A Proposal to Address Systemic Racism at Brandeis
Nov. 10, 2020
When thinking about ways to address systemic racism, the Brandeis’ Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI) suggests a process where campus leaders and community members foreground two basic ideas:
- While preventing interpersonal racist encounters is important to stop racist behaviors, addressing systemic racism is primarily about attempting to address the impersonal effects of structural inequity within society and on campus; and,
- Systems thinking will require an intentionally distinct focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion as separate areas for scrutiny and consideration.
To these ends, what follows is an attempt at synthesis and consolidation of the various ideas and plans, including the Black Action Plan, that have been developed and submitted since the summer across the university.
Equity: Everyday Justice
A commitment to equity ensures that all Brandeis populations are able to navigate the campus environment free of harassment and discrimination on an interpersonal level, with adequate support to assure that marginalized populations can have an equivalent Brandeis experience commensurate with that of the majority populations. To achieve this goal, we expect to reimagine policing at Brandeis, redeploy mental health, residence life, and other services to complement existing police services, consider the financial impact of being a student at Brandeis, and examine employee trajectories.
- Undertake process to completely reimagine policing at Brandeis, including the consideration of when, where, or whether, officers would be armed on campus.
- Redeploy resources across the university to complement existing police services, including mental health crisis response, monitoring student events, and services in residence life.
- Regularly examine the overall financial impact of being a student at Brandeis, with particular focus on student debt burden, financial aid requirements for employment or family contribution, cost of extracurricular activities, housing, and class costs like textbooks or lab fees.
- Regularly examine the financial and employment trajectory of every employee (faculty and staff) for equity, including salary reviews, career promotion, and excessive turnover.
Diversity: Improve Composition
Brandeis must engage in a two-part process of attracting academically qualified underrepresented populations, both establishing an array of academic and career pipelines into the campus and creating accountability systems to measure progress toward these goals. Steps that make this possible might include admissions and hiring goals across the university pursuing new student pipeline programs, focusing on graduate student recruitment, rethinking the admissions process, enhancing career development, and establishing new “search and selection” training programs for full-time faculty and staff searches.
- Develop admissions and hiring goals across the university, including senior levels, for the next five years (to 2025) by major unit, division, or school.
- Pursue new student pipeline programs: e.g., TRIO, McNair Scholars and Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program, Mellon Mays, NSF’s LSAMP.
- Consider establishing a university-wide Office of Graduate Student Recruitment.
- Consider forgoing the use of standardized entrance tests in the admissions process.
- Enhance career development through internal pipeline programs, external partnerships (e.g., The Partnership), and the expansion of“tiers” of employment so people do not need to leave Brandeis to “move up.”
- Require search and selection training for every full-time faculty and staff search.
Inclusion: Engage Every Community Member
Inclusion requires that each of us bears responsibility for building a diverse Brandeis, with a baseline expectation that all faculty, staff, and students can effectively and positively engage that community regardless of their point of entry. To well equip our community members to play this role, we could grow content knowledge through anti-racist training, workshops, symposia, speakers, programs, conferences, and events; create a unified first-year experience for undergraduate students that explicitly addresses anti-oppression topics and learning to navigate a diverse environment, scrutinize our physical and virtual spaces to assure inclusive imagery and messaging, and incorporate minimum DEI competencies in job descriptions and performance reviews.
- Grow general DEI content knowledge through explicitly anti-racist training, workshops, symposia, speakers, programs, conferences, and events.
- Develop a unified first-year experience for undergraduate students, beginning with orientation, moving through the traditional first-year engagements like the University Writing Seminar and the First-Year Book to a Community Living-Learning environment designed to explicitly address anti-oppression topics and learning to navigate a diverse environment.
- Consider a unified first-year experience for graduate students to develop community across the entire university.
- Scrutinize all campus physical and virtual space for inclusive imagery and messaging.
- Standardize a minimum level of DEI competencies in every job description and performance review.
Build and Sustain Anti-Racist Infrastructure
A commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion requires the necessary infrastructure to bring about the desired change. Overreliance on a particular office, position, or the discretionary effort of committed staff or faculty in non-DEI roles will undermine our efforts. Our progress, or lack of progress, in all areas must be as transparent as possible.
- Monitor and report progress on goals across the university, including climate surveys and other assessments surrounding student engagement with Public Safety, DCL, BCC, ICC, GSC, and the classroom.
- Consider hiring a senior-level DEI professional in each School similar to the role in Heller.
- Establish academic and non-academic units to provide the scholarship and programming described above. E.g., Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diaspora Studies.
- ODEI will develop and update: a) the status website related to student protest agreements; b) HEED metrics; and c) a diversity “dashboard” updated annually with OPIR.