President’s Council Meeting Discusses Issues of Diversity on Campus
Speakers included, clockwise from upper left, President Havidán Rodríguez; Chief Diversity Officer Tamra Minor; and deans Jeanette Altarriba, Robert Griffin, R. Karl Rethemeyer and Kim Boyer.
ALBANY, N.Y. (June 30, 2020) — A University-wide discussion on race, social justice and the campus climate was held last week during the President’s Extended Council meeting.
President Rodríguez began the meeting by affirming the University’s condemnation of racism, violence, oppression and hatred.
“But, as they say, actions speak louder than words and, at the end of the day, what really matters are the actions we take as an institution,” the president said. “We must continue to vehemently speak out against racism and hate, but we must also take concerted action to move our institution forward.
Chief Diversity Officer Tamra Minor led the online discussion with deans about specific actions and initiatives taking place across the campus community regarding race, diversity, equity and inclusion.
You can watch the entire meeting.
Minor began by discussing the history of racism in the United States, from slavery to entrenched economic and educational disenfranchisement, and the long fight for equality that continues today.
“From the Civil War to Reconstruction to Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement, the rights of Black men and women in this country have been won as a result of hard-fought battles. And while things have changed, much, much, much more work remains to be done,” she said. “Some actions that require radical change are obvious, like the death of George Floyd and numerous others at the hands of those entrusted to protect and serve, or the locking of black hair care products and cosmetics in security cases inside stores. But many others are subtle — like the salary disparities between Black men and women in comparison to their white coworkers who are performing the same job.”
She asked: “What do we need to do to move forward? Well, that’s why we’re all here today.”
Each dean had an opportunity to describe some of the changes, already made or in planning stages, in his or her school or college.
College of Arts and Sciences
Interim Dean Jeanette Altarriba moderated the panel discussion, but also took some time to talk about the College of Arts and Science’s diversity and climate committee. The committee is designed to foster and sustain an environment that encourages and promotes diversity, equity and inclusion college-wide, and promotes respectful exchanges in a supportive and inclusive community.
“Diversity drives excellence in everything that we do at the University, and the College strives to exemplify that,” she said, adding that the key is listening to students, hearing their stories and learning about their lives and needs.
Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy
Dean R. Karl Rethemeyer said the two main departments in the college are examining their core courses, looking at the perspectives, themes and voices being taught. Dialogues over the fall and into the spring semesters, he said, will lead to changes in curriculum starting in Fall 2021 that will balance addressing pressing issues of racism and at the same time honoring a commitment to academic freedom.
All three units at Rockefeller — Political Science, Public Administration and Policy, and Criminal Justice — will work to bring diverse voices to help the entire campus community better address a range of issues regarding how we teach, learn and live together in a campus community.
School of Social Welfare
Dean Lynn Warner said that faculty and students at SSW are guided by a professional code of ethics, and the school’s accredited curriculum is aimed at developing a range of competencies, which include engaging diversity and difference in practice, and advancing human rights, and social, economic and environmental justice.
As they prepare for the new semester, she said, faculty will take steps to be culturally relevant, community focused and race conscious. As usual, the school will choose a book for all incoming students to read, designed to give students a foundation for discussion and to introduce them to the core values of the social work profession, including service, social justice, dignity and the importance of human relationships.
The school will also continue “The Gathering,” an event begun seven years ago in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., where students, faculty and staff can meet to discuss social justice issues in social work practice.
School of Public Health
Dean David Holtgrave pointed out that SPH recognizes that health disparities are literally a matter of life and death. “This was seen throughout the history of the U.S., from the treatment of indigenous peoples, to slavery, to civil rights violations, to the death of Mr. Floyd in Minnesota, to a variety of health conditions impacting communities of color in different and detrimental ways.”
Holtgrave noted that health disparities and social injustice are evident in the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the school is committed to identifying these disparities and their root causes in all its studies of the disease.
College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity
Dean Robert Griffin said diversity and inclusiveness is “not just a moral obligation, it is also a national security imperative.”
The college has already taken steps to make changes in course offerings to address issues of institutional hate, racism and policing, and ethics in homeland security and emergency response, and has developed committees to look at the climate of the college as well as ways to recruit staff, faculty and students of underrepresented populations.
“What we are looking to do is not only a top-to-bottom review but also to lay out a road map of how we begin to systemically interweave the issues of race, racism and hate into our core curricula,” Griffin said.
College of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Dean Kim Boyer said the school has an active climate committee that recently hosted a discussion on diversity and inclusion in engineering.
The college has a freshman seminar at the college that addresses how “engineering is connected to the world at large,” and is designed to help those communities underrepresented in engineering – women and people of color – feel like they have a home in the school. The course includes the history of engineering as well as human capital and intellectual security.
Dean Rebecca Mugridge said the libraries’ climate committee is working with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to schedule trainings for the library staff on topics such as implicit bias and bystander intervention. The libraries will also be hosting brown bag discussions on these and other topics.
And the libraries will be choosing a book on race and social justice for a faculty and staff “one-read” event.
School of Business
Dean Nilanjan Sen said the school firmly believes in nurturing a culture that embraces diversity in all forms, including cultural and religious. The school recently created a new position of diversity and inclusion coordinator, with a seat on every decision-making body. Sen said that Associate Professor Ingrid Fisher has been named to the position.
The school will be hosting a series where faculty and staff will share their own life journeys, challenges and successes, as a way to introduce the school to the back stories and various cultures within the School of Business.
School of Education
Interim Dean Jason Lane said that two years ago the School of Education recognized that systemic racism was a critical issue and made a commitment to become a national leader in diversifying the education and mental health professions.
The school appointed a director of equity and inclusion, Alex Pieterse, and launched a school-wide diversity task force to focus on recruiting students of color and creating a more inclusive and equitable culture within the school. The school designed new programs to bring more diverse individuals into the K-12 sector, including the new Touhey Family Fellows program, which supports undergraduates from diverse backgrounds to pursue graduate degrees in teaching and mental health.
The school is working on curricula revisions, and is continuing a school-wide book group designed to facilitate conversation around the topics of race and social injustice.
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