Editorial: Feedback on Athletics and Academic Services sections of 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 prominent sections. 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 composed of white students, 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 by the Black Action Plan.
Appendix E: Athletics
The appendix dedicated to the Athletics department listed many BAP requests related to athletics and vague responses to those requests. Many of their responses did not fully describe a plan for how to move forward but acknowledged that there was a problem. For example, in response to the request for BIPOC counselors, the plan states that the Athletics department already has a strong relationship with the Brandeis Counseling Center, but “more can be done.” How specifically the department plans to strengthen this relationship remains to be addressed.
Yet another concern is the lack of mention of the past issues with racism the Athletics department has faced. In 2018, the Brandeis men’s basketball coach Brian Meehan was terminated as a result of his mistreatment of players of color, according to a 2018 Justice article. It is important for the Athletics department to own up to its past failures, especially when the Brandeis community is one that strives for equality for all students, be they athletes or not. This board has noted previously that Appendix B of the University’s Draft Anti-Racism Plan focuses too heavily on Brandeis’ commitment to social justice and not enough on its history of racism. Appendix E is another example of this issue. Acknowledging the history of racism in the Athletics department is crucial to making it anti-racist in the future.
Between the lack of concrete ideas and the failure to address previous mistakes, Appendix E is not explicit enough in its intentions or plan for improving the safety of Brandeis athletes and the structure of their department.
Appendix K: Office of the Provost — Academic Services
This board appreciates that the Academic Services portion of Appendix K has a layout conducive to readability and understanding of their current and future plans. The webpage features a two-column table: the left column lists specific BAP demands that relate to Academic Services and the right side lists the department’s responses. Although at first glance the department’s responses seem empty and vague, the sections that follow elaborate on some of the promises made in the table.
One of the points in the BAP that this section of Appendix K responded to was the claim that there is a “lack of transparency” and accountability in the department. Academic Advising committed to releasing an advising syllabus that will “bring greater transparency to the advising process, sharing the unit’s mission, expectations for advisors and advisees, learning goals, and academic resources.”
Academic Services laid out a number of ways to connect BIPOC students with more opportunities, such as fellowships, professional development programs and internships. They also said that they had updated training for Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program instructors “to include facilitated discussion on race and racialization in higher education.”
Notably, Academic Services also committed to finding ways other than Department of Community Living wellness checks to get in touch with students who are unreachable via email. “We acknowledge that by activating wellness checks via DCL on behalf of advisors looking to connect with unresponsive students, we have caused unintended harm and made students of color feel surveilled on campus,” the appendix says.
Although Academic Services had specific plans and responses for some demands, they did not respond to others as thoroughly. For example, in response to the BAP’s request to hire more advisors of color, Academic Services boasted about adding their first man of color to the Academic Advising team in June 2020, but would not commit to filling a vacant academic advisor position with a person of color beyond being “mindful of the need for greater representation.” In response to the BAP’s request to “provide Black and POC students with academic advisors of color,” Academic Services said they “invite students to work with the advisor who most affirms their identity, and supports their needs,” which ignores work that needs to be done to hire more advisors of color to make it possible for all students to accept this invitation.
Student Accessibility Support, which falls under the umbrella of Academic Services, committed to using HR to reach a more diverse pool of applicants “when presented with the opportunity to fill department position vacancies” in order to diversify their staff. However, despite commitments to greater diversification, Academic Services have not been sufficiently transparent in their hiring practices. This board requests that in the future, Academic Services more clearly communicate their hiring practices to the Brandeis community in order to be more accountable in terms of diversity. In light of the sentiments raised in the BAP that there is a lack of representation in Academic Services, this board urges SAS and Academic Services as a whole to commit to more specific and detailed plans for diversity in hiring.
This board commends Academic Services for centering the BAP in the outline of their plans, but hopes to see some of these plans become more concrete.