Peter Tufano addresses the Rhodes debate and how the School will learn, reflect, and act following worldwide anti-racism protests
While the Covid-19 pandemic has kept us physically apart, the events of the last few weeks have brought us together in sadness and outrage in protest of institutionalized racism of all forms, but especially as practiced consciously or unconsciously by people in positions of old power. Of course, joining with our colleagues across Oxford, we reject racism in all of its forms. But whether we are police or business executives, scholars or civil leaders, those of us in positions of authority are compelled to go further than this pronouncement: And what will we do? And when?
In our Saïd Business School community, these questions are particularly important. First, we focus on tackling world-scale systemic issues. Certainly, structural and institutionalized racism are systemic issues, a product of history, identity, economics, politics and much more. Second, we celebrate the fact that we are a diverse community—especially among our student body—although despite our efforts far less so among our staff and faculty. Third, we are an educational community, and many of us who chose a career in education did so in part because of its ability to address persistent inequalities through creating opportunity that can transform lives. Fourth, we are a global community and the notes you sent me in the wake of the George Floyd murder attest that racism is rampant globally, although taking different forms with different targets in different places. Finally, we certainly can do more to address issues of racism at all levels.
But what will we do? And when?
Clearly, the best answer will be the product of our collective experience and insights. So, as a first step, we will call a set of community meetings inviting students, staff, alumni and faculty to explore what we can do, within the School and beyond, to address these issues of institutional racism. This is an opportunity for genuine collaboration, to redefine scope and set ambitions high. The senior leadership of the School commits to be an active part of this discussion, which will begin by the end of June. This step builds upon the self-organized sessions run by our current students, but will expand the participants across all stakeholders.