Editorial: Feedback on appendices D, N, F and P in University’s draft anti-racism plan
In light of the Nov. 10 release of the University’s Draft Anti-Racism Plan, the Justice’s editorial board will be reviewing and providing feedback on each section of the plan. We hope that these forthcoming editorials will serve as a resource for students to provide feedback to the administration. We also recognize, however, that our editorial board is predominantly white, and we will work to ensure that we are not taking space or attention away from the voices of the BIPOC students who are most directly affected by racism on campus. In line with this goal, we have grounded our analysis of the appendices in the demands put forward in the Black Action Plan.
This editorial will focus on the "Re-imagining Public Safety" section of Appendix D, Department of Campus Operations and Office of Human Resources; Appendix N, Department of Community Living; Appendix F, the School of Arts and Sciences; and Appendix P, the Brandeis Counseling Center.
Appendix D: Department of Campus Operations and Office of Human Resources — Re-imagining Public Safety
This board critiques the brevity and ambiguity of the Draft University Anti-Racism Plan’s section on “Re-imagning Public Safety.”
University President Ron Liebowitz’s Nov. 10 email to the Brandeis community, in which the draft plan was announced, offered a link to the Community Input Process that will continue throughout the fall semester. This page features information on the two consultants hired to provide guidance on the process, a schedule of input sessions, a collection of previous mass messages to the community on the topic and a link to provide feedback to the consultants regarding Public Safety.
Apart from the input page, the draft plan regarding Public Safety is nestled under Appendix D: Department of Campus Operations and Human Resources. Considering the urgency of reimagining policing on campus, highlighted by the nationwide civil unrest of the summer, this board criticizes placing such an important topic in an otherwise mundane section of little interest to much of the student body. While the rest of Appendix D will be covered in a future editorial, the portion covering Public Safety was brief. It highlighted recent action undertaken in response to the Still Concerned Students protests in spring 2019, including using students instead of police to monitor on-campus events, adding a campus shuttle to Market Basket and purchasing an unmarked car for the Department of Community Living to use for discrete student transportation.
In terms of future action, the appendix highlighted the upcoming search for a new director of Public Safety by a search committee, the composition of which was announced in a Sept. 29 message to the community. It also explained that a “blueprint” will be developed, using information from the Black Action Plan and the community input sessions, which the new director will “draw upon in realizing their vision for the future of Brandeis public safety.”
Despite a comprehensive list of reforms being listed in the BAP, no information on what will be contained in the eventual blueprint was offered. While this board recognizes the need to wait for input from the community listening sessions before formulating a final plan, we are discouraged by the University’s refusal to commit to any of the demands included in the BAP. Such demands include body cameras for officers, disjoining the Police Department and Escort Services, reforms surrounding firearms, mandatory anti-racism and de-escalation training and implementation of further oversight and accountability measures.
This board encourages students to provide feedback on the plan for reimagining Public Safety through this community input link as well as familiarizing themselves with the BAP.
Appendix N: Department of Community Living
Appendix N of the University’s Anti-Racism Plan is dedicated to the Department of Community Living. As part of both the Ford Hall 2015 sit-in and the #StillConcernedStudents protest of 2019, students issued a list of demands asking DCL to enact policies that would reduce excessive policing of BIPOC students on campus and increase transparency in all DCL processes. The BAP expands upon these demands, outlining three major areas of focus for the department.
The first part of the appendix consists of changes made by DCL in response to the BAP’s demands as of late August and early September. The wording used is vague and abstract, and it is difficult to determine whether proposed solutions have been implemented, are still under review, or are being brainstormed. Of the updates listed, three directly address demands included in the BAP. The first involves wellness checks, which are currently conducted by undergraduate Community Advisers or Area Coordinators. The BAP demands that DCL hire professional therapists to conduct wellness checks, with the students’ consent, between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. Per the appendix, DCL “continues to advocate” for the reduction of wellness checks unless it is an emergency, and per the DCL website, staff have been working alongside the Care Team to amend response protocols for these situations. It is unclear if the changes made to the protocol have been implemented or whether DCL plans to continue relying on undergraduate students and ACs with no proper training to handle critical mental health situations.
Additionally, as part of reducing the involvement of University Police in residential life, DCL now has the ability to “plug and unplug residents’ doors for various reasons,” a task previously reserved to the Brandeis Police Department. Per their website, DCL is also looking to take over the lockout process entirely by hiring “Lockout Assistants” that would be available after the DCL office closes and CAs are off duty. The qualifications and responsibilities for Lockout Assistants are not explicitly stated.
The third update concerns the acquisition of a new car with “minimal exterior logos and lights” to replace the current vehicle. However, it is not clear how this change responds to the demands of the BAP. This ambiguity undermines the potential benefit served by this car and makes it harder for students to critique or praise this concrete action that has been taken.
The last update addresses the BAP’s demand to create an open, transparent record system that students can access. All Health and Safety Inspection statistics are now posted on the DCL website. The statistics themselves do not provide a lot of information that could be helpful in identifying discriminatory patterns; they just report the total number of violations, violations resolved with follow-up and violations resulting in a report. Additionally, statistics for fall 2020 inspections are not available.
The second part of the appendix describes the purpose and accomplishments of the four Working Groups created to draft plans of action that address demands made by the BAP. Per the appendix, “Working Groups were paused at the request of BAP in early October.” The reason for this is not discussed, which this board finds concerning.
As with the updates, the list of accomplishments provided by each of these groups is vague. Of most relevance to the BAP is the work being done by the Anti-Racism Working Group, which is developing an “anti-racism training for our professional staff” and reviewing “confusing and/or concerning policies.” There is no information about what the training entails, when it will be conducted and if it will be required for CAs. Policies that are being reconsidered or re-evaluated are also not listed, which makes it difficult for students, faculty and staff to provide feedback.
This board commends DCL for taking these steps to address racism within its department. The current use of vague wording, however, makes it difficult to assess any of the measures taken by DCL. This board urges DCL to provide tangible evidence and specific explanations of how these changes directly address the demands made by the BAP. Additionally, this board would like to point out that information about DCL’s plans are available on two separate websites, which this board finds confusing. The information on the Becoming Anti-Racist section of DCL’s official website contains more detailed information about these changes. Both the DCL and DEI website were last updated in late September.
—Editor’s Note: Justice editor Cameron Cushing ’23 is employed by DCL. He did not contribute to or edit this portion of the article.
Appendix F: School of Arts and Sciences
Appendix F outlines the anti-racism “plan for a plan” for the School of Arts and Sciences, and it is organized into four sections: Admissions Actions to Date, Initiatives Underway, Actions Under Discussion and Fall Plan and Timeline.
The first section enumerates various initiatives relating to diversity, equity and inclusion that the School has implemented already. These include funded graduate mentor programs; expanded programs for Native American Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies; mandatory anti-bias training for faculty chairs and other leadership positions; and changes to undergraduate financial aid packages and policies. While these programs are significant steps on the path to creating an anti-racist institution, this board would also like to critique the deficiencies of this section. In particular, this section does not take accountability for the school’s shortcomings related to DEI in previous years, nor is there any specific mention of students’ criticisms of the school besides a brief acknowledgement in the introduction about the Black Action Plan and the Ford Hall 2015 draft plan.
In the second section, this board would like to commend certain programs and actions currently underway. Specifically, the school is working on reducing bias in undergraduate admissions, and has implemented mandatory anti-bias training for all admissions counselors who review applications. The Graduate School is also working toward reducing and eventually eliminating the use of the GRE graduate school entry exam in admissions. Additionally, more specific information and a timeline concerning future steps for the school to take by Jan. 31, 2021 can be found in the final section. This board supports these concrete steps the school has committed to taking in order to become a more anti-racist institution.
In the third section, however, this board criticizes certain plans “under discussion” that either are vague or do not adequately address the BAP’s requests. For example, one action under consideration is to “ask all departments and programs to consider ways to make their curriculum and teaching more inclusive.” This board wants to point out that this potential action not only is extremely vague but also seems to be a relatively feasible goal — having faculty at least consider curriculum adjustments should be the foundation of the anti-racism plan. Also, specific BAP requests — science placement tests and summer bridge courses for incoming first-years, and enforcement mechanisms to hold faculty accountable for teaching accurate and inclusive information — are not explicitly addressed in any of the sections, including Actions Under Discussion.
In sum, Appendix F outlines valid and important advances that the School of Arts and Sciences has made to become more anti-racist and inclusive. Yet, this board also critiques how the appendix focuses on the positives that have been or will be achieved without equally acknowledging the major institutional gaps concerning DEI that still remain, especially within the context of the BAP.
Appendix P: The Brandeis Counseling Center
The BAP, unveiled during the fall 2020 semester, made numerous demands of the Brandeis Counseling Center. In Appendix P of the Draft University Anti-Racism Plan, some tenets of those demands were addressed directly, others were sidestepped and some were ignored.
This board commends the University on separating University Police emergencies from mental health emergencies. This policy came in response to the BAP’s assertion that therapists “should be used as first responders rather than an optional second hand service. Police should not be responding to mental health issues,” per the appendix. However, the University did authorize the BCC to use discretionary authority to involve the police. This keeps open the possibility of racist police attacks on suffering students and even potentially allows BCC staffers to call for police only when they feel a student is especially violent or threatening — stereotypes which fall disproportionately on Black men, even when they are behaving no differently than a white peer in a similar situation. While the University made strides by separating the police from mental health emergencies, there is more work to be done.
The University also responded directly to the BAP’s request for cultural competency workshops for clinicians, saying their goal for 2021 is to bring in a facilitator for “extended training and development” on “Anti-Blackness, Whiteness, White Superiority, Privilege and Oppression and fostering a Culture of Inclusivity in Communities.” However, they are currently evaluating budget allowances for this. This board calls on the University to stay accountable to their goals. Delaying until student pressure lifts is not acceptable.
In a similar vein, the University’s Draft Anti-Racism Plan mentioned the BAP’s demands such as hiring more counselors of color, openly and consistently reiterating the BCC mandatory reporting policy, and making counseling free. However, the Draft Plan did not clearly mention any changes or new policies in response to the BAP’s requests. Instead, the plan simply reiterated the BCC’s current billing and consent policies, and said they are committed to hiring more clinicians of color. The plan encouraged students to make use of the free Community Therapist program as a way to partially address numerous BAP demands. However, undergraduates are only allowed three community therapy sessions per semester.
This board calls on the University to be upfront about changes they are making and honest when they are sticking to the status quo. Couching inertia in bureaucratic language is not enough.