Department of Community Living (DCL) working to be anti-racist in response to Black Action Plan

The Department of Community Living (DCL), in response to the Black Action Plan—a student-led initiative to address the concerns of Black students and students of color—released a webpage outlining the department’s plan of how to make DCL anti-racist, according to its website. The page, released on Sept. 30, includes the responsibilities of four newly-formed working groups to address the plans being implemented at Brandeis. 

The Black Action Plan, which launched this summer, consists of concerns, demands and plans for structural reform in departments around campus in an effort to become more equitable, diverse and inclusive, according to an earlier article by The Brandeis Hoot. It specifically asked that DCL create a new director of reporting and engagement, an online reporting form for students to voice their experiences and concerns and for the department to be restructured to build more community. None of these demands are highlighted in the plans released by DCL on Sept. 30. The Black Action Plan claims that DCL “should not serve as an additional policing entity on campus as it currently does,” according to the plan. “The sole job of [DCL] should be to cultivate community.” 

DCL initially responded to the plan in a Sept. 3 social media post, writing, “we respect the energy exerted by students who have shared their experiences and collaborated to create action items designed to make our campus anti-racist.” DCL received the Black Action Plan on Aug. 20, according to the post. “We know we must do better.” The staff of DCL “is committed to continuing conversations, reviewing our policies, and enacting procedures that better acknowledge and support our Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) on campus,” the post continues. 

“Our role on campus is to help build community and help Brandeis become your second home,” the statement read. “We cannot do that if we do not take accountability, take a stand, speak up, and also continue to educate ourselves so we can make Brandeis a better place where all students feel welcome, and most importantly, safe.” 

DCL members will be at the outdoor Usdan tent, starting Oct. 2, “to make space for our students’ to voice their concerns, bring their ideas, and be heard by our staff members,” according to the Sept. 30 update on the website. The community check-ins, created by a new working group, are “dedicated to creating time for Brandeis students to come together alongside members of Community Living to discuss the complex issues of racial inequality and injustice,” according to the DCL website. These opportunities are available both in-person and via Zoom

The communications committee, another newly established group in response to the Black Action Plan, “will work to share information via email, social media, and our website, providing updates on the work that our staff is doing,” according to DCL. This committee will also be managing the social media pages of DCL, with a specific focus on what is being posted. The team posted a “Meet the Staff” campaign on Instagram and Facebook to give students the opportunity to meet staff members in DCL and the webpage with information about DCL’s efforts to become anti-racist was posted on Sept. 30. 

The anti-racism working group is focusing on an anti-racist training which will be administered to all professional staff. The group is also reviewing university policies that are “confusing and/or concerning,” reads the page. The Black Action Plan asked DCL to address “unequal policing” and to reverse “discriminatory policies that target” Black students and students of color—listing examples of policies on drug and alcohol use, group gatherings, noise complaints and when community advisors call the Brandeis police, reads the plan. DCL did not name specific policies on the organization’s webpage for addressing anti-racism. 

The anti-racist working group, according to the page, will collaborate with the Student Rights and Community Standards (SRCS) department to address concerns raised by the working group. SRCS responds to behavior on campus that violates the Rights and Responsibilities, a code of conduct for Brandeis students, according to their page, and offers alcohol and drug education to students.

The Black Action Plan asked Community Advisors (CAs) to participate in a racial training framework. The area coordinator staff of DCL is also implementing anti-racist work into their weekly staff meetings, according to the page. Starting Oct. 5, the working group will construct and test different options on how to best implement anti-racist programming into the training and development of the university community staff, including CAs and Area Coordinators, in response to the Black Action Plan. 

The Student Support Action Blueprint (SSAB) was set up by the department to create an accessible means for students to obtain resources while living on campus, according to the page. The working group is meeting with campus partners to discuss the implementation of new policies on campus. 

Consent for room inspections throughout the school year, a strengthening of community engagement methods with students of color and a third-party investigation into racial bias among code violation reports by DCL continue to be concerns brought forth by students during Ford Hall 2015 and Still Concerned 2019 that still have not been addressed, according to the plan. DCL’s online response does not specifically address room inspections or a third-party investigation into code violation reports. 

Students of color in 2015—naming their protest Ford Hall 2015 after a 1969 student protest that established the department of African and African American Studies (AAAS)—advocated for more Black faculty, Black students and staff of color in the Brandeis counseling center (BCC) along with annual diversity and inclusion workshops, among other demands. In 2019, students called again for more counselors of color at the BCC, informed consent for DCL room inspections, university advocates to assist students of color if a student is accused of a code violation and a third-party investigation of racial discrimination among DCL code violation reports, according to a previous Hoot article

The Black Action Plan also highlights the need to hire a director of reporting and engagement who “should have the power to take concerns and advocate on behalf of reporting students,” reads the plan. “They should also have the skills to exercise community consolation between staff and residents.” DCL’s online response did not address the creation of a director of reporting and engagement.

The plan also calls for the creation of an online form to allow residents to document their individual experiences and to “pull in student witnesses with consent of the witness during DCL conflict,” according to the plan. “[Community Advisors] CAs do not witness the full experiences that residents encounter, having a CA revise and report a situation from their own bias and limited knowledge is unjust.” Students who wish to report “an experience or concern regarding discrimination, harassment or sexual violence” can use an existing online reporting forum through the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO), according to the OEO website

The Black Action Plan also blames the leadership within DCL as influencing the emotional trauma put on communities of color at Brandeis. “Many Area Coordinators [AC] have been let go or resigned; however, heavily charged racial issues within this department have remained,” reads the plan. “No amount of hiring BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] in the Community Living Staff will fix this inherent racial bias and racism, without removing the cause.”

They call for the hiring of a community development consultant to help guide DCL on “how to intentionally build community across directors, staff member[s], and residence” as well as review the current senior leadership within DCL for “their involvement in the perpetuation and hiring racist [A]rea [C]oordinators which have induced racial bias on to the Black and people of color community, and have set standards of policing within the department of community [living],” according to the plan.

This is the second part in a series explaining the Black Action Plan and its implications on campus.

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