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:

  1. 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,
  2. 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.

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.

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.

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.