Open Letter from Dept. of Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences

July 7, 2020

An Open Letter from SLHS Graduate Students

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Community,

Over the past few months, we have all been challenged in the face of a global pandemic and unprecedented civil unrest. Many of us have examined the way in which we live our lives and the beliefs that we hold. As a department, we have revisited our mission, central to which, is to serve the community of individuals with communication disorders or differences and to foster a culture of inclusiveness and respect in all our endeavors. We want to educate our students to make a difference in the world through the clinical services they will provide or the research questions they will answer. As champions of their professions, insightful clinicians and reflective scholars, this next generation of scholars will navigate and change the complex world of healthcare.

To that end, several SLHS students have reached out to take a strong stand in support of the individuals we serve. I commend them for embracing this leadership role. Below I share the open letter crafted by the students over the course of several meetings. I encourage you to read the letter. If you wish to add your support, information is found at the letter’s close. In addition, there is a petition being circulated for the Council of Academic Accreditation (CAA) to develop an anti-racism task force. For more information on the petition and how to sign, the link is

I am proud of our SLHS students for recognizing the importance of advocacy and that education goes beyond the classroom.

Prof. Cienkowski
Dept Head, SLHS

Open Letter

Dear UConn Speech and Hearing Community,

We write to you in response to recent instances of racial injustice in our country and our communities. The violent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) have brought to light the systemic racism embedded in the foundation of our society. As students, clinicians, and human beings we condemn racism in all of its many forms. It is our role to advocate for, support and provide high-quality care to all of our patients regardless of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, class, disability status, and all aspects of their human rights.

We will commit ourselves to taking specific and diligent actions towards anti-racism in our education and clinical practice. At UConn, faculty and staff have demonstrated a consistent effort to educate us regarding cultural and linguistic differences while treating diverse populations, but our field lacks both in diversity and in perspective to be able to fully understand and serve our Black community. The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) estimates that 91.7% of their members and affiliates identify as White. Therefore, it is the responsibility of our fellow students, faculty, and staff to actively listen, learn, and amplify the experiences of those who have been systemically oppressed.

We vow to take the following steps to initiate this effort:

  1. Devote ourselves to an ongoing process of education and learning about racism and challenging our implicit biases.


  1. Demand that diverse materials and textbooks be used in classes.


  1. Replace the term “cultural competence” with “cultural humility” in our clinical training, as it reflects the process-oriented approach required for striving towards more nuanced cultural care in our field.


  1. Communicate with department leaders to establish an anti-racism workshop at least once a year as a part of our regular colloquium series.


  1. Schedule open forums for all faculty, staff, and students with the goal of generating an actionable list of items the department will accomplish.

We acknowledge that anti-racism is not easily accomplished, but we recognize that immediate actions are required to promote change. Systemic racism roots beyond the speech, language, and hearing services we provide as clinicians, but as students, we strive to be the most educated and open-minded allies possible in order to maximize the quality of individualized services we deliver to patients across settings. Therefore, we challenge our fellow students, faculty, and staff to analyze their own privilege and use it to become a more anti-racist facility.


If you would like to add your name in support of this letter please contact Elizabeth Collin ( and Paula Calandra (

Elizabeth Collin, Paula Calandra, Corine Sylvain, Madison Perriolat, and Madison Thompson

M.A. SLP Class of 2021