Appendix G: Heller School for Social Policy and Management

Nov. 10, 2020

Background

The Heller Office of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity (EID) is committed to helping Heller achieve its motto of “knowledge advancing social justice” by building a strong community culture of belongingness for all. This is difficult work, and it requires participation from every corner of our institution to succeed. Our approach to EID work at Heller is grounded in a philosophy of continuous improvement, evidence-based practices and targeted interventions.

We undertake this work at every level: in each of Heller’s academic programs, research institutes, and administrative offices. The Heller EID Office tracks progress on key performance metrics informed by biennial climate surveys and university demographic data as well as qualitative data from the community. Evaluations are based on four EID pillars:

In the years since Ford Hall 2015, we see evidence of progress in these areas and growing resilience in our community. Our faculty and academic leadership are reexamining curriculum, teaching approaches, and the classroom climate. We take a growth mindset that seeks to build on areas of progress and creativity often inspired by our students, and we are using diffusion innovation and partnerships to expand our reach and our measure of what is possible.

Yet we also face significant headwinds. Although we have introduced many changes to our recruiting processes at the school, the outcomes from those processes show only small and inconsistent progress. Disparate financial burdens remain, inequity persists in hiring, and we see the mental and physical effects of societal and environmental stress on our community. We lack a unified understanding of history and social justice across disciplines and demographics, and there remain instances of microaggressions, invalidations, hyper-visibility, micro-assaults, harassment, racism, bullying and discrimination, particularly among members of marginalized populations. In short, the work is far from done.  As President Liebowitz noted on June 9 in a campus-wide initiative to address systemic racism at Brandeis, “I heard many of you express outrage, fear, and the exhaustion of living with cruel racism in your lives and on our campus. I said then that we must do more; we must do better.”

Approach

The following plan builds on the past work of the Office of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity and the Office of the Dean to address systemic racism at Heller.  During this summer’s  webinar titled “Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired,” our colleague Professor Anita Hill linked the famous statement by activist Fannie Lou Hamer to a history of “systematized racism.” This turn of phrase from systemic to systematized takes us from an adjective to a verb, demanding action.

It is in this spirit of action that our offices and our partners in the school and university continue to craft transformative change.

The plan derives from the broader mission statement guiding our equity, inclusion, and diversity efforts at Heller.  Our mission is to create a continuously thriving community, aimed at achieving universally higher quality academic and research outcomes for everyone in and beyond the Heller community.  We do so by creating specific, measurable, and achievable metrics which we monitor against internal baseline metrics as well as data from peer institutions.  We do so by adopting  the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED), a nationally-recognized, standardized framework for measuring diversity.

This plan is not merely a suggestion for meeting our aspirational motto of “Knowledge Advancing Social Justice.” To combat “systematized” racism and other kinds of oppression requires a multi-pronged approach addressing multiple aspects of our structure, operation, and activities.  This responsibility is not limited to a small number of people or a specific program office, but by the school and all community members within.

The Heller Plan to Address Systematized Racism

Our plan is built on the four groups that make up the immediate Heller community: students, faculty, researchers and staff.  For each group, we list the major areas of activity; briefly describe our past work; lay out the work and activities that are underway this Academic Year 2021; and in some cases identify tasks for the future.  Some activities are repeated in order to indicate the cross-cutting features of our efforts.

The Path Ahead

Taking on the issue of institutional racism requires a systemic process. The above plan provides the major steps that have been taken and those yet to come. But it will also require small, consistent and ongoing conversations and engagement in our daily decision-making, interactions and work. The late Congressman John Lewis wrote an op-ed days before his passing and published in the New York Times on the day of his funeral. His words are a clarion call, applicable to our task in our Heller and Brandeis community as they are for us all in our society.

"When you see something that is not right, you must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself."