Recognizing Georgia Tech’s Reactions to Racial Injustice through the Lens of 3 SDGs

November 16, 2020

In the wake of racial justice protests this past summer, countless organizations, institutions, and important figures in our society have responded and made commitments, Georgia Tech included. Different units of the Institute responded to this peak in social unrest with action.  Why is it important that we identify and recognize these efforts? The answer is twofold.

  • We must recognize where work is being done to ensure sufficient support is being given internally to those doing it. This support can come from any Georgia Tech affiliate: students, faculty, staff, even fans!
  • Georgia Tech’s motto is “Progress and Service.” The initiatives that will be recognized are this motto exemplified. Additionally, our motto complements the overall mission of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In seeking institutional transformation, Tech can find a useful framework in the UN Sustainable Development Goals; the SDGs are described as “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity.” Our very own President, Ángel Cabrera, recently shared his desire for the SDGs to be more deeply incorporated into campus life through different channels like research and education. Read more about President Cabrera’s commitment to the SDGs here.

We identified three SDGs that offer useful lenses on racial justice initiatives here at Georgia Tech: SDG #10: Reduced Inequalities, SDG #11: Sustainable Cities & Communities, and SDG #16: Peace, Justice, & Strong Institutions. These Institute-led initiatives not only contribute to ensuring our campus is racially equitable, they do so in the scope of these three SDGs.

Please note: This is not a complete, comprehensive list; there are other initiatives, permanent departments, and units at Georgia Tech that sustain work related directly to reducing racial inequalities. We have endeavored to identify a handful of representative efforts and detail how each is connected to those SDGs.

RISV (Racial Injustice and Sexual Violence) Collective- SDG #16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

This collective unites students, faculty, and staff from many sectors of campus to develop a culturally relevant plan for making Georgia Tech more equitable and accountable on the issues of racial injustice and sexual violence. To address racial inequality, the group works to identify gaps, systematic barriers, and areas for improvement that may exist within our institution due to policies, practices, and other norms. Establishing recommended solutions to guide us towards mitigating these issues effectively is the ultimate goal of the collective.

While this initiative does address Reduce Inequalities, its purpose at the core is to assist our institution in continuing to work towards fully supporting the needs of our black students, faculty, and staff so that they can thrive at Georgia Tech. The RISV’s body of students, faculty, and staff brings together their lived and shared experiences, expertise, and researched knowledge to examine the Institute's current efforts and its potential to be an exemplar. The RISV embodies this SDG as the group’s uniqueness, in both its scope and membership, has enabled it to articulate what an accountable and inclusive Georgia Tech truly looks like.

Serve-Learn-Sustain's Equity and Justice Resources, Partnerships, and Events – SDG #10: Reduced Inequalities, SDG #11: Sustainable Communities, SDG #16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

Serve-Learn-Sustain centers equity in its approach to sustainable communities education, research, and action. In recent months, SLS has sought to make a diversity of racial-justice-related resources available, via lists such as this one and this one, and to highlight community partners who have long been focused on cultivating a more racially equitable city, state, and region. In convening conversations around African American history- such as through the SLS Juneteenth webinar- and on the connections between sustainable development and race, SLS works to foster spaces for rich intellectual exchange focused on racial justice. SLS also partnered with the Center for Teaching and Learning for its series of teaching forums focused on equipping faculty with tools and strategies to facilitate productive, candid, and sensitive racial dialogue in class. As one more example, SLS creates opportunities for students to immerse themselves in racial-justice-focused course material through the Equitable and Sustainable Development track in the IGniTe summer program.  Field trips, speakers, and projects in this track’s courses highlight reducing inequalities, as well as envisioning how Georgia Tech can contribute, as an anchor institution, to deep and ethical community engagement with the goals of peace, justice, and racially equitable development. 

Implicit Bias Trainings - SDG #10: Reduced Inequalities

Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in partnership with the ADVANCE Program offers a 90-minute training on what implicit bias is and how it can impact our Institute by ensuring fair and equitable hiring processes, evaluations, and other decision-making processes. SDG #10: Reduced Inequalities calls for the empowerment and promotion of inclusion at intersections such as race and ethnicity. Additionally, these trainings address the need to eliminate any discriminatory practices or discriminatory cultures in professional spaces to ensure there is equal opportunity for all. Implicit bias can result in less social and even economic inclusion of employees of underrepresented groups. To avoid this, it is necessary to address the nature of implicit bias; our community at Tech deserves unbiased practices and processes. These trainings are required for certain employees that hold higher level positions within the institution.

Impact Speaker Series- SDG #10 Reducing Inequalities & SDG #11 Sustainable Communities

The Institute for Leadership and Social Impact out of the Scheller College of Business has a mission of promoting servant leadership and organizational practices that contribute to developing a more just, caring, and equitable world. For the Fall 2020 semester, their programming focused on facilitating conversations about race, social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. The series engaged several individuals from communities outside of Tech such as the Former President of Spelman College, Dr. Beverly Tatum, and the Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for The Coca Cola Company, Lori George Billingsley. The recordings for each event are accessible on the sidebar of the Impact Speaker Series webpage.

By engaging leaders in the Atlanta area from large corporations and institutions to small businesses, these conversations facilitate the discourse necessary to achieve SDG #11: Sustainable Communities. This speaker series engaged individuals who have the means and power to advocate for practices and policies that are inclusive and fair, whether this be directly through their company’s mission and goal, or indirectly through reviewing what their company or institution supports, funds, and does to address the implications of their work. Many of these speakers are uniquely positioned to impact the sustainability of our Atlanta communities, and other communities globally! Topics that are addressed in the series included food justice and agriculture's impact on our communities, sustainable practices that confront climate change, and cultural barriers that can impact the success of equity and inclusion work. Both SDGs are important here because the goals and targets of achieving sustainable communities are addressed in the specifics of the speakers’ work, and the broader theme of Reducing Inequalities courses through the series.

Race & Reel: A Black Consciousness and Education Series- SDG #10 Racial Inequalities

The Office of Minority Education and Development (OMED) and the Georgia Tech Women’s Basketball Team put together this two-part series to address the issues of systemic racism. Part 1 was an analysis of two episodes of the Netflix series “Dear White People.” Part 2 was a discussion about what happens when we as a society decide to “see” and acknowledge hidden figures.

This series directly addressed where racial inequalities can come from and how they can impact our society. By acknowledging the work and experiences of black and minority people, we can begin to value their work at the same level as others’; this is practicing equality. Also, acknowledging where black and minority individuals play key roles in achieving major success is a step in the direction towards racial equality. Giving credit where credit is due and honoring the truth are common, and frankly easy, ways to begin instilling equality.

CONTEXT- SDG #10 Reducing Inequalities

Each year Student Diversity Programs utilizes CONTEXT as an initiative that explores social justice themes and issues through the lens of race and class in Atlanta. CONTEXT fosters inclusive conversation about the challenges of social justice across different issues that shape our communities and lives. This year, CONTEXT’s theme is Maps, both literal and figurative, and the series explores the the material, historical, and social impacts of maps.

This initiative embodies the spirit of innovation in the space of racial justice through this year’s theme. Topics included environmental racism, gentrification, and red-lining. Identifying who is affected by these topics and where advances the crucial work of truly identifying inequalities in different parts of life. In addition to describing the inequalities through maps, there are resources provided that often include ongoing solutions-based efforts to reduce the effects of these inequalities. Read more about the CONTEXT series here!

Transformative Narratives- SDG #10 Reduce Inequalities

Since 2017, Pearl Alexander and Cheryl Cofield of Staff Diversity, Inclusion, and Engagement have been leading an effort to record and dynamically share visual, oral, and written stories that explore how members of our Georgia Tech community have managed and continue to manage the reconciliation of their fundamental definitions of identity, community, and individuality. The focus of Transformative Narratives is to empower students, faculty, and staff to engage with issues of diversity, inclusion, and individuality as both storytellers and listeners. One of the most unique aspects of the collection are its animated stories!

At its core, this initiative is meant to educate the Georgia Tech community about the different backgrounds that we all come from - whether that be a different gender identity, ethnic background, or race. Although many of the targets and indicators of this SDG are only applicable to international entities, the intention of the SDG is still embedded in Transformative Narratives because story-sharing events and continued story collection provide a safe space for these important stories to be shared. Stories that connect people through their common humanity are especially important in reducing inequalities because they help reduce biases. 

Race at Georgia Tech Series- SDG #16 Peace, Justice, and Strong Institution

A panel discussion featuring Archie Ervin, Mykala Sinclair, Manu Platt, Nettie Brown, and Sonia Alvarez-Robinson establishes a direction from Talk to Action for Georgia Tech as the Institute had its first real conversations about systemic racism and its effect on Black students, faculty, and staff. From the blog post and first video of the series, “Race at Georgia Tech: A Call to Action,” there are three points in particular that we would like to highlight: (1) words must be put into action for substantive change that addresses the systemic part of systemic racism; (2) it is not enough to not be racist, you must be anti-racist; (3) the Institute has created a narrative of tokenizing its Black students by only engaging them in campus-wide events when those events involve a “Black” issue, and this disconnect and lack of compensation must be addressed moving forward.

This series directly acknowledges SDG #16’s targets 16.6 and 16.7 which, respectively, state “Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels” and “Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.” What is interesting about these targets is that their indicators include the importance of getting feedback from stakeholders as well. For example, an Indicator for target 16.6 says that the “proportion of the population satisfied with their last experience of public services” matters. The experiences and voices of GT’s black student population matter deeply when developing policies, programs, and solutions that seek to advance racial equity.

GT Library’s Black Lives Matter Collection- SDG #10 Reduce Inequalities & SDG #11 Sustainable Communities

The library created a page dedicated to understanding Black Lives Matter and the Black Experience. This page showcases a collection of academic and educational materials of different media for those who want to learn more about historical and contemporary racial injustice  It also includes material on adjacent topics such as anti-racism, white privilege, and marginalized intersectional identities such as those of black LGBTQIA+ people. The library used its educational mission to present a comprehensive and beautiful collection of material that can help the Georgia Tech community reduce inequalities through engagement with these resources. It is important to recognize that this is not new information to everyone and to remember that our Georgia Tech community is a community that includes people who identify and resonate with what these popular and scholarly materials describe.

Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE) Equity Collective- SDG #16 Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

The OUE Equity Collective is an effort to identify ways that OUE can address racial inequity across its units—which include offices such as the Career Center, the Center for Academic Success, the Honors Program, Summer Session, and Serve-Learn-Sustain. The Equity Collective's subcommittees are focused on student-facing programs, such as GT 1000, internal/staff-facing programs such as professional development and equity in hiring, and Office-wide efforts, such as “equity audits” for all units to determine how many staff are engaging with anti-bias, and equity-related trainings offered by the Institute.

This collective is taking on the responsibility of ensuring its units are providing their respective services in an inclusive manner. The ability to self-evaluate and look at metrics surrounding the level of engagement from within the Office is essential to identifying what work needs to be done to continue to strengthen this subunit of the large institution. Additionally, the Equity Collective’s work is especially important because their services are meant to enhance the student experience and support each students’ success. Therefore, OUE is an office where equity truly needs to be an evident norm; understanding how to enhance minority students’ Tech experience can look very different from enriching and supporting other students’ experiences. This collective’s desire to evaluate its progress in achieving true equity in its services and internal practices is commendable.

College Level Committees for Diversity & Inclusion- SDG #16 Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

The six colleges of Georgia Tech have commitments to engaging in diversity and inclusion initiatives and practices. Here are different groups and committees that each college created for specifically addressing diversity and inclusion:

College of Engineering: The Diversity & Inclusion Council was started in 2017 to examine issues faced by students, faculty, and staff and utilize existing programs to identify gaps and implement changes to fill these gaps. Additionally, the Center for Engineering Education and Diversity (CEED) is a key component of this work through its mission to diversify the engineering workforce. CEED interacts with current undergraduate and graduate students in the CoE, as well as prospective and future students.

College of Sciences: The mission of the  Faculty Diversity Council is to enhance the success and visibility of under-represented and under-served groups within the College of Sciences at Georgia Tech, as part of a commitment to fairness and collegiality at that benefits the Tech community as a whole and raises the impact and visibility of our scientists and mathematicians. Additionally, the Task Force on Racial Inequality, begun in June of 2020, focuses on specific goals such as their relationship with HBCUs and the cultivation of more student leaders within the college.

College of Liberal Arts: The Diversity and Inclusion Council started in September of 2019 with the goal of upholding IAC’s commitment to social responsibility, justice and courage. The council’s work includes providing a list of expectations for staff and faculty that emphasizes the aim that the college will be inclusive and respectful in all its endeavors.

College of Computing: Since 2017, the College of Computing has been home to the Constellations Center for Equity in Computing, the mission of which is to “ensure that all students- especially students of color, women, and others underserved in K-12 and post-secondary institutions- have access to quality computer science education, a fundamental life skill in the 21st century.” Constellations also embraces a social justice identity and offers resources on anti-racism.  

College of Design: The Diversity and Inclusion Council was reestablished in 2016 to fulfil its goal of broadening and raising awareness on key themes related to diversity and inclusion at Georgia Tech.

Scheller College of Business: The Diversity and Inclusion Council started in Fall of 2020 to foster organizational change and create equal access to opportunities for educational and professional growth and advancement. The council functions as an advisory body to the Dean and is a consulting body for the other offices and programs in Scheller.

Additionally, several of the schools within each college have established committees, councils, and/or advisory boards to address Diversity and Inclusion at the school level.

Having each college dedicate resources, time, and effort towards diversity, inclusion, and the needs of minority students is an effective, high- level method of approaching any issue in this realm. The existence of these councils, centers, and committees’ existence strengthens the structure of our institution from within as we work towards ensuring that inequalities are mitigated in the best ways possible.

If you have thoughts to share about the information in this blog post, please leave feedback about any of the initiatives mentioned or other insights via THIS FORM. Also, please consider joining us for a live discussion on November 30th at 3pm, if you would like to engage in more discourse about these Georgia Tech initiatives and others that relate to these three SDGs! Keep in mind, Georgia Tech has many other institutional level initiatives that were not listed here. Conversation that produces insight around each of these groups’ and initiatives’ mission and vision for tackling racial inequality can only improve the effectiveness and success of them as each continues its hard work in future semesters.

Full Event Information:

Sustaining the Conversation: A Review of Georgia Tech’s Work Towards Racial Justice through the Lens of 3 Sustainable Development Goals

This semester, Georgia Tech has strived to thoughtfully address, evaluate, and take action on racial injustice on our campus and in the communities we serve. In this two-part series, Serve-Learn-Sustain will create a space for students to reflect on Georgia Tech’s work to date through the lens of 3 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals—SDGs #10, #11, and #16: Reduced Inequalities, Sustainable Cities & Communities, and Peace, Justice, & Strong Institutions.  

Part One: Recognizing Georgia Tech’s Efforts

What progress do you think GT has made? What specific initiatives come to your mind? Tell us through THIS FORM. This blog post has included ways to learn more about the initiatives, share your thoughts, and get involved.

Part Two: Sustaining the Conversation

BlueJeans Link: https://bluejeans.com/362464052?src=join_info

On November 30th, at 3pm, join Serve-Learn-Sustain’s Racial Justice Fellows Jazmin Lucio and Josslyn Lally as they discuss the institute’s initiatives and responses. Feedback from Part One and the framing of the SDGs will help guide our conversation.  Live feedback during the discussion is also welcome. Candidly discussing our response to racial injustice and the Institute's progress on these topics is of utmost importance for acknowledging where we stand now, and where we can continue to sustainably develop a racially aware and equitable campus culture.

Please RSVP HERE for Part Two of the series.