Dear Howard University Community,
In 2013, out of Howard’s 13 schools and colleges, we had only one female dean. To allow for such underrepresentation among our decanal leadership, as our University’s student body became more predominantly female, and especially as Howard was known as a champion of representation and inclusivity, was a wrong that we desperately needed to set right.
When we recognized this transgression, we did not impugn the 12 male deans and the work they had done for the University or the executives who installed them in positions of leadership. We can highlight the virtues of a hiring process that enabled Howard to identify such capable men for these deanships while also casting a spotlight on the imperfections that caused equally highly qualified women to be overlooked.
Our past should serve as guideposts to steer us toward a more prosperous future.
When we fail to admit our mistakes, it becomes more likely that they will be repeated. Rather than rooting out the prejudices that contributed to the underrepresentation of women, we would have run the risk of entrenching those unconscious biases into how we conducted business.
Reverence of the past requires a delicate balancing act. We should extol our history, our traditions and our culture – but not to so great an extent that we blind ourselves to their shortcomings. Indeed, to truly respect our past, we must be willing to critique it. History should never be so heavy a force that we are prevented from moving forward or dragged backward. Rather, our past should serve as guideposts to steer us toward a more prosperous future.
Nothing about our University is beyond reproach or grounds for change. Even our most iconic buildings and campus fixtures are liable to be replaced if they no longer suit the needs of the University or in some manner are thwarting our forward trajectory.
In this issue of Howard Magazine, you will read about Howard’s 10 female deans. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention, Ranti Akiyode, the interim dean of the College of Pharmacy. In total, we now have 11 women serving as decanal leaders. There are more Black women leading our University than at any other institution of higher education in the country.
In these important leadership positions, we are not only more reflective of our student body, we are not only practicing the lessons in representation and inclusion that we preach, but we have identified immensely talented, visionary, and qualified leaders who are taking their schools and colleges to unprecedented heights. This success, like so many personal and institutional achievements, began with a past failure and our willingness to talk about it and take measures to correct it.
Excellence in Truth and Service,
Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA
Charles R. Drew Professor of Surgery