Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Anti-Racism Plan

Dec. 2, 2021

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences anti-racism goals and objectives are interlinked with the School of Art and Sciences' divisional and departmental plans. We outline here a plan for a plan with a commitment to sharing a more detailed plan by Sept. 1, 2021, to address the scope of the racist structures, systems and climates across the graduate school.

We look forward to working with the School of Arts and Sciences and the division heads to set up structures of accountability in building out and operationalizing the anti-racist plans for GSAS.

In the winter and spring of 2021, GSAS held focus groups and individual interviews with students. Students report experiencing racial macro- and micro-aggressions from their peers, department administration and faculty. The students also report that there is no accountability for when they try to report or interrupt racism within their departments, which is further exacerbated by the power dynamics of student-faculty and student-administrator relationships. Faculty especially tend to "explain away" the students' experiences and are unwilling to hold each other accountable. We also know that our recruitment, admissions and retention efforts fall short of achieving our goal of a racially diverse student body, as evidenced in our demographic data over the last five years.

GSAS is committed to a multilayered, comprehensive strategy to address systemic racism across departments and divisions. While implementing support systems for BIPOC students, faculty and staff alike is warranted, this strategy must also address the critical root work of dismantling structures of racism that have gone uninterrupted for many years. This requires individual efforts on behalf of faculty, staff and administrators to examine and critique their own biases and prejudices, as well as a critical examination of harmful structures within the department that contribute to a racially hostile environment. As we develop our anti-racist plan, we will be focusing on four specific areas: 

Mentoring and Advising

Many faculty have received little, if any, formal training on how to not only interrupt their own personal biases, but also how to create anti-racist and equitable structures of advising support. GSAS intends to create a series of anti-bias and anti-racism trainings for all directors of graduate study, so that every incoming and returning DGS has a baseline knowledge and toolkit to implement equitable, culturally responsive and anti-racist advising structures. Additionally, faculty in the graduate programs in the Division of Science have advocated for external trainings by consultants who have expertise in the particularities of science disciplinary cultures (and in particular, lab cultures), structures and hierarchies.

Because our graduate programs are relatively small in comparison to our peer institutions, we will want to partner with programs to create structures of mentoring and advising that allow BIPOC students access to a network of faculty and administrative mentors, both within and external to Brandeis. This will be part of the plan to increase academic and socio-emotional supports which help prevent attrition and boost retention.

GSAS has annual meetings with every program (called benchmarking). As a part of that process, we will require programs to set and discuss their own diversity, equity and inclusion goals. Additionally, GSAS will institute multiple channels (surveys, focus groups, interviews) for student voices and experiences to surface in these annual discussions about program climate and goals.

Admissions Practices and Recruitment Pipelines

The School of Arts and Sciences has instituted a robust training for faculty search committees and has seen a marked improvement in its anti-racist hiring practices and diversity goals. Following that example, GSAS will partner with all programs to institute a comprehensive review of the admissions practices and recruitment pipelines.

We hope to work with admissions review teams across all divisions and departments to incorporate an equity lens into their admissions processes, relying on trainings and research to build this equity lens. We will also identify opportunities to build (and strengthen already existing) cross-institutional pipelines for prospective BIPOC students. This work to build out admissions and recruitment pipelines is conditional upon the implementation of anti-racist mentoring and advising practices for GSAS faculty: we cannot in good faith recruit BIPOC students to Brandeis if we know that the structures of support for their persistence are insufficient.

Finally, we intend to expand the DEIS Scholars Program, a scholarship opportunity that is designed to provide financial, academic and socio-emotional support to underrepresented scholars pursuing a terminal master’s degree. We will focus on building out a comprehensive programming structure for the current and incoming DEIS cohorts in hopes of securing additional funds in future years to recruit a larger cohort of students.

GSAS Governance and School Climate

The Graduate Council, a Faculty Handbook Committee, is the primary governance structure for GSAS. We will review the role of the council in supporting and leading anti-racist work, including the formation of an anti-racism task force. The anti-racism task force can function as an umbrella task force for the work related to graduate education in the individual departmental DEI task forces; individual departments or divisions can elevate questions or problem-solving opportunities to the Graduate Council anti-racism task force.

Additionally, we will create and participate in a multiseries training for GSAS leadership and staff focusing on anti-racist workplace practices. GSAS is currently engaging in the 21-day Racial Equity Challenge, which is bringing together students, administrators and faculty and will serve as a launching point for additional anti-racism initiatives for spring and fall 2021.

We will also continue to gather qualitative and quantitative data to assess the campus racial climate. We will rely on small focus groups as well as an annual campus climate survey, developed in conjunction with Institutional Research.

Accountability and Data Transparency

GSAS is creating an anti-racism section of the website (launching in late spring)  as a hub for anti-racism resources, data and goals. Within this site, we will create a public dashboard on our website about our enrollment and attrition demographic data.

GSAS also intends to conduct an internal review of the transparency of schoolwide processes and policies that might augment inequities for students.

Anti-Racism Plan Framework