08.27.2020 | Dear Students: Our equity and inclusion focus for the fall
I had the pleasure of starting my week Monday with a welcome to our new students, and the best part was watching the chat conversation on the side. Despite our physical distance, high school friends were reconnecting and new bonds were quickly being formed. My favorite comment was “Everyone here is just like me and I’ve never fit in anywhere until now and I’m so happy for that!” How awesome is that?!
I hope that the first week of fall classes is off to a good start for you as well. Though I wish we were enjoying the good weather together out on the Quad, it’s been wonderful to already see your work online and exciting to know this strange semester is successfully underway. That said, my excitement for the beginning of the year has been tempered by the events occuring in Kenosha, Wisconsin. On Sunday evening, the world witnessed yet another police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake. The impacts are still reverberating within the Kenosha community and throughout our country.
It is horrifying to know that Blake was shot seven times in the back in front of his children. Not only will this impact his family for generations to come, but it will inevitably serve as another roadblock in our collective progress toward criminal justice reform. Unfortunately, tragic events such as this will continue as long as they are seen as isolated incidents instead of what they truly are: the inevitable outcome of deeply rooted systematic racism.
We also know that institutionalized oppression does not just create problems in policing; it leads to the unequal effects of disease, as we’ve seen during the pandemic, and natural disasters, as we are, unfortunately, witnessing again as Hurricane Laura strikes Louisiana; and, it even impacts higher education.
As I shared in late spring, I believe we have a shared responsibility to achieve justice. At Columbus College of Art & Design, we strive to examine ourselves through a critical lens and determine the root causes of the systemic bias and prejudice that still affects how we work, learn, and relate with each other. We have not always lived up to our intentions in this regard. Over the summer, I announced we’d created a President’s Commission on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion as part of a multipronged effort to respond to and be an active participant in the national reckoning on racial injustice in our society. This week’s events demonstrate, yet again, how urgent and important this work is. I’ve tasked the Commission to take immediate steps toward rewiring CCAD for a more inclusive and equitable future, with a focus on how we can become an actively and authentically antiracist institution.
We’ve taken great care to ensure that the DEI Commission includes voices from across the CCAD community, from faculty members to students to members of the Board of Trustees. In these difficult dialogues, it’s vital to ensure that a spectrum of perspectives are represented and that key leaders and decision makers are fully engaged in this work. Here is a list of the 2020–2021 DEI Commission members.
While the DEI Commission will be tasked with ensuring that the college makes continual progress on all the priorities laid out in our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Action Plan, it has identified the following five initiatives as top priorities for this fall:
Launching diversity scholarships at the undergraduate and graduate levels
Developing targeted employee recruitment plans with the clearly articulated goal of hiring more faculty, staff, and administrators of color
Implementing a Bias Incident Response Team to provide a centralized way for community members to report concerns about bias incidents on campus
Revising our institutional diversity statement and bolstering the content and usefulness of our Commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion webpage
Engaging in regular anti-oppression pedagogy training for all faculty as well as general cultural competency training for all staff
The Commission has identified which areas of the college would be involved in enacting each of these initiatives and is working with those college leaders on action steps, timelines, and rubrics for how progress will be measured. We will share regular updates with the CCAD community as those initiatives take shape.
Today, I can tell you about initial steps being taken to address one of these priorities, the need for more regular training for CCAD faculty and staff. On Friday, Sept. 25, CCAD will host Dr. Robert Livingston for a virtual workshop and conversation with CCAD faculty and staff. Dr. Livingston is one of the country’s foremost experts on the concept of implicit bias, including the psychological and physiological processes that underlie racism and prejudice. In addition, CCAD’s Student Affairs department will participate in a training that focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic, xenophobia, and the rise of anti-Asian racism locally and nationwide. Lastly, CCAD’s academic leaders are working on plans for a faculty-specific training that will address issues such as critique methods, facilitating dialogues about race, recognizing and responding to microaggressions, and developing actively antiracist teaching practices.
We at CCAD must be persistent and intentional in our work to live up to our Core Values and in breaking down the systemic racism that exists here. As we each process in our own way the police shooting in Wisconsin, the resulting protests, and protesters’ killings by an armed counter-protester, it is my hope that CCAD—even with our family members spread around the globe—will be a place where you find the connection, comfort, and creativity that will allow you to move forward with an even greater commitment to social justice and compassion for others.