Four Steps to Address Racial Injustice at Your Institution

In light of national events related to racial injustice, colleges and universities will need to deal with two key questions:

  • How will your campus change post-pandemic?
  • What should campuses be doing differently to respond to the movement against systemic racism?

 

Here is a list of steps educational institutions can take to prepare for asking and answering these questions:

Speak

  • Make the decision to be an anti-racist institution. Issue a campus-wide statement denouncing racism. Remember that choosing not to speak out about these matters speaks volumes about your institution, both to the public and to your campus community.
  • Do more than just posting a statement on your website. Without actionable goals set, current and prospective students, faculty, and staff may view a website statement as the institution using this politically fraught moment for posturing and personal gain.
  • Acknowledge that privilege and discriminatory practices exist in academia. Ask leadership to reflect on the questions:
    • Who is in the room when decisions are made?
    • When we say "our students," who do we mean?
    • Who are we seeking to serve?

Listen

  • Provide space, time, and numerous opportunities (and contexts) for conversations among students, faculty, and staff, without fear of reprisal or consequences.
  • Actively encourage BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) in your campus community to speak about their experiences, because they matter.
  • Solicit ideas from students, faculty, and staff on how the institution can improve and change, and then operationalize them.

Educate

  • Do your homework by reading and learning about racism, discrimination, bias, and harassment. Call on relevant departments and faculty within your institution and give them the resources they need to establish programming that will shape campus culture.
  • Assess your diversity climate. Survey students, faculty, and staff to find out how they feel, what they think, and what they need with regard to addressing these issues on campus. Assessing diversity climate cues campus leaders in on how they are perceived when it comes to addressing pressing issues of equity and social justice. It also establishes trust among stakeholders.
  • Review your institution’s D&I vision and mission statement and evaluate where you currently stand on living up to them.
  • Reassess internal practices regarding inclusion, recruitment, hiring, admissions, and advancement, including who has access to internships, professional development, mentoring, sponsorships, grants, and other opportunities and programs. Candidate reviews, interviewing practices, lab assignments, and letters of recommendation are further areas where unconscious bias and structural racism may be embedded.

Act

  • Announce or reiterate support for mental and emotional health and well-being across campus. Recognize that students, faculty, and staff may have varying feelings about these issues. They will need to learn how to engage with and navigate the new campus environment you seek to build. Remember, ignoring the issue of racism doesn’t mean it isn’t there; and it does mean it will not go away.
  • Fund, implement, and promote required D&I education that encourages critical reflection, builds skills, and leads to effective change.
  • Recognize that eligible candidates (students and hiring candidates) come from all backgrounds. You can create pipelines to these candidates by:
    • Consulting diversity-focused recruitment services and job boards.
    • Hiring a diversity coordinator.
    • Expanding the list of where you recruit students and post job openings.
    • Sponsoring identity group-based networking events.
    • Developing relationships with career services offices at highly diverse, Women’s, and Historically Black, Native, and Hispanic Colleges and Universities.
  • Partner with and move resources to organizations doing anti-racist work, and support student, faculty, and staff volunteer work. Take advantage of the movement for change to solicit donors to fund specific initiatives. There is much work to be done, and educational institutions must act now to end the racism embedded in their policies, practices, and structures.

By Judi Owens, Ed.D., Director of Instructional Design at DiversityEdu

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