November 23, 2020
Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Alumni,
We write with our first quarterly update on the anti-racism plan you received in early August. As you will recall, the plan, with its focus on combating anti-Black racism, was designed to bolster our broader diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. This status report is intended to let you know where things stand on key commitments, inform you about which offices or groups are responsible for the work, provide as precise a timeline as possible, and explain, when relevant, where final decision-making authority lies. The framework for this work is our overarching institutional commitment to providing the best possible liberal arts education to talented students regardless of their background and means, and to doing so as a community that benefits from diversity, inclusiveness, and equity, free of systemic barriers and incidents of discrimination, harassment, and bias.
To help you track our update, we have provided the action items from the August 3 plan, inserting status reports in italics and boldface at the end of each commitment.
First, we want to make you aware of several developments that were not included in the August 3 plan:
● We have established two new committees to help move the work forward. The first is a Faculty Leadership Committee charged with developing proposals for the parts of the plan that require faculty actions and/or decisions. This committee is co-chaired by Amrita Basu and Khary Polk and includes Brittney Bailey, Sony Coráñez Bolton, Sonya Clark, Rhonda Cobham-Sander, Solsirée del Moral, Pawan Dhingra, Darryl Harper, and Jen Manion, in addition to the president and provost. Alumna Chaka Laguerre ’08 also serves on this committee and on the subcommittee charged with designing the biennial meetings of students and alumni with the leadership of the College. The committee has been divided into several subcommittees, focused on race and racism in the curriculum; diversifying the faculty; biennial sessions for reports and proposals from students and alumni; designing the senior scholars’ program; and selecting external reviewers (see #7, below). The subcommittees have been meeting weekly and shared their tentative proposals in a full committee meeting this past week. Over the next few weeks, committee members will consult with colleagues and develop final proposals before the beginning of the spring semester. Those proposals or recommendations that require the approval of the faculty, including any that affect curricular policy, will be taken up by the relevant faculty governance committees in the spring.
We have also established a student advisory group, made up of e-board members from campus affinity groups. The members are Basma Azzamok ’22, Waleed Babar ’21, Dalya Ackerman ’23, Joelle Crichlow ’22, Bella Edo ’21, Jennifer Garcia ’22, Maya Hossain ’21, Yvette Kiptoo ’23, Sunghoon Kwak ’22, Alexis Scalese ’22, and Jiajia Zhang ’22. The student advisory group has met weekly with the president this fall to discuss elements of the antiracism plan and overall DEI goals. In December, the student group will meet with the Chief of ACPD, John Carter, to discuss his preliminary plans for changes to ACPD. In the coming weeks and months, the advisory committee will meet with members of the staff and faculty as needed.
We want as many staff members as possible to be engaged in and contributing to the work outlined in the anti-racism plan. To that end, each senior staff member is responsible for involving staff in their divisions in setting and meeting unit-specific and broader College goals.
● The College recently joined the new Liberal Arts College Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA). The Alliance, which collaborates with University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center, is dedicated to working against systemic racism and fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion on its member campuses. LACRELA will provide member institutions with seminars, trainings, surveys, and other resources. More than four dozen liberal arts institutions have joined LACRELA, the founding members of which were DePauw University, Oberlin College, Occidental College, Pomona College, Macalester College, and Skidmore College.
● Amherst held three events to honor the legacy of the Amherst Uprising five years later. The first, organized by Professor Kristen Luschen and Eboni Rafus-Brenning, Director of the Multicultural Resource Center, was a conversation on Black student activism with Stefan Bradley, Professor of African American Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Kyndall Ashe ’18, and Jeremy Thomas ’21. The second event, organized by the President’s Office and Andrew Smith ’18, featured alumni who were central to the sit-in and occupation of Frost Library, including Katyana Dandrige ’18, one of the three women who organized what was imagined to be an hour-long show of solidarity with Black students at Yale and the University of Missouri. A recording of the event is available on our website. The third event was organized by Professor Sheila Jaswal and featured the development of “Being Human in STEM,” a program that she was inspired to invent with students to continue the momentum of the Uprising. HSTEM is a student-led course that draws on lived experiences, data, and academic literature on racism to build a stronger and more inclusive community for all. A recording is available on our website.
● The President’s Colloquium on Race and Racism debuts Thursday, December 3, at 7 p.m. EST with Imani Perry, the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and a faculty associate with the Programs in Law and Public Affairs, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Jazz Studies. The conversation will be moderated by Anthony Jack ’07, assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Shutzer assistant professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
We hope the updates are helpful and invite you to send your comments and suggestions using our web-based comment form. Please also check out the College’s new Taking Action Against Racism page for additional resources.
Biddy Martin and Norm Jones
1. A Racial History of Amherst. In ReclaimAmherst, students and alumni write that the College’s founders were slaveowners, among the most vicious racists of their day. Over my nine years as president, I have asked our archivist, Mike Kelly, several times to help me understand Amherst’s relationships to slavery. After quite a bit of examination, Mike does not believe the research supports the claim that the founders were slaveowners. As far as we can find, David Parsons, who is named as a slaveowner in ReclaimAmherst, and who did own slaves, could not be considered a founder. For more information on the founders, please explore the College’s early history collection and a web page of resources on College history. Regardless of whether any founders are discovered to have owned slaves or been directly involved in the slave trade, there is no question that the institution of slavery produced considerable wealth for many white people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and likely for some with ties to Amherst over the years.
What we need, in my view, is a broad and deep historical study of the College’s ties to slaveholding and the capital accumulation that slavery provided for some, following the lead of other projects such as those initiated at Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania. We will want our study to extend into the present, illuminating the experiences, achievements, and contributions of our Black alumni. We will commission this project with the expectation that interested Amherst faculty, staff, students, and alumni will be involved in the research. The College will make all findings publicly available. I will ask the provost, Catherine Epstein, herself an historian, and our archivist, Mike Kelly, to assume responsibility for organizing the project and establishing a panel of scholars with research expertise in this area.
Update: The Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty has primary responsibility for this important project. I have asked Provost Epstein and Mike Kelly, Head of the Archives and Special Collections, to co-chair a steering committee that Provost Epstein and I will appoint before the end of the semester. It will be made up of faculty, staff, and students who will advise on the project’s design and development, soliciting perspectives and advice from those who have undertaken similar studies on other campuses and from members of the Amherst community.
A call for applications from those students interested in participating in the archival research will go out before January 15. We hope and expect that researchers from other colleges and universities will also assist with the project. The Provost’s Office will provide updates on the work every six months, starting in February 2021. The charge from the president is available on our website. Please feel free to submit advice and expressions of interest via the comment form.
2. Biennial Alumni and Student Testimonies. We will organize and participate in biennial sessions for Black alumni and current students to share their experiences and perspectives with members of the senior staff and the Board of Trustees. A detailed summary of proposals for change will be made available to all participants within a month of the testimonies. The first such gathering will take place in the summer of 2021, and testimonies will recur every two years thereafter.
Update: These sessions will provide current students and alumni an opportunity to propose changes they believe the College needs to make in order to achieve its DEI goals, and to present those proposals directly to a representative from the senior staff, the Board of Trustees, and the Committee of Six. A small committee, chaired by Chaka Laguerre ’08 and Norm Jones, and including students, alumni, and staff will be responsible for designing the sessions. Please send preliminary thoughts through the comment form. The committee will announce the design and the date for the first biennial session no later than April 1, 2021, for a first iteration in the summer of 2021.
3. The Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees is committed to racial and generational diversity among its members and will report further on its deliberations in these areas following the October 2020 board meeting. The board will shortly establish a new standing committee, on par with its other standing committees, focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The committee will be charged with responsibility for oversight of the College’s progress toward these goals, which will also be taken into account by the board in its annual evaluations of the president. Other board standing committees, such as the committees on instruction, human resources, and student life, have aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their portfolios and will increase their attention to these goals, as well. The board is resolute in its support of my intentions and commitments in this letter.
Update: The trustees have now established a standing DEI committee of the board, and in so doing have taken a step that is relatively rare among college and university boards. The committee has met twice, once in advance of a full board meeting and once during the regular October meeting of the board. It will meet again in early December in advance of the full board’s scheduled January meeting. In the first two meetings, Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer (CEIO) Norm Jones and the president presented the administration’s goals and initiatives as well as the organizational structure of DEI work at the College.
The antiracism student advisory group has requested that the board’s DEI committee meet on an annual basis with the student advisory group.
4. The Senior Staff. We will increase the racial diversity of the senior staff as positions become available. In the meantime, the president’s task force on diversity and inclusion will become a standing committee made up of faculty, staff, and students, and alumni, including representatives of the Committee of Six and other major governance committees. This standing committee, co-chaired by Norm Jones and a member of the faculty, will have responsibility for reviewing progress of the three-year diversity, equity, and inclusion goals of each major unit of the College. The committee’s assessment of progress will inform the annual performance reviews of the senior staff. We will create a website on which divisional goals and other commitments made in this document can be tracked for progress.
Members of the senior staff will meet at least once a semester with the leadership of the Black Students Union and with representatives of other student organizations.
Update: All senior staff members have set DEI goals for their particular areas of responsibility and will be refining those goals in ongoing exchange with the staff members in their units over the next several months. Before the end of the spring 2021 semester, those goals, metrics for assessing progress, and progress toward the goals will be available to the community. As noted above, the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, formerly a task force, will review the goals and progress and share their assessments with the president. The senior staff has benefited over the course of the semester from internal discussions of race and racism, from two workshops designed specifically for the senior team and led by Dina Levi, Director of Workforce Equity and Inclusion Leadership, and from programming on the history of race and racism in the U.S.
Because of the intensity of our work on COVID-19, the senior staff was not able to set up meetings with the leadership of BSU and other student groups. The student advisory committee has served some of the purposes we had in mind. Before the fall 2020 semester ends, we would like to consult with the e-boards of BSU and other affinity groups about how best and most realistically to realize the goal of twice-yearly meetings of senior staff members with members of affinity-group e-boards.
5. Faculty Diversity and Development. We will continue increasing the racial diversity of the faculty, building on the progress that the provost and the chief diversity and inclusion officer have made over the past several years. All search committees for new faculty hires participate in anti-bias workshops and all candidate pools are submitted to the chief diversity and inclusion officer for review and approval. These measures will remain in place.
Of the five senior faculty FTE’s requested by the president and approved by the board in 2015 to diversify the faculty, only two lines have been filled. Together, Provost Epstein, CEIO Jones, and I will urge our academic departments to step up their efforts to identify and recruit outstanding Black and Latinx scholars for these approved positions. Those departments that have made progress toward racial diversity using existing lines or have filled one of the open new lines will get preference when the president and provost review recommendations from the Committee on Educational Policy for searches going forward. We are committed to making new funding available, based on demonstrated success. Our goal is to have the faculty that reflects the diversity of the student body.
Pre-tenure faculty rightly note that many departmental practices are opaque at best. Success in recruiting, retaining, mentoring, and tenuring outstanding faculty from a wide range of backgrounds requires greater clarity and transparency in departments. Over the course of this academic year, all academic departments will be required to document their policies and practices in departmental handbooks; these will be shared with the provost by the end of the spring 2021 semester. The provost’s office will make available best practices and scholarship in creating truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive working and learning environments. All departments will be expected to participate.
Given the abundance of evidence of racial and gender bias in teaching evaluations and their significance in reappointment, tenure, and promotion decisions, the president and provost will charge an ad hoc committee with exploring more holistic approaches to the evaluation of teaching that will be used during reappointment and tenure processes. The ad hoc committee’s work should be completed before the end of the spring 2021 semester.
Update: A subcommittee of the Faculty Leadership Committee described above has been meeting on a weekly basis to develop strategies for accelerating the hiring of a more diverse faculty, including ideas for filling the three unfilled faculty positions mentioned in the plan and possible cluster hiring efforts. They are also exploring ways of enhancing the retention of faculty of color. Ultimate authority and responsibility for efforts to bolster the hiring and retention of a more diverse faculty rest with the Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI), and the academic departments. The Faculty Leadership Committee will report its recommendations at the end of fall 2020 semester or, at the latest, the beginning of the spring 2021 semester.
Faculty Equity and Inclusion Officers Allen Hart and Pawan Dhingra are responsible for developing strategies for faculty retention, working in collaboration with the Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty and our academic departments. Transparency about departmental decision-making is one of a number of recommendations that have emerged from discussions with faculty, both tenured and non-tenured. Provost Epstein expects that every department will have developed a handbook outlining decision-making processes before the end of this academic year so that the workings of the departments and their procedures and practices for recruitment and retention of faculty, for re-appointment, tenure, and promotion, and for other key departmental matters become more systematic and clearer to all department members.
Due to the pandemic, the provost has delayed forming the ad hoc committee charged with considering research on bias in teaching evaluations and exploring more holistic approaches to the evaluation of teaching that will be used during reappointment and tenure processes. The committee will be formed in spring 2021 and will do its work in the 2021-22 academic year.
6. Pedagogical and Curricular Development. Provost Epstein has made curriculum development, with specific attention to race and racism, a priority for the faculty and expects every department to take part in workshops focused on pedagogical and curricular development. CEIO Jones has asked Allen Hart, James E. Ostendarp Professor of Psychology and a faculty equity and inclusion officer, and Pawan Dhingra, a professor of American studies and likewise a faculty equity and inclusion officer, to be part of the work of making race and racism more central to teaching. We currently have several inclusivity-focused examples of innovation in teaching and learning that are models of what it means to promote student success. One is already a national model, Associate Professor of Chemistry Sheila Jaswal’s “Being Human in STEM.” A new program promises to be equally successful, the STEM Incubator project, created and taught by Assistant Professor of Biology Marc Edwards and Assistant Professor of Chemistry Chris Durr, and also taught by Assistant Professor of Statistics Brittney Bailey. Workshops will begin during the fall 2020 semester.
Update: The workshops foreseen in the August plan have not yet been planned or offered, given the pressures on faculty and staff time by COVID-19. We will provide a status report in our next update. Meanwhile, a subcommittee of the Faculty Leadership Group has focused its efforts on promising approaches to ensuring that students’ education at Amherst includes an understanding of the history and ongoing impact of race and racism in the U.S. and beyond. Members of the subcommittee are in the process of soliciting feedback on their ideas from faculty colleagues and will make final recommendations to the full leadership committee and appropriate faculty governance committees within the next three months.
7. External Review Board. We will re-establish an external review board on diversity, equity, and inclusion, to be made up of scholars and practitioners with expertise in educational equity and antiracist work. As was the case with an earlier external advisory team, this board will visit the College every two years and assess progress on the basis of written reports each year they visit. We will seek advice from members of the campus community on the membership of the review team. The board’s reports and recommendations will be submitted to the administration and made available to the entire community and the board of trustees. The first visit of the newly constituted review board will be during the fall 2021 semester.
Update: Primary responsibility for periodic external reviews lies with ODEI and the President’s Office. The Faculty Leadership Committee cited above will recommend the members of the new external review team with final decisions made jointly by the senior team and the president. Invitations will go out in spring 2021 with the expectation that the first visit should occur no later than fall 2021 or, if necessary, because of the pandemic, spring 2022. We will update the Amherst community in the spring on our progress in establishing the review team for 2021-2022. Please submit ideas for the external review team.
8. Staff Diversity. Just as our faculty should be more representative of our student body, so must our staff, especially in managerial and leadership positions. We will accelerate efforts not only to construct diverse candidate pools for open positions, but also hold ourselves accountable for hiring Black and Latinx staff in all areas of the College. I will personally hold senior staff accountable for making measurable progress, beginning immediately. For supervisory, managerial, and senior-level positions, we will contract with a Black-owned firm to ensure we are reaching out to all potential Black, Indigenous, and other candidates of color.
In addition, our staff—regardless of their race, ethnicity, and identity—must better understand and respect the lived experiences of the students they support and provide services to students in ways that can meet every student where they are. We will redouble our efforts to provide anti-bias training and other forms of education to all staff, many of whom have expressed eagerness to learn and improve competencies in this important work. We will begin immediately to require bias training for all search committees, to assess whether positions have been too narrowly defined for successful recruitment, and to require that all candidate pools and lists of finalists be submitted to Dina Levi in the office of diversity and inclusion for review.
Update: Primary responsibility for staff recruitment and retention rests with the Office of Human Resources (OHR), which reports to the Chief Policy Officer/General Counsel, and with ODEI. All search committees are now required to participate in anti-bias training at the start of the search. OHR is working with departments on successful recruitment strategies and is currently searching for a Director of Recruitment and Onboarding. In collaboration with ODEI (specifically, the Office of Workforce Equity and Inclusive Leadership) the new director will be responsible for diversifying candidate pools, supporting the hiring of a racially diverse workforce, strengthening the College’s recruiting and orientation model, and supporting staff retention.
9. Senior Fellows Program. In order to ensure that we benefit from the work of the most distinguished voices in the area of anti-racist scholarship and policy, the president’s office will make funding available for visits by distinguished scholars and policy experts in the field. Ideally, this program of visiting fellows would become part of an existing center or unit. Fellows will be asked to be on campus or available remotely for two weeks each year for a period of two years to give a series of named public lectures, hold seminars, and offer office hours. Inaugural fellows will be selected during the fall 2020 semester for visits during the 2021-22 academic year.
Update: A subcommittee of the Faculty Leadership Committee has proposed a two-year pilot program with senior fellows funded by presidential discretionary funds and hosted by the Center for Humanistic Inquiry and the President’s Office. The subcommittee seeks recommendations for senior fellows and welcomes your ideas. More information will be forthcoming, but if you have initial ideas, please send them to Darryl Harper, Associate Professor of Music and Director of the Center for Humanistic Inquiry.
10. Bias, Harassment, and Discrimination. The College is establishing a new anti-discrimination and harassment policy and a bias reporting protocol that will serve all members of the community. In conjunction, the College is developing a single point of entry for all reports of identity-based bias, discrimination, and harassment. A cross-sectional team will review the reports, assess individual and community harm, provide necessary support to all involved persons, and inform those affected of options for resolving the incident and addressing the harm. These changes will be in place early in the fall 2020 semester.
Update: New Identity-Based Non-Discrimination and Harassment Policy: The Office of General Counsel has drafted a College policy that explains our processes for addressing harassment and discrimination. The proposed policy is working its way through the approval process, which includes being shared with the Committee of Six. We anticipate that it will take effect at the beginning of the spring 2021 semester, after approval by the president. Once approved, it will be posted on the College’s policy page. Comments and questions about any College policy can be submitted to email@example.com. (Anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws applicable to Amherst College, include, among others: the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act; the Equal Pay Act; the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act; the Higher Education Opportunity Act; Massachusetts Employment Nondiscrimination Laws [Ch. 151B]; the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act; the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act; Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.)
Beginning in February, 2021, there will be a portal through which complaints of identity-based harm, including bias incidents, harassment, and discrimination, can be submitted and reviewed by a team of professional staff and faculty. Based on legal standards and College policies, the review team will decide whether the incidents constitute bias or discrimination and harassment. If the incident is a possible Title IX violation, it will be handled through the Title IX process. If an incident appears to fit the legal definition of any other identity-based harassment or discrimination under Civil Rights or other relevant laws, the incident will be managed under the new policy and investigated by internal or external individuals with expertise in the relevant law. If the subsequent investigation shows that harassment or discrimination may have occurred, the matter will be referred to the existing grievance or disciplinary processes for faculty, staff, and students. If the initial review team considers the incident to be bias, it will activate the resources associated with the Center for Restorative Practices (see #11, below). The College will add one additional staff position over the next six months to ensure an adequate number of coordinators for the investigation of these incidents.
Bias Reporting and Response Protocol: ODEI has primary responsibility for the development and implementation of the bias protocol. Based on the work of the President’s Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, which is composed of students, faculty, and senior staff (and which is now a standing committee), the protocol has been drafted and shared with the Committee of Six and the senior staff of the College. The protocol requires approval of the president and takes effect at the beginning of the spring 2021 semester. In the absence of a bias reporting protocol, Amherst stands out as an anomaly among our peers. As noted below, the thought invested in this initiative and the call for educational and restorative, as opposed to punitive, approaches to bias incidents reflect our mission and values.
11. The Center for Restorative Practices at Amherst College (RPAC). Led by Professor Allen Hart, this year-long pilot focused on restorative practice has involved over 100 faculty, students, and staff engaged in dialogue-based conflict resolution and community-building. A national search is underway for an assistant director to support a center. RPAC will be used over time to strengthen relationships across students, faculty, staff, and alumni communities. The center director will report annually on the activities of the center, and reports will be made available to the community.
Update: ODEI has primary responsibility for the connection between bias response and restorative practices. Under Professor Hart’s leadership, the College has established a Center for Restorative Practices designed to address incidents of bias with support, repair, and education. The Center has begun to offer opportunities for dialogue and support and expects to be fully operational by spring 2021. The Center will make it possible for the College to respond to bias incidents, where appropriate, with a restorative, rather than punitive, approach, yielding deeper and more transformative results for those involved and for the community as a whole. The external review committee we establish for anti-racist and broader DEI work will include a review of the Center in its periodic assessments.
12. Student Code. Also in keeping with an earlier commitment, the Student Code of Conduct will incorporate policies and procedures for identity-based harassment and discrimination, including explicitly on the basis of race. This work will be complete early in the fall 2020 semester.
Update: The Office of Student Affairs has primary responsibility for the development and implementation of a new section of the student code governing identity-based harassment. Student-on-student violations of the College’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies will be handled in accordance with the new clause. The addition to the code will be reviewed by the College Council, a shared governance committee made up of faculty, students, and staff; it will go into effect and be published in the spring 2021 semester.
13. Statement of Academic and Expressive Freedom. The faculty will reexamine the Statement of Academic and Expressive Freedom at its meetings in the fall 2020 semester. The Committee of Six has already begun to address the request made by the Black Students Union to clarify that racial epithets and racial hate are not protected forms of expression.
Update: The Committee of Six proposed the addition of new language which was discussed in a committee of the whole session at the October 6, 2020, faculty meeting. In response, the Co6 sought written comments and questions from the faculty and amended the language that had been proposed earlier. A special faculty meeting on Tuesday, December 1, will be devoted to a discussion of the amended language. A vote is scheduled for the December 15, 2020, faculty meeting. Decisions about the statement are the purview of the faculty.
14. Reimagine Policing. For some time, the College administration has been discussing a shift in the overreliance on the Amherst College Police Department in student life. Without a robust after-hours residential program, the campus police have served as the primary interface with students after hours and on weekends. This has created anxiety among Black students, in particular, but also others. We will shift some resources from ACPD, including student staff and funds for mental health services. We will also begin now to shift the supervision of residence halls and other student spaces to residential life and student affairs. A report on the impact of these changes will be available at the end of the fall 2020 semester.
Update: Responsibility for considering and developing changes in ACPD and the roles it plays on campus rests with Jim Brassord, Chief of Campus Operations, Chief John Carter, and appropriate members of the senior staff. Their deliberations will be informed by consultation with students, faculty, and staff. Chief Carter has already made changes by removing ACPD from the more central role it has played in monitoring activities in students’ residences and other student spaces. ACPD is no longer present in the residence halls unless called upon to support the CAs (Student Community Advisers) or CDCs (staff Community Development Coordinators) or to respond to police, fire or medical calls. Chief Carter has also initiated work with the Office of Student Affairs to reallocate funding used for armed, sworn police officers to (unarmed, unsworn) security to support residential life staff. This overall re-imagining proposal will be shared with the antiracism student advisory group and with key governance committees and will be made available for comment early next semester. Ultimate decision-making authority for recommended changes rests with the president and requires trustee approval. We expect discussion to last into the spring 2021 semester with decisions no later than the May 2021 board meeting.
15. Mental Health Support. Institutional racism takes a toll on the psychological and physical well-being of students, staff, faculty, and alumni of color. We will provide more resources for those who are struggling with the impact of racism. During the fall semester, the Counseling Center will launch a search for another staff member with expertise in racial trauma. The College is also applying to be a campus partner with the Steve Fund, an organization that addresses racial disparities in mental health practices and resources. We seek to participate in the fund’s Equity in Mental Health on Campus Initiative, a comprehensive needs assessment for students of color. The Counseling Center is also working to increase its telehealth resources.
Update: Primary responsibility for student mental health rests with the Office of Student Affairs. Amherst was accepted into the Steve Fund’s 2020-21 Equity in Mental Health Initiative. Director of the Counseling Center Jackie Alvarez and Counseling Center Psychotherapist Darien McFadden (team leads), along with Senior Associate Dean of Students Charri Boykin-East, Ernest Collins '23, Chief Student Affairs Officer Karu Kozuma, and Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion Angie Tissi-Gassoway recently participated in a two-day retreat with the Steve Fund and the other institutions that are participating this year (Stanford University, Pace University, University of Michigan, Michigan State, and Westminster College). The retreat focused on the steps necessary to support the mental health of students of color, including creating positive change in the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs that end up shaping policy, programs, and practice. Amherst’s team is now developing assessment tools and engaging the community in an effort to identify the needs and the gaps in support of students of color. This work will occur over the next two months. More opportunities for feedback will be announced soon; in the interim, please contact Jackie Alvarez or Darien McFadden with comments and ideas.
In response to students’ identification of needs in this area, a search for a Racial Trauma Specialist is underway in the Counseling Center. The search committee members are Jackie Alvarez, Sarah Erickson (Associate Director of the Counseling Center), Darien McFadden, Eun Lee (Assistant Director of Workforce Equity and Inclusive Leadership), and a student representative, Arzoo Rajpar ’22. The committee continues to accept applications and plans to interview candidates in December.
16. Training and Education. Anti-bias training will be required at all levels, from the board of trustees and the senior administration to each major unit of the College, including all administrative and academic departments. Each member of the senior staff is responsible for ensuring anti-bias and anti-racist educational work in the departments within their divisions, reporting annually on the form that work has taken and the difference it has made. This is not, as some believe, an exercise in what to think, but our need to learn and to gain in self-awareness.
The College is currently piloting the First Year Connect program for incoming students in an effort to create a student community that has the skills to engage effectively with their differences. Over the course of this academic year, we will develop a comprehensive program of this kind for all students as well as a new orientation program that focuses on race and racism.
The athletics department will complete a strategic plan to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in athletics by the end of the fall 2020 semester. This strategic plan will include, but not be limited to, ongoing initiatives, including anti-racism workshops for all coaches and the department’s partnership with Allen Hart to train coaches and student-athletes in restorative practices. The department will be held responsible for hiring a diverse coaching staff and coaches will be held accountable for recruiting student-athletes of color. The office of admission and financial aid will be asked to take up the question of how financial pre-reads might help in pursuit of this goal.
The senior staff has completed two anti-bias workshops, led by Dina Levi, while also actively pursuing other ways to deepen understanding of racism and its systemic forms.
The athletics strategic plan is on track to be done at the end of the fall 2020 semester. We expect the plan to be public in advance of the next three-month update on anti-racism updates.
17. Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Effective August 24, 2020, we will introduce the term equity into the office of diversity and inclusion—it will now be the office of diversity, equity, and inclusion and Norm Jones will become the chief equity and inclusion officer. The titles of the faculty diversity and inclusion officers and of Dina Levi will also change: Dina’s title will be director of workforce equity and inclusive leadership. The faculty diversity and inclusion officers will become the faculty equity and inclusion officers.
Update: This has been completed.
18. Transition from DEI Task Force to a Standing Committee
Update: The President’s Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is now a permanent standing committee and will explore what would be entailed in becoming a shared governance committee of the College. The president and CEIO Jones are working on a formal charge to the committee and a process for the selection of committee members for the next academic year. It will continue its work in the spring 2021 semester with those who had committed to serving on the task force through this academic year.
19. Iconography and Representation. We will immediately establish a committee charged with reimagining our public spaces and ensuring that they reflect the diversity of our community and the achievements of our Black alumni and underrepresented alumni. The committee will issue recommendations at the beginning of the spring 2021 semester in time for decisions and, hopefully, some changes during our bicentennial year.
Update: A committee co-chaired by Chief Advancement Officer Betsy Cannon Smith, and Chief of Staff/Secretary of the Board of Trustees Bett Schumacher, and including Catherine Epstein, Norm Jones, Jim Brassord, Mike Kelly, Chief Communications Officer Sandy Genelius, and Senior Director of Advancement Administration & Planning Suzanne Newby-Estes has assumed responsibility for reviewing the many forms of representation on the campus, both historically and currently. On the basis of the inventory and a set of college guidelines for decisions about naming and representation, they will engage students, faculty, staff, and alumni in reimagining our public spaces and developing a plan that honors the many people and events that have given shape to the College. This larger representative group will consider the range of opportunities for such recognition and representation. A catalog of named spaces, facilities, programs, and pieces is also being compiled as part of this project. Opportunities for involvement in this initiative will be announced early in the spring 2021 semester. Please share your ideas.