Campus News

Our Next Steps in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Conversation with President Eli Capilouto

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 7, 2020) — University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto communicated with the UK community Monday, July 6, with the following email.

Dear Campus Community,

The fall 2020 semester represents a new beginning for our community.

We don’t seek a new “normal.” We aspire to reimagine and reinvent who we are, while remaining firmly fixed on our missions of education, research, service and care.

Such a community is one that accepts – and, yes, embraces – everyone for who they authentically are: especially for people and communities that have been traditionally marginalized or disadvantaged within society and, yes, within our institution.

Such a community does not tolerate hate, nor does it expect uniformity. It recognizes differences, not as points of division, but as powerful symbols of our common and shared humanity. Moreover, it also means we must examine and, in many cases, change and transform systems, policies and practices that have embedded racism or privilege for one group or people over another.

We have made progress as an institution. But we must recognize that it has not been enough, not if equity and inclusion are truly our goals and aspirations for this community.

Over the last few months, more than 500 members of our community joined our restart process – participating in workstreams around diverse areas and needs across the campus. It was as massive and comprehensive a process as any ever undertaken at UK.

For racial reconciliation, equity and inclusivity, we need a similarly comprehensive process and response.

Today, we are asking for your help in creating space inclusive of all voices and ideas. We know that we are stronger when we work together, united behind a common vision and with uncommon resolve.

Here’s how we’re moving forward:

  • We’re establishing a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Implementation Plan that will focus on actionable steps in our DEI efforts. A DEI leadership team, workstreams and other key groups will play distinct roles in this planning process.
  • To that end, we invite you to nominate yourself or other members of the UK community who you believe would contribute to these efforts. If you are interested in volunteering or nominating someone to help lead with this process, please fill out the above linked form by 5 p.m. Thursday, July 9.
  • Dialogue will begin very soon among these workstreams, with the goal of creating actionable plans – some of them with implementation deadlines only a few weeks away.
  • Any questions regarding the implementation plan and our DEI efforts can be directed to

This work will occur in conjunction with the steps we announced recently with the backing of our Board of Trustees, including:

  • We will recognize Juneteenth – June 19 – as a university holiday in celebration of the day, more than 150 years ago, that enslaved Texans learned they were free. This was more than two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • We will require cultural proficiency training for all faculty and teaching assistants; training on handling race discussions in the classroom; diversity and inclusion training for students prior to the start of the fall semester; and strengthening of the diversity curriculum for UK 101.
  • We will earmark funds for greater diversity in faculty and staff recruitment.
  • We will create a mini-internship program and develop a student advisory group to increase the pipeline toward careers in higher education.
  • We will conduct a facilities audit as part of a diversity/inclusivity master plan for the campus, which includes a “percent for art fund.” Through this fund, dollars for large capital construction projects will be earmarked to purchase diverse and inclusive art.
  • We will utilize a research alliance – as we did in response to the coronavirus – to study and develop strategies around the reduction of social and racial injustice and health disparities.

There are more than enough seats at the table to be involved in this process. And we need every one of you. I recently had the opportunity to answer a few questions about our vision for this work.

My deepest hope is that we proceed with a renewed and awakened faith in what our world can look like when we ask ourselves how we can do better – be better – for our brothers and sisters.

This campus fills me with hope.

Eli Capilouto

photo of UK Gatton Student Center
University of Kentucky Gatton Student Center. Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.