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Brandeis increases funding for diversity programs

By Hannah Schuster, Abigail Gardener and Elianna Spitzer

Section: News

September 23, 2016

Brandeis awarded $23,995 to more than 10 departments hosting events advancing diversity and inclusion efforts. A total of 11 events or trainings received funding and will take place throughout the year. 

Over the summer, departments applied for funding that the Provost and Dean of Arts and Sciences allocated for academic departments to advance diversity and inclusion efforts, according to Daniel Bergstresser, professor at the International Business School and member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering (DEIS) Committee. The DEIS Committee selected recipients for the funding and Provost Lisa Lynch released the list of events in her email to the Brandeis community this Monday. 

“All 11 proposals advanced the goal of better educating our community about different aspects of diversity, and all received some level of funding,” Bergstresser said in an email to The Brandeis Hoot. 

The first such event was a talk with Princeton University professor Ruha Benjamin on how race and genetics are related. Benjamin argued that biology and genetics cannot be used to justify race-based oppression. 

One of the upcoming events will take place at the Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC) and will feature a Slidetalk on photographer Lou Jones’ panAFRICAproject on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

Lou Jones will speak about his photography project as well as show some digital photos from the project at the event, which is sponsored by the Offices of the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the Provost.

The panAFRICAproject aims to “create a contemporary, visual portrait of modern Africa,” according to the project’s mission statement. Jones tries to take photos of Africa that portray it in a more positive light, defying stereotypes that the West has used to previously define the continent.

Jones hopes to establish a “repository of images that represents each of the 54 individual countries devoid of the preconceived, western notions of distress,” the project’s website states. 

Karin Rosenthal, a WSRC scholar on the Exhibitions Committee, helped to organize the event over the summer. When she asked Jones to come present and speak about his project, Rosenthal hoped Jones would be able to talk about what his objections were regarding the way Africa is portrayed and what motivated him to start a new repository of pictures.

Jones has photographed seven countries so far for the project and is now working on taking pictures in Ethiopia thanks to some recent Kickstarter funding, Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal is excited for people to see the presentation and hopes that it will reform their preconceived images of Africa. “I hope that they learn to see Africa more through an African-American’s eyes, somebody who sees issues that perhaps are not ever discussed in the West,” she said. 

A separate event hosted by the anthropology department will feature postdoctoral scholar, Dr. Antonio José Bacelar da Silva. He will speak about black organizations in Brazil and their use of racial politics to gain political power. The Latin American and Latino Studies Program is co-sponsoring the event. 

Bacelar da Silva is expected to explore the goals of black NGOs in Brazil, “embracing racial differences in antiracist education and electoral campaigning,” according to a description of the program on the Latin American and Latino Studies department website. 

The anthropology department reached out to speakers from diverse national and racial backgrounds, according to Elizabeth Ferry, chair of the anthropology department. They also sought out younger scholars.

Bacelar da Silva was chosen for his work in linguistics and media, as well as his background in Brazilian politics. Ferry sees the overall goal of the department as providing a global perspective to topics such as elections, by addressing both Brazilian and American politics.

She hopes to have a reading group prior to the program in order to familiarize students with Bacelar da Silva’s work. Graduate students in the anthropology department would organize this group.

Another sponsored event takes on a different form. Instead of inviting a speaker or hosting a discussion, the Heller School created a workshop series on building issues of diversity and inclusion into course syllabi.

In this four-part series participants will learn, generally, about how to create inclusive classrooms and also modify an existing syllabus for a class that they will teach again, according to Deborah Garnick, a professor at the Heller School. 

The workshop is not about creating new courses on the topic of race, ethnicity or inclusion but rather incorporating these issues into a course on statistics, for example, said Garnick. There are preparatory readings and in the sessions faculty will discuss in two or three-person teams and with the whole group.

All Heller faculty, including its affiliated faculty who teach in Arts and Sciences, can apply. Participation is limited to 12-14 people, but Garnick said she is open to repeating the workshop in the spring if there is interest. 

Garick and Carole Carlson, both Heller professors, will help lead the workshop, but Heller is also using the funding to hire Sylvia Spears, an expert in inclusive classrooms in higher education, to help with some of the sessions, said Garnick. Spears is the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at Emerson College where she works with recruitment, develops trainings and oversees school policies advancing diversity, according to her Emerson bio. 

“We wanted additional expertise,” Garnick said.

Other departments hosting events include English, education and sociology, Peace Conflict and Coexistence Studies and philosophy. The African and Afro-American Studies Department is hosting a Black Lives Matter Symposium in April 2017.

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