FROM: Regina Smith, Interim Director of Diversity and Inclusion
SUBJECT: DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION CALL TO COMMITMENT
DATE: MAY 2016
MEMORANDUM TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES
On Thursday April 21st 2015, Decolonized Commons, the student-led movement protesting racial injustice, and specifically, institutional racism at Naropa University, pitched tents and occupied the Arapahoe Green for six weeks.
Against a backdrop of nation-wide social unrest due to the ongoing assassination of black youth, Naropa students and allied community members banded together and put their bodies and voices at risk to catalyze social and cultural transformation at their beloved institution. Their demands were simple yet profound:
Improve our hiring and retention of faculty and staff of color, recognizing that there are students of color on campus, and the majority of Naropa teachers and administrators are not
Emphasize sensitivity training around issues of racism, gender, and racial inequality for Naropa teachers and administrators
Support student-led discussions on race
Employ a special review process before disciplining students of color due to the potential for racial profiling
Have a visible multicultural center that seeks to develop cultural competency through community engagement
Implement an Ethnic Studies curricula, which examines U.S. history and contemporary social issues from multiple perspectives to arrive at a plural and multicultural understanding of U.S. society
In response to this movement and its demands, the diversity team formed the Coalition for Cultural Transformation. We have made progress in almost every area: we crafted minimum and preferred qualifications for all job postings so that the candidates we recruit, regardless of their social locations, will have some level of cultural competency. This clearly communicates to applicants Naropa’s commitment to creating a just and inclusive community. We have offered a variety of monthly trainings for faculty, staff, and students, and the introductory training, Fostering an Inclusive Community, is now required of all staff. We have worked diligently to provide a robust calendar of diversity events including facilitating student-initiated dialogues on race. Through the Bias Education and Response Team, we are working on a proposal for the university to implement a social justice framework that would inform all grievance procedures so that the dynamics of power and privilege are integral to how any policy is implemented. We have created a visible cultural identity center which we plan to open in the fall. Lastly, a group of dedicated faculty has been working to create institutional benchmarks that would allow our faculty to self-assess their cultural competency and to access the support and resources they need to grow in their social justice practices.
The work we have been doing, and the pace at which we have been progressing, is remarkable, and members of the Coalition have volunteered from across the university: The Office of Admissions, Development, Financial Aid, The Office of Safety, Facilities, and Operations, Student Affairs, GSCP, CACE, University Relations, The President’s Office, and both core and adjunct faculty.
I feel a deep gratitude and admiration for those who tirelessly continue to show up to meetings and work on projects not articulated in their job descriptions. They have taken on extra work to “be the change” they want to see in the institution. We’ve done a lot in the past year. And we could be doing more.
It takes more than an office, a robust calendar of events, and a committed group of volunteers to shift the history and the future of Naropa University. A deep re-commitment is required on all of our parts on all levels: ideological, institutional, interpersonal, and internal.
Most importantly we need to change how we think. Our actions demonstrate that most of us still think of issues of inclusion as peripheral to Naropa’s mission. We think that inclusion is about making space for the marginalized, instead of recognizing that each of us as individuals, and Naropa as an institution, has an ethical responsibility to create a more just world. Our students come here to transform, but if we continue to shirk any deep commitment to intrapersonal and institutional transformation, we will remain nothing more than status quo.
We have to change the way we view ourselves. We have to be willing to see how we perpetuate suffering by refusing to step into the fire whole-heartedly—by refusing to let our egos burn, and to give up time, money, and other projects to focus on this work. We should be leading higher education in our creative, cutting-edge heart and gut-galvanizing commitment to justice. We need to hold the practice of social justice as sacred as we hold any other practice and to realize that facing our shadow is inextricably tied to resolving our issues with enrollment and retention.
We need to change how we function as an institution—to adopt a social justice framework that informs all of our policies and procedures, who we hire, how we hire, and what we do to keep the gems we find. We need to institutionalize social justice so that it is written into job descriptions and performance evaluations, so that there are formal structures to support marginalized students, staff, and faculty, and we need a system of accountability for making progress in this area. We need to develop trust in our relationships and faith in those leading the institution. And we need to evaluate our every choice and interaction for the lurking residue of internalized patterns of oppression and domination.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion will continue to light the path, yet this needs to become central to the work of the board, the cabinet and the faculty. As part of lighting the path, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion makes the following requests of the board, the cabinet, and the faculty.
- Each group needs to work within its own collective to decide how it’s going to (or continue to) prioritize this work and how it’s going to hold itself accountable to the larger community.
- We would like each board member to adopt a working group, i.e. to physically or virtually attend meetings and actively participate.
- We would like each cabinet member to complete the trainings we offer and to attend at least one diversity event per semester.
- We ask each faculty member to complete the Fostering an Inclusive Community Training and to educate themselves on microaggressions and creating inclusive classroom environments. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is happy to provide resources to this end. The Benchmarks and Faculty Diversity Committees will continue their work this summer to launch the aforementioned developmental model and self- assessment in the fall.
In addition, we urge everyone to consider the following:
Commit to investigating our own social locations and the ideas we hold about ourselves: our worthiness, our intelligence, our goodness, whether we feel we have a right to speak and to take up space and time.
How do we engage (rather than avoid) areas in which we have privilege and are more likely to have influence? Practice naming your social locations at the beginning of meetings, presentations, courses, articles, etc. Acknowledge that these identities matter and that our perspectives are shaped by them, and are not necessarily shared by people from different locations.
Commit to critical consciousness-raising. Commit to learning the history of how various ideas about superiority in race, gender, ability, citizenship, culture, religion and sexuality have been established and propagated. Commit to reading books and articles, watching films, and listening to interviews and narratives that confront issues of racism, patriarchy, transphobia, able-ism, heteronormativity, immigration injustice, and neo-colonialism. If you have difficulty finding such materials, we will email them to you at your request.
Commit to reaching out to and connecting with more members of the community. ANYONE (We all have complex identities and contribute to the diversity of Naropa). Reach out across divisions of staff, faculty, administrator, student and across campuses and programs. This is a commitment to building community.
HIGHLIGHTS OF CCT ACCOMPLISHMENTS SINCE FEBRUARY:
Facilitated 3 Fostering an Inclusive Community trainings
Facilitated 1 On-the-Spot Interventions training/workshop
Are actively revising and updating the Fostering Inclusive Community training, as well as the 4 I’s of Oppression Training
Are creating a Gender Diversity training, with the assistance of our newest diversity team member, a gender specialist
Offered a town hall The Seventh Generation: Deep Time ritual in collaboration with the Joanna Macy Center
Celebrated Naropa’s first-ever Earth Justice Day on April 20th as a result of collaborations within the Sustainability & Social Justice Nexus group, which highlighted resistance against environmental racism as the foundations of the environmental justice movement
Facilitated two dialogues for the MFA Performance program to address student concerns
Held 4 film screenings with facilitated dialogue within the Critical Consciousness Series on topics of: the disability rights movement, audism and deaf culture, the farm workers struggle led by Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, and Pine Ridge Reservation.
Sponsored 2 Community Brunches
Provided administrative support and promotions for a Feminist Thesis Research Panel, moderated by Lynn DiLorenzo that highlighted the work of five undergraduate students
Held a General Assembly, in commemoration of Decolonized Commons, open to all members of the Naropa community
Sponsored a presentation on radical approaches to rape-culture relations that coincides with the student-initiated Clothesline Project opening ceremony
Near-completion of the new cultural center, which has now been furnished and has a mural in progress (Its name will soon be determined, based on results from all-campus survey)
*NOTE: This document is presented with only minor formatting edits to improve the readability of the text in this form. All content is as was originally email on the date set forth. This document remains property of Naropa University, here published for further exposure.