Yearbooks and Social Media

Dear School of Dentistry Students, Staff and Faculty,

We appreciate that there have been some informal discussions regarding events of this past week, which have cast public light on medical student behaviors, class yearbooks and the like. As President Rao affirmed earlier in the week with his university-wide communication, VCU has pride and commitment in enabling our learning environment to be a place of dignity, mutual respect and inclusivity. Additionally, in last week’s state of the university address, Dr. Rao highlighted the professionalism and accomplishments of our academic community as well as our commitment to be a university that is transparent, accessible and a true resource to our community.

Key to what we accomplish together is respect and professionalism for one another and behaving accordingly. The communities we serve count on us to be leaders and role models. Madeline Bell, CEO, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, observes, “As a leader, people are always watching you. They’re listening to you, they look at what you wear, what you say, your body language. I think that leaders sometimes forget that people watch them not just when they’re on, but all the time. I think that you have to really understand that and be intentional about how you carry yourself.”

Accordingly, it is important to remember in this digital age our memories are posted all around us for continual access. It is vital in this current era to refrain from any potentially hurtful communications that could be perceived as derogatory of race, ethnic group, religion, gender identity or other way an individual identifies oneself. I refer you to one of my previous blog posting regarding Respect, Tolerance, and Inclusiveness in the VCU School of Dentistry.

We know that you are proud of our school of dentistry and we are certainly proud of you – each of you as powerful ambassadors for our school and its wonderful reputation. Our past, both good and bad, informs our school’s reputation and helps us share the best for our future. Yearbooks are a part of our past and sadly sometimes reflect moments that we wish we had not had, done or said. Please know that yearbooks have ceased at our school but images and text continue to be posted on social media. We can’t erase our past, yet we can use it to inform and better our future.

As this public reappraisal of school yearbooks plays out in media communications, please know that we are grateful to you for your utmost ethical behavior as current students, faculty, and staff, and hopefully soon-to-be future leaders in our community. Thank for your continued commitment to the values and behaviors of our noble professions and to your support of the VCU School of Dentistry mission and values.

With the very best wishes for your success,

David C. Sarrett, DMD, MS
Dean, VCU School of Dentistry