AVP and CTO Update June 1, 2020
Writing this weekly blog is a joy and also a privilege. There are no shortage of things to write about as we develop the McMaster IT Culture, advance our McMaster IT Vision, and as we work together to create a connected McMaster community. I keep a list of ideas so that I can dip into them when I need inspiration or to remember to bring something to your attention. I try to remain focused on our McMaster IT activities, leadership, technology and other ‘on brand’ topics.
None of that felt appropriate this morning
Instead, what crowded my heart and mind, and has held me transfixed and consumed over the last few days, as I am sure it held many of you, are the circumstances that have gripped the United States in escalating protest and despair over the past week: the killing of George Floyd. I know I cannot adequately explain any of this and what it all means, however there are many more qualified, intelligent and eloquent individuals than myself who can help to educate us on what it all means (see Killer Mike on CNN, or read Masai Ujiri’s opinion piece in the Globe and Mail).
This is a heavy time and although I cannot say anything that will fix or even adequately address this situation, however I can use my privilege and this moment to provide clarity: our institution, my AVP and CTO office, the McMaster IT community and UTS, and also myself, do not and will not tolerate racism, harassment or discrimination.
We have a long way to go and a lot to learn to be able to truly say we have a society that solidly supports and delivers on the commitment outlined in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our Ontario Human Rights code, and it is up to each of us individually to make it so. McMaster has for the first time delivered a Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and with that is consciously working to advance the way we support and interact each other. To quote Jane Elliott, the American anti-racism activist: “There is only one race. It’s the human race.” We can only succeed to achieve true equity and inclusion if we stay open to learning and listening.
In challenging and charged times, empathy is something we can all dip into in order to hold space for those around us most impacted. What is empathy? As this article shares: “It’s the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. That makes it different from kindness or pity.” I especially appreciate the six key elements that are outlined in the article:
- Cultivate curiosity about strangers
- Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities
- Try another person’s life
- Listen hard—and open up
- Inspire mass action and social change
- Develop an ambitious imagination
That isn’t to say that being empathetic is easy – it isn’t. But it can be learned. Even adopting one or two of these ‘habits’ can help us to develop our deep understanding and to contribute to change at the most fundamental level, the human level: “We need empathy to create a new kind of revolution. Not an old-fashioned revolution built on new laws, institutions, or policies, but a radical revolution in human relationships.”
I am here if any of you need someone to listen.
Have a good week, everyone.