EDITORIAL: Applaud efforts to improve campus diversity
Throughout these first few weeks of classes, the University community has watched its administration run a gamut of highly public efforts toward starting conversations about diversity and inclusion in society, while the administration continues a gradual process of addressing the issue within the University itself. There was the Brandeis Counseling Center’s announcement of its new staff-of-color hires. There was the emailed announcement of #Brandeis #TheDialogues, a semester-long series of panels and workshops about race and gender. Then, just yesterday, there was the proud announcement of almost $24,000 in grant money awarded to University departments pursuing diversity-focused projects. And next week, students will meet the last two finalists for the newly-formed chief diversity officer position.
While this board celebrates the University’s newfound efforts to publicly discuss race and gender, we ask the administration to remember that these programs are not substitutes for institution-wide change toward a more diverse community. That work will require a years-long commitment to rethinking hiring practices, retooling administrative procedure and constantly re-emphasizing the issue through accountability efforts from the student and faculty bodies.
While diversity, inclusion, prejudice and marginalization have always been keynote topics for speakers at this social justice-centric University, this increased administrative effort likely results from the Ford Hall 2015 movement of last year. Departments and classes have always fostered public discourse on these topics through their own invited speakers, but when students took over the administrative buildings on campus, the administration began sanctioning and organizing its own diversity discussions.
This is not a bad thing, far from it; any administrative efforts to generate greater discourse on key issues should be celebrated, particularly those on such vital topics. We look forward to attending #Brandeis #TheDialogues and hearing community members’ thoughts on race and gender in the workplace, political campaigns and music industry — among other topics.
But the key argument of the Ford Hall 2015 movement was a need to diversify the University itself through hiring more faculty of color and admitting more students of color. Public discourse about diversity’s place in wider society is an irreplaceable portion of achieving this goal — indeed, greater public discourse on race was another goal of Ford Hall — but by no means does public discussion substitute for the administration following through on its own sanctioned ideals.
It would be impossible for the administration to achieve the more diverse faculty and student body demanded of it in a matter of months; admitted students do not always choose to attend, and faculty job hirings preclude faculty search committees. Moreover, the University needs a CDO to study the issue at Brandeis in detail. But as the passionate student occupiers from Ford Hall 2015 graduate over the next few years, we fear the University may see these goals slowly fade to the background of other priorities.
To this end, the most notable events of the last few weeks are the new BCC hires and student consultancy in the CDO hire. These are just a few moves toward the full work of institutional change, and they set a positive precedent. But myriad other portions of the University require scrutiny on this front, and that scrutiny must come from involved students and faculty refusing to allow the issue to fade.
This board urges the full University community to participate in the forthcoming dialogues and celebrate the new research grants. But also remember to support the new CDO and help centralize their role in administrative bureaucracy, demand and study annual updates on hirings and admittance rates, and keep consistent pressure on the University to address its own institutional issues. Administrators are starting a conversation, which is wonderful, but over the coming years, they have their own role to play in that conversation.