Draft University Anti-Racism Plan

November 10, 2020

Dear Members of the Brandeis Community,

Transformation requires many things: looking within to identify challenges, a willingness to reconsider long-held beliefs and systems, and, most importantly, hard work. Over these past several months, the Brandeis community has done just that in response to the charge to create action plans to address systemic racism. It is important to understand that these plans are designed to engage far beyond interpersonal issues around race, instead seeking to address the effects of more impersonal systems and structures that we encounter every day. As you engage these plans, notice the distinct and separate areas of focus around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

This message will focus specifically on our action plans to address systemic racism, and to provide information about several listening sessions we have scheduled to discuss these plans with the Brandeis community. In the coming weeks, the Office of Campus Operations will share updates on the separate, ongoing process to re-imagine public safety at Brandeis and on opportunities to provide feedback on those efforts.

The positive progress we have made in the past several months on our action plans to address systemic racism is due to the sustained effort of our leadership teams in Public Safety and Human Resources; Community Living, Residential Life, and Athletics; and the Academy; the thoughtful contributions of the authors of the Black Action Plan (BAP); and continued input by faculty, staff, and other members of our community.

The draft plans are still a work in progress, requiring your feedback, refinement, and deliberateness. This includes strategically prioritizing action steps and considering recommendations through the lens of financial requirements over time.  

The introduction to the Draft University Anti-Racism Plan offers a thoughtful synthesis of where we hope to go in each of these areas. This includes:

Equity: Everyday Justice

A commitment to equity ensures that all Brandeis populations are able to navigate the university environment free of harassment and discrimination on an interpersonal level, with adequate support to assure that marginalized populations can have a Brandeis experience commensurate with that of the majority populations. To achieve this goal, we expect to reimagine policing at Brandeis; expand 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. To well equip our community members to play this role, we might expect to provide robust 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 diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) competencies in job descriptions and performance reviews.  

These overviews reflect the very detailed, action-driven approach we are taking to move the Brandeis community in a direction we as an institution desire. But we can’t stop here. We envision a multi-step process for community engagement:

On a parallel track, each of the individual schools (both graduate and undergraduate) has prepared their part of the plan. We have asked the leaders to engage specifically with members of their school to move the plan forward. As noted above, we are also in the process of re-imagining our public safety policies, approaches, functions, and practices. We are planning to offer several opportunities, separate from the listening sessions listed above, for community input throughout this re-imagining process. We will release more information about these feedback opportunities in the coming weeks.  

Once the feedback is gathered, Mark and the leadership teams will integrate the resulting insights into a unified action plan. Information will be organized, prioritized, and reviewed by senior leadership at Brandeis. Though we expect to present a final plan, it will be a living document that includes immediate action steps and a long-term process for continuing to update the plan as deemed necessary. We expect that the plan will offer a dynamic structure that allows us to undertake many steps in parallel, while maintaining momentum at the same time.

Transparency and accountability are two important outcomes of this process. With clear action steps in place, we intend to track progress in a public way on the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website. We welcome your engagement in holding us accountable, as an institution and as individuals.

This is an important step in our journey. But we also recognize that there are many more steps ahead and that this work requires sustained effort. We are both grateful to be part of a community that is dedicated to this work in all of its forms.

Thank you for your continued feedback and involvement in this process. We look forward to hearing from you.

Ron and Mark

Ron Liebowitz

Mark Brimhall-Vargas
Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of DEI