effective immediately, Professor Susan Rather is now the department chair and Meredith and Cornelia Long Chair of Art and Art History in the Department of Art and Art History. She is the first woman chair in the department’s history and first art historian chair in many decades.
I’m grateful to Susan for her able leadership as interim chair during the transition period this past year; she’s garnered my support and that of faculty. I’m also grateful to the search committee for their excellent work in evaluating internal candidates for this role.
In her more than three decades on the faculty of Art and Art History, Susan has served in key leadership roles, including three recent years as departmental associate chair, with extended prior terms as head of the Art History division and as its graduate advisor. As you know, she is a distinguished senior member of the faculty and an award-winning historian of American art, having received the 2018 Eldredge Prize for Outstanding Scholarship in American Art from the Smithsonian American Art Museum for her book The American School: Artists and Status in the Late Colonial and Early National Era.
Susan’s done a terrific job these past several months in her interim role, and I have high confidence in her leadership. I look forward to working with Susan and the rest of the faculty and staff in the department.
Dean Doug Dempster