A Statement from Associate Dean Tom Walker

SIS Associate Dean Tom WalkerWe start a new year with optimism and confusion; hope for fulfillment and concern for our environments; anticipation and dread. In our information professions we find, organize, transform and distribute information, yes; but, we also understand the information-related aspects of social justice. What unfolded last week in the seat of our democracy was abhorrent. It was already clear well before January that we faced upheaval -- the chaos of atrocities and discontent of different kinds that took place in every state and affected us all. But we will prevail.

As I have reflected on all of these during the holiday break, I tried to remind myself of the ways in which we all inform one another, whether as individuals, governments, activists, victims, family members, politicians, colleagues, librarians, educators or journalists. Depending on the intent, members of these groups or the groups collectively inform others, misinform, disinform or malinform. You may yourself have taught or taken courses about misinformation. Yet at the beginning of a fresh new year, it bears emphasizing that information disorders are complicit in the negative outcomes of political situations (disinformation about election fraud and political accomplishments), public health emergencies (inaccurate information or disinformation about COVID-19, its testing, treatments, and vaccines), systemic racism (BLM), climate change controversies and more.

Ultimately, I remain optimistic about the power of information, reason, and the human spirit to overcome the obstacles of disinformation. We see positivity and hope -- and sane approaches to information -- in the work of politicians as varied as Stacey Abrams, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Liz Cheney and Pete Buttigieg; brave scientific and cultural leaders like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Greta Thunberg; and artists such as Yo-Yo Ma and Agnes Denes. While being skeptical (as Katherine Hepburn's chief librarian character reminds us in Desk Set), I believe 2021 will provide welcome cultural, political and medical relief from the year that has just passed.

I am also optimistic about the work that is being done right here at Wayne State. The university is committed to creating a more equitable, inclusive and accessible campus experience for all. President M. Roy Wilson recently created the Social Justice Action Committee (SJAC), which is fostering a climate of inclusion and equity throughout the university. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement are at the forefront of these efforts, but the responsibility for creating a bias-free, inclusive and equitable institution rests with each of us. The School of Information Sciences is using these universitywide initiatives to continue our efforts to fight racism and misinformation by working closely with campus partners

May all of us in the School of Information Sciences community enjoy good health, professional satisfaction, intellectual rewards and a sense that we contribute positively to the world!

- Tom Walker
Associate Dean and Professor, School of Information Sciences