Student leaders give updates on the Black Action Plan

Student leaders of the Black Action Plan (BAP) Sonali Anderson ’22 and DeBorah Ault ’22 discussed updates on the plan in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot. They have worked with multiple departments across campus in order to enact demands made in the Black Action Plan. 

In a post from March 5 on the Black Action Plan’s Instagram, Anderson and Ault provided an update on what the work they are doing. The BAP leaders have continued to work with various departments across campus, including Public Safety, the Department of Community Living (DCL), the Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC), Academic Services and Hiatt Career Center. 

According to the post, the university has ended its “Reimaging Public Safety” consultation, which had student input. A report on the feedback and recommendations received has been put together. Black Action Plan student representatives are on the search committee for the new Director of Public Safety, a replacement for Ed Callahan, who is set to retire once a replacement is found. Callahan announced his retirement in July 2020 and is acting as Interim Director until his successor is hired. 

In an interview with The Hoot, Anderson explained there were two processes for selecting a new director. The first was reimagining public safety with Margolis Healy Associates, a service in safety, security and emergency preparedness for workplaces, according to their website. In that process, consultants sought input from Brandeis faculty, staff and students “to get a better perspective and understanding of what the Brandeis community wants within public safety and their relationship with public safety,” Anderson explained. The second phase is the search for a new director, according to Anderson, which is where the Black Action Plan working groups get involved. The Public Safety Search Committee is a formal search committee led by the university, which student representatives of the Black Action Plan will sit on, according to Ault. 

“We really want to make sure that people have confidence to be able to say what they want to say to represent student concerns,” she told The Hoot. 

The Black Action Plan has also begun working with Brandeis Bridges, a club on campus which provides a space for Black and Jewish members of the Brandeis community to discuss important issues, according to their Presence page.  

The Black Action Plan has also been working with DCL to restart working groups which will be led by DCL. Ault said that by working with DCL, they have learned that the student Rights and Responsibilities code is put together by various departments across campus as well as using students’ input. Student input on the Rights and Responsibilities code is asked for via email, according to Ault, but she has learned after working on the Black Action Plan that this mode of seeking student input is not effective. 

“We challenged them, and we said that it’s not good enough,” said Ault. The working groups are now rethinking how to get student feedback on the student Rights and Responsibilities code, which is enforced by DCL. According to Ault, since DCL enforces the rules of the Rights and Responsibilities Code, this might contribute to why students feel like the department is policing instead of being a community organization. 

While creating these working groups, the Black Action Plan leaders are trying to make sure that groups’ objectives match with the intentions of the plan to create structural change. According to Ault, structural change will ensure that no matter who is in leadership positions, the changes will last and remain in place. After multiple meetings with DCL, the student leaders have been able to align their goals with the department, according to Ault. 

Representatives of the Black Action Plan also attended the interviews of the finalists selected for the new Associate Director position of the BCC. The position has since been filled, according to the Black Action Plan’s March 5 Instagram post. The BCC has restarted their Student Advisory Board, which is a group of undergraduate and graduate students who collaborate with the BCC on mental health concerns on campus, according to their page. A representative of the Black Action Plan will be serving in the group, they wrote in the Instagram post.  

The student leaders have continued to work with the Hiatt Career Center and Academic Services to implement demands drafted in the plan. Academic Services has reached out to see if their response to the Black Action Plan has been good enough, and to see how the student leaders can better work with them, Ault explained. The student leaders have reviewed Academic Services’ action plan in response to the Black Action Plan and have since provided feedback. 

According to their March 5 post, Black Action Plan has been working with the Hiatt Career Center and the Alumni Board to create an alumni mentorship program. Creating an alumni network for students of color was one of the demands made in the plan, according to a previous Hoot article. Ault discussed the Rise Together Mentor Network, which is a service offered by Hiatt which pairs alumni with other graduates and current students, according to their page. When discussing having an alumni network of color, Ault said there might be a strain on alumni of color if they’re already involved in other mentorship programs. Ault said she is proud of the Rise Together Mentor Network, and she hopes that all students use it to form alumni connections. 

Black Action Plan has also begun to create working groups, in partnership with the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO), to work on increasing accessibility of the resources OEO has to offer. In a meeting with the upper administration back in August 2020, Anderson said that a problem on campus is that there are resources which the university offers that aren’t available at the ground level to students, according to a previous Hoot article.  

“We are trying to build a strong community within the Black Action Plan so people feel more and more supported,” said Ault. According to Ault, they have a weekly meeting with their OEO working group to see how they are doing and to provide feedback.

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