The Amherst Uprising in November of 2015 emerged from a moment of solidarity as students here stood with their peers at the University of Missouri. Through their action, our students brought the campus community together, further intensifying our collective focus on the essential role of diversity and inclusion in preserving as well as enriching the bedrock values of this extraordinary school. The protest served a constructive and practical purpose: to accelerate the implementation of initiatives already underway and introduce important new goals to pursue.
What follows is a brief summary of our progress with that work over the past year. Of course, much more effort lies ahead, requiring the collaborative dedication of our entire community. The Presidential Task Force for Diversity & Inclusion, formed in January 2016, will continue to be critical to that endeavor, identifying initiatives that embrace our collective aspirations and labor. Action on those initiatives is being led by the new leadership of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, which is also supporting community-wide conversations and developing other opportunities for us all to learn and grow together.
The Task Force is available to discuss questions and provide updates on the progress of initiatives. Please join them for their open office hours.
Presidential Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion: Open Hours
- Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Friday, Dec. 2, 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, Dec. 7, 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
For more information or for general questions, Amherst College community members can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Implementing Personnel Initiatives
The Office of Diversity & Inclusion
Our new chief diversity and inclusion officer, Norm Jones, joined the College in July 2016. The Office of Diversity & Inclusion is focusing its efforts on three core initiatives for its inaugural year: recruitment, retention and development of diverse staff; recruitment, retention and development of diverse faculty; creating a more inclusive Amherst experience for all students.
The Resource Center Team
Bulaong Ramiz-Hall joined the Amherst community as the director of the Multicultural Resource Center in August 2016.
Jesse Beal joined the Amherst community as director of the Women’s and Gender Center in March 2016.
The Resource Center Team (RCT) meets regularly to plan programming, events and collaborations that enhance student experiences and support. The RCT shares an administrative assistant, Zach King. It also meets with the chief diversity and inclusion officer regularly and comes together to address ongoing and emergent student concerns.
Staff and Faculty
A strong commitment to increasing the diversity of our staff and faculty is ongoing as searches proceed. This includes expansive outreach and partnerships with local organizations, assessment of our current strategies, participation of Inclusion Advocates on search committees, an audit of leadership development and the establishment of a faculty advocate position.
Each department handles student participation in faculty searches in accordance to its own process. Students may attend job talks by faculty candidates and, in some instances, offer search committees their input. Students do not participate on the search committees for staff but they occasionally participate in searches for administrator positions that directly impact student experience. Student participation in administrator searches is determined by the hiring manager or the person designated as chair of the search committee.
Increasing Cultural Competency
Students are currently reached through Resource Center programs, and the Office of Diversity & Inclusion is preparing to launch leadership development opportunities for student affinity groups. The Office is examining programs for orientation that would create spaces for student discussions about difference.
The Office of Diversity & Inclusion has initiated micro-aggression sensitivity training, as well as unconscious bias education workshops for staff. Upcoming workshops include:
Understanding Bias: Workshop for Staff and Faculty
Dec. 1, 2016, 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Alumni House
Faculty trainings on unconscious bias were conducted with the chairs of all faculty search committees that were underway in fall 2016.
Programming & Support
Pilot programming is underway to explore structured and less structured event formats. Staff events are open to all staff. These events explore inclusion from a range of perspectives. Faculty sessions are designed for self-identified faculty of color as opportunities to connect junior and senior professors across disciplines.
Promoting Health and Wellness
The Counseling Center
Searches are underway for a psychotherapist and a post-doc who will each bring additional diversity to our staff. The Counseling Center has also increased language access through the hiring of a psychotherapist who is fluent in Mandarin.
Keefe Health Center
Long-term initiatives are underway to integrate and strengthen health and wellness services at Amherst. These include taking over the management of Keefe Health Center (formerly managed by UMass), leading to extended hours and more accessible services during breaks. Our intention is to bring people together and make resources visible—at a center with an explicit focus on wellness, in student living spaces, and through programming that supports, educates and creates opportunities for healthier living.
Deepening Our Knowledge and Understanding
Presidential Task Force
The Presidential Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion was formed in January 2016. The Task Force is charged with:
- reviewing recommendations and appeals made by the community.
- providing continued communication with community members on the progress of initiatives outlined in the Strategic Plan or in the goals of the Uprising.
- bringing together the resources necessary to implement recommendations and initiatives.
- recommending priorities and timelines for implementation that are informed by an external review.
- overseeing the development of measures for success and the methods for evaluating impact.
External Review Panel
The External Review Panel, composed of outside experts, has been established and has issued guidelines for a self-study that will be conducted by the Office of Diversity & Inclusion in April 2017 and will be reviewed by the panel in May 2017.
Surveys and Assessment
The Sexual Respect and Sexual Misconduct survey was completed last academic year. The results were shared with the Title IX team, which is reviewing the information and considering next steps, including to increase our understanding of certain key areas. Survey results will be available to the community shortly.
The 2016 NCHA survey was completed in the spring. Institutional Research is working to complete a demographic analysis of the mental health portion of the survey. This information will help inform programming, outreach and support efforts to improve student mental health and well-being.
A Campus Climate survey will be completed in spring 2017.
Connecting Students & Senior Staff
Members of the senior staff and/or their deans host open office hours that are accessible to students, faculty and staff. Please check the Amherst College Daily Mail e-newsletter for regular postings.
Resource Center Programs
The Office of Diversity & Inclusion will allocate funds from its division and from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to the resource centers in support of center programming.
Funding Student Activities
The Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Diversity & Inclusion are working together with the President’s Office on funding that will supplement gaps in policies of the Association of Amherst Students that inadvertently have a negative impact on affinity groups. In the interim, students may contact Paul Gallegos in the Office of Student Affairs for inquiries related to funding for student group events.