All members of Transform and friends of Transform—
There are urgent moments when we must speak—passionately, vitally, vibrantly, insistently—on a critical matter of civil rights.
This is such a time. The fair and equal treatment of trans girls is currently under attack. As Transform, we must speak out to all our constituents, asking everyone to be informed on the issues before us—specific and broad-based—and act to express our commitment to trans folks of every sort.
We stand with all our transgender communities in their keen advocacy work on this front, not as a matter of partisan politics but as an issue of human thriving.
We remind ourselves, as always, of the nested nature of all our concerns. Keen attention to a specific injustice sharpens our minds and hearts for all others, for they are connected. This is what we’re learning from each other each day.
By your side, Kathryn and your entire Transform Executive Team
Kathryn Bond Stockton, Dean Edmund Fong, Chair of Ethnic Studies Wanda Pillow, Chair of Gender Studies Angela Smith, Director of Disability Studies Claudia Geist, Associate Dean for Research Hokulani Aikau, Director of Pacific Islands Studies Elizabeth Archuleta, Associate Chair of Ethnic Studies Kim Hackford-Peer, Associate Chair of Gender Studies Jen Wozab, Student Success Coordinator Estela Hernandez, Assistant Dean
The Pasifika Scholars Institute is an intensive program with specific aims to increase matriculation of Pacific Islander students to the University with keen attention to the educational pathways. The program was largely designed by Dr. Kehaulani Vaughn, faculty in the Education, Culture, and Society and Faculty Advisor to the program. As part of the larger Pacific Islands Studies Initiative, this Institute aims to increase students’ knowledge of retention services and programs at the University of Utah; increase students’ knowledge of Pacific Islander faculty, staff, and community members; and develop students’ self-awareness and confidence. Centering Pacific Islander cultural and its relevance for their educational success, students’ develop leadership knowledge and skills in order to boost academic success and participation at the U.
The first iteration of the Institute took place in the summer of 2019. While student feedback made it clear that participation was transformational, Dr. Vaughn and Moana decided that engagement throughout the year was important in order to build sustainable pathways. “Although the intensive week in the summer allows us to demystify higher education and highlight current Pacific Islander staff, faculty, and community engaged research, we realized that it was necessary to keep in continual contact with our scholars,” said Dr. Vaughn. And so, the planning committee decided that the Institute would include yearlong programming to promote the program and also serve as check-ins with previous participants thereby creating a larger community of scholars.
What they could not imagine then, was that a worldwide pandemic would come into play.
As most things this 2020, the Pasifika Scholars Institute Bridge has shifted to be delivered fully-online. It is no surprise that Zoom quickly became an essential tool for the execution of the program- as were Canvas, social media and YouTube. The entire summer intensive portion of the Bridge was delivered virtually. “We are finding that going online has many benefits that we were not necessarily seeking. For example, it’s easier to record our panels and seminars. We have been streaming our fall webinars on social media, then uploading the recordings on our YouTube Channel, Pasifika Archive. This has made our events accessible to participants who were not able to attend live. We are reaching more scholars, but also members of their families and their communities. And we know of the importance for our communities to be a part of our educational access journeys.”
This fall’s seminar topics included: Voting in the time of Coronavirus; Listening and Healing in the Time of Coronavirus; U of U Resources; and a Signature seminar with Dr. Tevita O. Ka’ili, professor of Cultural Anthropology and Dean of the Faculty of Culture, Language and Performance Arts at BYU, Hawai’i and University of Utah alumni. Please check out this spring events, which includes the Pasifika Scholars Graduate Institute that was created to help Pasifika students interested in attending graduate and/or professional school. Follow them on social media at: To stay informed of upcoming events through the Pacific Islands Studies Initiative, follow their Facebook page here, and their Instagram account @uofupasifikascholars. You may watch past seminars on the YouTube channel, The Pasifika Archive
Who Counts? That is perhaps one of the defining questions of a democracy. You may have heard that in under two weeks, this election will be the most consequential of our lifetimes. That is no hyperbole. We have seen stripped bare, explicit attempts to question and subvert fundamental democratic premises. We have seen efforts to deploy state violence and mobilize far right groups to intimidate and discourage our rights to petition for grievances or our efforts to hold authorities accountable. We have seen families separated and children caged. We have seen a callous disregard and contempt for the calamities many communities face across the land. With by turns incredulity and bitter reckoning, we are made to feel that we do not count and do not matter.
This one election will not solve our struggles and you may face unconscionable hardship and even peril in casting a simple vote. The fact of the matter is that the history of our democracy has always been begrudged and yet– others across time and space have struggled to widen its shores, so that you may rise and be counted or rise for those yet to be counted.
Make a plan to vote. Treat it with the dignity and gravity it deserves. In the words of James Baldwin, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” We are called to account this election and I hope you will face it and know that you are not alone.
I’m Kathryn Stockton — Dean for the School of Cultural and Social Transformation.
I hope you feel the joy I can’t help but exude. You’re back! We’re gonna be together. Somewhat in person, mostly online, but the point is we’re gonna be thinking together again. We’ll be engaging each other. We will be plotting and planning action.
In our last address to you, in a format like this, it was last spring — April. The pandemic had really just begun. We were already missing you like crazy, which was why I reached out to you. I think I remember saying that — something along the lines of — “the virus has revealed what we know to be true.”
Sad to say, we were not surprised that racial inequality and income inequality have produced disproportionate health disparities for communities of color. We have seen that with Navajo Nation and other indigenous groups in our state. We have seen that now for Black communities, Latinx communities, immigrant communities. We were not surprised, but we were deeply saddened, about new outbreaks of anti-Asian racism. Again, we knew these things to be true. And the virus has revealed what we know to be true.
But something else has happened since I last addressed you. Our country has embarked on what we can only hope can become a true, massive, racial reckoning. The murder of George Floyd by police has felt for so many like a culminating moment. Of course there have been so many people before him. We’ve talked about such folks. There have been people after him. So many people now in this country can name their names.
and the list goes on.
There is no time — so sorry to say — to be able to list all the names that we know in our hearts and that we can repeat. And then, there’s so many people whose names we don’t even know. People from Indigenous, Black and Brown communities who have lost their lives, not just for racist violence, but to racist policies.
Slow death is taking place all around us. We talk about that. We teach that.
And let’s be clear, something that we know very much in our hearts, this is the moment when we’re feeling great amount of fatigue. And I can only say that our beloved colleague Dr. William Smith, who has spent his career forging, researching, teaching the concept of racial battle fatigue, has given us a phrase for it. I don’t know a phrase more fitting for this moment and what we feel.
In fact, as you may know, I wrote a letter to you called, “Heartbreak and Reckoning.” Just as the country was embarking upon this moment after George Floyd’s murder. And I wanted to convey to you at that moment our collective heartbreak in Transform and to say that we had reached an unbearable point of breaking. It feels that this unbearableness will remain with us. And indeed we will not let it go! We are not going to let our anger go! It is righteous anger, and we continue to feel it strongly. It is urgent. It was urgent before George Floyd’s murder, and it evermore urgent now.
It is also the case — and it needs to be said — we do not feel this all the same. We may feel a sense of urgency. But it is Black friends, Black staff, Black students, Black faculty who feel the force and pain of anti-Blackness in a way that cannot be felt unless you have the experience of being Black in this country.
That is something we will have to reckon with.
The other thing I want to say so strongly is we in Transform will never reduce communities of color to their suffering. We will never be caught out in that particular thought. And our wonderful colleague. Dr. Darius Bost is constantly teaching and writing on creative expressions of Black existence. That is that threat of joy that cannot be lost, and I think we know it is not odd to carry anger and joy in the same heart. It is what we do. It is what pushes us on.
So let me do express some joyful things that will be taking place in the School for Cultural and Social Transformation in the coming years.
One thing that was a great priority before the pandemic, before George Floyd, was expanding Black studies in our school. We will be doing a search for a new colleague in the fall of 2021, and we couldn’t be more excited.
This new colleague will be jointly appointed in Ethnic Studies and Gender Studies, and it will help us to start building out as we are — our connections to other colleagues on this campus doing African American studies — to come together in thought and collectivity, to share strength and to share joy.
A second thing that is happening this very semester — very happy making — is the launch of our new certificate in Pacific Islands Studies. Please think of taking this new certificate. It’s available to you. Can’t wait to see how it unfolds!
The third thing will be fostering and nurturing Disability Studies. We are so proud and so happy to be the new home for relaunching Disability Studies on this campus. We have remarkable colleagues doing work, and indeed, I believe our minors have already doubled in a very short time.
A fourth thing — a little too early to say but I’m very hopeful — I think it’s possible that our campus may come together around a grand challenge, or call it what you will, to come together to think about environmental anti-racism. I’ve had some wonderful conversations with the Dean of the College of Science, the Dean of the College of Mines and Earth Science. I believe in the College of Social and Behavioral Science, and the College of Education, and, very profoundly, the College of Humanities — where they’ve just received a new MellonGrant for environmental humanities. I think we’ll have partners all across this campus. These are the two big issues of our time: our environment/climate change, on the one hand, and of course, racism on the other. Environmental anti-racism weds them because we know they go together. Very sadly, environmental racism is one of the reigning issues of our time.
We are going to come together to bring in community partners. There are so many incredible people in the community during activism, so many community researchers who have the type of wisdom and knowledge we need here at the U. I think these partnerships are ready to be forged, so look for that coming your way.
But again, at heart, in many ways this message is to say: a reunion with you matters all the world to us. If you encounter me, you will feel this joy. And we thank you for coming back! We don’t take it lightly, and we’re ready to embrace your presence here.
We know you are largely “away” from our campus, figuring out your lives in this pandemic.
We also know you are not at all away from what should be a national racial reckoning.
I know you join us when we say: ENOUGH. It has always been horrendously, heartbreakingly enough.
This is why our colleague, Dr. William Smith, has spent his career writing and teaching about what he calls “racial battle fatigue.” His phrase has been raging in my head all these days. It so captures this terrible moment and, then, the exhaustion that inevitably awaits beyond this outpouring. The level of fatigue, joined by righteous anger, is at a new high—if that is possible. The horrific murder of George Floyd—because a camera caught it—has indisputably revealed the anti-blackness always persistent in this country. Fatigue results from being here, in maddening sorrow, over and over. And then all over again.
This at a time when Navajo Nation and other indigenous groups have suffered so dramatically during COVID, along with black, LatinX, and immigrant communities also hit so hard, and, lest we forget, at a moment when anti-Asian racism has shown itself anew. You are Transform students: you know that five centuries of white supremacy have formed this country since 1492—with five centuries of accumulated pain, death, anger, and continuously vanquished hope.
And so we say: ENOUGH.
But will it be enough? Will this be the point when, finally, large numbers of people will no longer fail to find this living, lethal, sitting-in-plain-view history unbearable? That must be the measure. And then there must be action.
I can sense the depth of collective heartbreak in Transform. As a group of connected hearts and minds, we say so fiercely: “this is the unbearable point of breaking.” We cannot keep mourning—and at times forgetting—each black person murdered by police. We cannot stand by while other folx of color and indigenous people, whose names we may not know, lose their lives to racist policies and violent actions. Slow death is taking place all around us.
And we can’t pretend that we feel this all the same. To state the obvious, anti-black racism falls so differentially on black people, black families, black colleagues, black students, and black friends. Together, we must reckon with this bald fact. Also, as the scholarship of Dr. Darius Bost has taught us, scenes of such pain threaten to reduce black lives to suffering in the limited national scope of vision, instead of opening onto a full embrace of creative black existence.
Realistically, we must commit our lives to reckoning. No swift fix is going to emerge. What are we each prepared to do?
We will be with you every step of the way inside this question. We recommit to it with ever greater urgency and tenacity. The work you’re doing couldn’t be more critical.
Together, we must face this unbearable pass to which we’ve come.
Kathryn Dean, School for Cultural and Social Transformation
My name is Kathryn Stockton, and I’m the Dean of the School for Cultural and Social Transformation. This is a message with a singular purpose: to say we miss you. We miss your faces. We miss being in your physical presence. We miss the dynamism you bring to everything.
And yes, you’re taking classes, you’re writing cool things, you’re thinking cool thoughts. You’re being as clever as ever in your commitment to action. But we know these times are tremendously difficult – particularly difficult on your lives. Some of you’ve lost your jobs. You’re taking care of families. You might be alone unaccepted by your family.
Vast understatement: This is not the semester you expected.
But the things that we’ve been teaching each other have become quite visible, have they not. The way that this pandemic is particularly hitting hard communities of color. The way that income inequalities have led to health disparities – as they always do. The way that native populations in our state are suffering dramatically. And the way that racist hate has broken out around Asian Americans.
We could have predicted these scenarios – sad to say. We studied them. Our hearts are wound around them. So our missing you may not be the most important thing in your world. We get that. But we miss you nonetheless.
And we just need to say that we hope you’re coming back. We want to think again side by side with you.
I think we all agree the energy of the classroom is just not the same. The ability to do that fine eye role in relation to your professor, to shoot a sly smile across the room at a fellow student because they’ve said something that has moved you, and oh the fine art of irony and campiness – so much of our scene – is lost on Zoom.
But we’ll be coming back. At some point, we will be together.
And therefore may I just repeat again: those of you who are not graduating, please do come back.
We need you.
We need to think with you.
And this period of time, please if you have a need, do reach out. If you have a question, you got a comment, you just need to vent, you need a listening ear. We are here for you, and we’re going to be here for you.
So, let me just say hopefully, we will see you soon.
The School for Cultural and Social Transformation will have limited operating hours for immediate assistance only. The student lounge will remain closed. Please follow your professors’ directions on how to best reach them for issues related to coursework.
The Pasifika Ambassadors’ application is now open! Apply before September 6th to be a part of this exciting new internship with the Pacific Islands Studies Initiative.
The Pasifika Ambassadors Program provides undergraduate students, who have interests or commitment to the Pacific Islander community and PI studies, the unique opportunity to learn from and with Pacific Islands Studies Initiative professors, staff, and community leaders. Through professional development workshops and hands-on experience, Pasifika Ambassadors will increase their practical knowledge and skills that will enhance their academic and social experiences, learn more about the needs of the PI community in Utah and identify tactics to meet those needs, develop and improve leadership skills, and expand each of their professional and personal networks.
Pasifika Ambassadors are involved in several on- and off-campus recruitment activities co-hosted or sponsored by the PI Studies Initiative. All Pasifika Ambassadors will meet for a weekly seminar led by the PI Studies Initiative Bridge Program Director. Other duties include, but are not limited to, the following: staff various community events and outreach activities; assist with marketing and promoting the U and PI Studies; work on projects designed to help advance the goals of the PI Initiative with designated PI Studies Initiative professors, staff, and community leaders.
The Pasifika Ambassador cohort selection process will involve an application and interview conducted each year. Pasifika Ambassador cohorts must commit to serving as an ambassador for a full academic year. will be selected in late August and will serve until the Spring Semester’s last day of classes. It will require a commitment of up to ten hours per week, including some evening and weekend hours assisting with community events.