“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” – Larry King


Systemic racism is the combination of institutional (discriminatory policies and practices in our institutions that routinely produce unjust outcomes) and structural (unjust patterns and practices that play out within said institutions and impact societal structures and hierarchies) issues within a society.  It results in the systematic distribution of resources, power and opportunity in a society to the benefit of people who already hold power (predominantly white), while excluding people of color.


Despite best efforts and good intentions, we may find ourselves perpetuating and exacerbating systemic racism. Ignorance isn’t an excuse for complicity in the disenfranchisement of black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC).  We must learn the history of racism and understand the impact of systemic racism on BIPOC to better recognize and strategize for a more equitable, inclusive, and just environment that effectively supports BIPOC faculty, staff and students. 


Because these challenges are systemic within our long-established institutions, addressing them requires intentional, sustained efforts.  We have to also work to address them at multiple levels within our institutions.  Addressing structural challenges within your application and hiring/admissions processes is important, but it will not lead to sustained change if you do not address the institutional challenges that make BIPOC feel uncomfortable and experience challenges once they arrive on your campus.

Recommended Resources

Act for Impact

If I am in the learn stage of my journey I need to learn about systemic racism in all facets of society – law, education, healthcare, etc. My focus is on understanding the true history of racism and oppression across marginalized racial groups. 

What I can do to Learn:

  • Read and watch credible materials by subject matter experts that explain the history of racism and systemic racism. 

If I am in the grow stage of my learning journey, I should put my knowledge about systemic racism to use. My focus is on myself — how I think, react, recognize, and interpret — and ultimately how I “show up” in a space. 

What I can do to Learn:

  • Examine the spaces I exist in – at work, at home, social environments – and identify potential signs of institutionalized/systemic racism (see article above as a starting place). 
  • Explore these signs more deeply:
    • why might the signs be indicative of systemic racism? 
    • what is the impact of the circumstance (and to whom)? 
    • how might you be complicit? 

If I am in the lead stage of my learning journey, I am more informed, practiced, and better equipped to model authentic allyship, challenge the status quo, and affect change within my spheres of influence even when faced with adversity, resistance, or ignorance. My focus is inspiring others to examine their beliefs, learn, and grow. 

What I can do to Learn:

  • Share what you know or have learned about systemic racism with at least 3 other people — peers, direct reports, supervisors. 
  • Share your observations about signs of systemic racism in the workplace with co-workers/teams/colleagues. 
  • Seek external peers to discuss examples and initiatives to address systemic racism
    • look to professional associations like NADOHE, NACUBO, EDUCAUSE, Nercomp, NCCI etc. for these opportunities consider creating them where they don’t exist. 
  • Convene, suggest, advocate for group discussions about potential issues of systemic racism. 
  • If support is available or you have influence/authority to proceed, collaboratively and inclusively develop a plan to address systemic racism or the consequences of it on your constituencies. 
  • Create SMARTIE goals for change.