Dear Brockport Community:
Last week, I promised an update on the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) plans for the campus, and on how we are ensuring accountability for our EDI goals.
Despite all the upheavals and changes brought about not only by how COVID-19 affected every campus, but heightened at Brockport because we were selected as a quarantine site, we have made significant progress on our EDI planning and activities. We are tracking our progress on our Building a Better Brockport: Strengthening Our Campus Climate website. There, at the bottom of the page, you will find a number of updates regarding each individual division’s initiatives and plans, which I hope you’ll take some time to review. We are ensuring accountability for EDI across all academic and business functions, and this includes a particular focus on policy development and review.
The Policy Management Steering Committee is currently charged with being responsible for administering the College Administrative Policy Development and Life Cycle Process. To their overall charge, we are adding the following element: To ensure that all new and revised policies support EDI principles and do not introduce unintended bias.Members of the committee will be provided guidelines or protocols for inclusive policy review. As with all committees, membership is determined by the Constitution of College-Wide Committees protocols which ensure that the “widest possible diversity and representation shall be sought.”
As a campus, we committed to the SUNY 5-point plan for EDI. Below, I have listed both the original action points, and the progress so far, which is also articulated on our EDI website. While COVID-19 has affected the mode of what we do, it has had no impact on our commitment to EDI work.
Action 1: External Support
In partnership with SUNY, Dr. Rodmon King, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at SUNY Oswego, has offered support throughout the Spring 2020 semester. He serves on President’s Cabinet to help us rethink the structure and strategic plan for the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, in addition to providing guidance, direction, and support for the College’s EDI efforts. Some examples of this work are below:
- Dr. King attended Cultural Council with the CDO and me on March 4, his first day on campus.
- Dr. King joined President’s Cabinet on March 4 and each Wednesday since.
- Dr. King has regular 1-2-1s with each VP.
- Dr. King has weekly meetings with me. Together we plan and assess the EDI training and readings that the Cabinet is undertaking.
- Dr. King has weekly meetings with the CDO and me where we report progress against goals and explore new areas for support.
- Dr. King meets with OEDI staff as appropriate.
- Dr. King has met twice virtually with members of the Faculty and Staff of Color Group.
- Dr. King has met with the International Faculty Learning Community.
- Dr. King attended Community Conversations to address campus healing – “Our Value is Real.”
Action 2: Revamping Bias Reporting Mechanism
The Bias Related Incident Reporting System remains operational during this period of moving away from face-to-face instruction, and by the end of the semester, we will have completed additional research into how we can improve the system. Currently, the Bias Team is conducting a multiyear review of all bias incidents to identify trends, so that we can develop better training for our campus community.
All members of the Bias Response Team have been asked to read “Speech Spotlight” from the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Community Engagement on bias response teams, and are taking seriously the questions asked at the end of the article, namely:
- What are the objectives of the team, and what principles underlie those goals?
- How are the key terms such as “bias” and “bias incident” defined (i.e., only non-criminal speech conduct?)?
- What tools will the team have at its disposal (i.e., information gathering, ability to request meetings, referral procedures)?
- Will the team adjudicate claims or simply provide resources and facilitate discussions? (Under what circumstances, if any, will a complaint be removed from the record?)
- Who will be part of the team? How will you ensure that diverse campus communities are represented?
- What training will the team members receive? Who will conduct said trainings?
- How transparent will the team be with information about the number or types of incidents reported? Under what situations will complaints be made public?
- How will the campus ensure that the threat of being reported to the team does not lead to self-censorship on the part of campus community members? What measures will the team take to encourage productive dialogue on campus and prevent itself from being used as a tool of division?
- What steps will be taken to ensure the campus community knows about the team, its power and limitations and the best ways to use it as a resource?
- How will the campus assess the effectiveness of the team’s work?
While our original team addressed many of these issues in their formation, as we revise the bias response mechanism, we will be overtly addressing these questions again. Given the legal challenges that bias response teams are facing nationally, it will be doubly important that the questions above are clearly addressed.
Action 3: New Trainings
A comprehensive plan is being developed by the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Human Resources which will include online and face-to-face training in implicit bias, institutional racism, and structural inequality. While the SUNY freeze on non-essential hires will impact the timing of our recruitment of the new Training and Development Officer in HR, we hope to recommence the search as soon as there is more clarity over the fiscal impact of COVID-19, state budget cuts, and enrollment levels.
The first stage of training is virtual training for Cabinet, which will subsequently be rolled out to all divisional leaders. We are engaged in the process of locating the best possible external trainer for our fall College Leadership Summit. Finalizing this has been complicated by New York PAUSE.
To date, Cabinet has completed four modules on implicit bias training through the Kirwan Institute, undertaken a series of common readings (with more planned), and completed exercises designed to get us to think individually and collectively about our dominant group identities, including completing a social identity wheel activity and taking implicit association tests.
Common readings have been part of our practice since I created Extended Cabinet. The following readings have all been assigned and completed in 2020:
- “The Philosopher of #MeToo” by Maggie Doherty
- “Exploring Whether White Male Post Secondary Presidents Respond to Racism” by Tenisha Tevis
- “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh
- “Mythbusters” by the Kirwan Institute
- “It’s Hard to see your Own Bias” By Dawn Albert
- “Decolonizing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work: Why Our Beloved ‘Business Case for Diversity’ is a Problem” by Leigh Morrison
Each member of Cabinet is also reading White Fragility, and we have a guided reading exercise and racial justice training scheduled for April 29. VPs have been charged with rolling out this initial training from the Kirwan Institute to their division leaders by the end of the semester, and supplementing the training with activities that focus on their particular divisional needs.
In addition, VPs are assigning common readings to their teams, based on EDI principles. Enrollment Management and Student Affairs is reading Becoming A Student-Ready College, an AAC&U publication. Two of the leading authors of the book are Tia Brown McNair, who is the VP of Diversity, Equity and Student Success at AAC&U, and Susan Albertine, formerly the VP. Leaders in the Divisions of Advancement, Administration and Finance, and College Communications are reading Set for Inclusionby Mason Donovan and Mark Kaplan. The Academic Affairs Leadership Team is reading and discussing Bandwidth Recovery: Helping Students Reclaim Cognitive Resources Lost to Poverty, Racism, and Social Marginalization by Cia Verschelden.
In addition to the training currently being undertaken, we have renewed our efforts on the comprehensive, across-campus online training for students, faculty, and staff through Everfi. We have already rolled out the Everfi sexual harassment and anti-bias training to all campus employees. Customized EDI modules for students and employees will be launched this fall and are detailed below:
Diversity in the Workplace (Faculty/Staff Module)
This diversity and inclusion training in the workplace uses the stories of real people to explore concepts such as identity, power, and privilege, to help us communicate more effectively and promote mutual respect in the workplace.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (Student Module)
This training engages students in creating respectful and inclusive campus communities. The training defines, contextualizes, and builds understanding of identity, power, privilege, and oppression. It shares strategies for strengthening allyship, engaging in respectful communication, fostering self-care, and creating inclusive spaces.
Action 4: Demographic Review
As noted previously, the College produces an Affirmative Action Plan that sets “placement goals” for departments that are not as diverse in terms of ethnicity and/or gender as they might be, given demographic data around the available workforce. We are continuing to recruit faculty to join us this fall as well as our Diversity Recruiter; many of the other positions have been put on hold until we are able to re-commence face-to-face interviews and until our budget situation is clearer. The PRODiG projects are continuing to recruit post-doctoral fellows and tenure track faculty. The commitment to diversifying our faculty and staff is not a one-year project, but an ongoing one. PRODiG projects support the hiring of diverse faculty and recruit ABD and post-docs as part of a “grow your own” pipeline.
For some months, a Diversity Recruitment Plan has been in draft form. It is expected that, when hired, the Diversity Recruiter will take ownership of this plan. In the meantime, we are transitioning our recruitment strategies to ensure that we move from passive (advertise and they will come) to active strategies and are training all of our recruitment team to be “active recruiters” and not just rely on the Diversity Recruiter to fill this need. With Dr. King’s assistance, the VP for Administration and Finance and the Affirmative Action Officer are developing a workflow diagram of the hiring process and identifying opportunities to further centralize EDI in various stages of the hiring process. This includes developing a set of data driven active recruitment strategies.
For departments where there are no vacancies, we do not have any quick fixes, nor can we guarantee that a vacancy will result in a diverse hire. What we can do is create the environment where diverse candidates are attracted to Brockport, and this is an ongoing project. Based on size and on expected future vacancies, we will put in place specific plans for the following departments: Campus Recreation, HR, University Police, and College Communications.
In addition, as noted above, Provost Heyning is working on a plan for recruitment and retention of faculty and staff, including a review of hiring data across Academic Affairs. At Cabinet’s request, the Provost will provide a full review of faculty and staff retention programming and develop new plans to ensure all faculty and staff have the support they need to be successful.
Action 5: Additional community conversations
We are committed to holding additional Community Conversations to hear issues and concerns that need to be resolved and to rebuild trust in our community. These have, of course, been impacted by our move away from face-to-face learning. We held our last face-to-face community conversation on March 5, entitled “Our Value is Real”; it was intentionally restricted to students, faculty, and non-management staff. Administration was asked to attend a second Community Conversation on March 26 as a bookend to the first. Sadly, this conversation was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. We are making a concerted effort to work on programming for next semester’s community series.
In addition, OEDI is exploring other ways to keep connected with our academic community. These include the following:
- Virtual Office Hours: dedicated hours to chat with students or allow students to meet virtually
- Organized Topic Cafes (topics under discussion include Mental Health, Affirmations and Positivity Across Diversity, Balancing New Demands)
- Themed social media days: Motivational Monday, etc.
We also continue to engage with our Town-Gown Committee, co-chaired by the Mayor of Brockport and me. It includes faculty, staff, and students from the College, along with alumni, emeriti, school district leaders, elected officials, the chiefs of both the Village and University Police, landlords, non-profit leaders, and members of the local business community. We had intended to convene a panel of students to attend the spring meeting to discuss their experiences of living in the village, but COVID-19 changes have delayed this planned meeting until the fall. However, the CDO was able to speak virtually with the Village Police Chief about EDI concerns and best practices.
One initiative that the VP for EMSA is developing for the fall relates to Working Group Sessions focused on how to engage students in asking active questions related to student affairs departments, to extend their knowledge of what is available, and at the same time, to encourage departments to take a student-centric and EDI approach to their new initiatives.
These are just some of the many ways that SUNY Brockport has embraced the challenge and accountability of EDI work on campus. I am grateful to all of the individuals and teams who are working to ensure that EDI is everyone’s business.
Thank you for all that you do to Build a Better Brockport.