The University of Texas at Dallas
The School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Undergraduate and Graduate Students and Staff
School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Last week, our country was traumatized by the horrific murder of George Floyd. I want you to know that the faculty of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) fully endorses the sentiments expressed last weekend by President Benson in our principled stance against racism of any kind, whether it exists out in the open or is more subtly manifested in institutional or systemic policies, procedures, or attitudes. Further, the act of standing by and watching racially motivated acts of violence against individual human beings, as cost Mr. Floyd his life, is criminal. We cannot stand by idly and allow this to continue.

We are also currently dealing with the first pandemic of our lifetimes, and Covid-19 is changing everything about how we live and work. Our society’s response to Covid-19 has cost a disproportionate number of lives in Americans of color compared to white Americans. It would not be appropriate to condemn our society’s institutional failings that led to the violent death of Mr. Floyd without also noting that these same failings are leading to the excessive deaths of black and brown men and women from Covid-19.

We aim at BBS to be a cherished and valuable place for all people to work, study, and learn, and in particular, for black faculty, students, and staff not only to feel welcome, but to be at home, at peace, and part of a family. Although we are all feeling tremendous remorse by the current situation, many of our black faculty, students, and staff are feeling extraordinary pain and suffering. As black Americans worry about the safety of their children from violence and of their parents from Covid-19, all of us have an obligation to listen, to feel, to support, and to effect change. Students — your faculty are here for you. Each and every one of us would like to listen and to understand.

As you know, we are a school that focuses on human behavior and the human brain. We need to invest in research and education on prejudice and racism. In the study of development, we must incorporate into our work the experiences of children and families who live with racism and oppression. We need to focus on the neurobiology of diseases that disproportionately affect people of color. Not surprisingly, these are understudied areas, and there is no question that focusing on these topics would not only be good for our society, but good for us as well. We need to increase our faculty hiring of black and brown scholars, and our recruitment of more diverse undergraduate and graduate students. We need to do even more to integrate topics related to racism and prejudice into our curriculum.

I joined UT Dallas only a year ago, but I promise that I will do my very best to speak up, speak out, and as Congressman John Lewis suggested, “be constructive.”

Please let us know if you have specific suggestions to improve our School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, to work together on initiatives, or to make it known as widely as possible that racism of any kind, overt or covert, direct or institutional, will not be tolerated in our home. Importantly, contact us if you have concerns about your safety or support.

Please reach out to your favorite professors, and let us know if you’d like to meet, whether one-on-one or with other concerned BBS students and faculty.

Sincerely yours,

Steven L. Small, PhD, MD
(On behalf of the faculty of BBS)