Editorial: Feedback on Dean of Students section 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.
This editorial will focus on Appendix O: Dean of Students Office.
Appendix O is organized into four subheadings — Student Activities, Student Rights & Community Standards, Care Team and Department of Community Service — along with an introductory section explaining the DOSO’s “actions steps in response to the Black Action Plan.”
The first action step included in the DOSO’s anti-racism plan is “raising a BLM flag in the SCC.” While public support of the Black Lives Matter movement is a crucial part of advocating for anti-racism, this board has concerns about the apparent prioritization of this symbolic gesture — which was not mentioned in the BAP— over more substantive efforts to combat racism, some of which are explained later on in Appendix O. For example, halfway down the list of action steps is one that would station a community therapist of color in the SCC. The choice to prioritize the mention of a BLM flag and a “fountain to commemorate the contributions of BIPOC people to the legacy of Brandeis” demonstrates performative rather than concrete steps toward anti-racism within the DOSO. This board calls on the DOSO to prioritize their more substantive action steps, especially ones listed in the BAP.
This board appreciates the layout of certain sections of Appendix O, particularly how the section titled “Student Rights & Community Standards'' clearly responds to requests by the BAP in regard to codes of conduct violations and the review process of Rights and Responsibilities. Also, the DCS section provides specific details about “Committed Action Steps,” which include creating BIPOC focus groups and applying to the Boston Foundation for grant opportunities for BIPOC students.
However, other parts of the appendix are not as clearly organized, nor do they provide concrete action plans for the future. In the Student Activities section, for example, there are five vague “efforts” listed, yet these plans do not provide community members with any detailed information. One goal in this section is “making diversity and inclusion part of Club Conference (as soon as next semester),” but there are no details as to how diversity and inclusion will be incorporated into future Student Activities Club Conferences. Another anti-racist effort in this section is phrased as a question: “Could we also be a lending hand to Brandeis Police as they work to strengthen community engagement methods with students of color?” This is not only a question rather than a statement or a plan, but also a question that fails to specify how exactly Student Activities might act in conjunction with University Police to become more anti-racist and more inclusive of BIPOC students. This vagueness prevents students from providing specific feedback on the existing plans and from measuring the DOSO's progress in meeting their stated goals, undercutting accountability and transparency.
When the Draft Anti-Racism Plan was released in November, the DOSO promised that there would be more opportunities for students to provide feedback on the Rights and Responsibilities for the 2021-2022 academic year. In a Jan. 25 email to University students, Assistant Dean of Student Rights and Community Standards Alex Rossett and Dean of Students Jamele Adams explained the updated review process, which includes the creation of focus groups open to volunteers from the Brandeis community. Students and other community members “are also invited to suggest edits for the 2021-2022 edition of Rights & Responsibilities” through an online form by March 29, the email said. This board commends the DOSO for following through with goals that were outlined in the November Draft Anti-Racism Plan.
To conclude, this board appreciates how the BAP is centered in parts of Appendix O and how the DOSO is actively implementing certain plans released in November, but worries that other sections are too vague or performative to promote real progress addressing racism on campus. This board hopes that in the coming semesters the DOSO will continue to develop, clarify and follow through with the various goals specified in their anti-racism plan.