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Joint statement addresses student demands

Interim President Lisa Lynch issued a joint statement featuring a summary of a Draft Implementation Plan for Diversity and Inclusion at Brandeis University on Tuesday, Dec. 1. This statement was issued after multiple days of negotiations between administrators and students. The statement, signed by Lynch, Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel and student negotiators, is divided into four sections.

The sections outline specific changes that will be addressed during the next few semesters. They account for many of the demands that had been issued by the Ford Hall 2015 movement on Thursday, Nov. 19. Demands that were specifically addressed include appointing a vice president of diversity and inclusion and establishing an office of ombuds.

The process for hiring a vice president of diversity and inclusion will begin in in early 2016. Until then, several changes will be made in preparation. A University Diversity Steering Committee will be hired as soon as possible. According to the joint statement, this committee will, “report to the President and be responsible for developing metrics to be used for accountability.”

A “reporting line,” which was also referred to as an interim student ombudsperson, will be established to “serve as an independent, neutral and confidential resource for students to discuss their academic issues and concerns.”

Demands regarding diversity on campus included the request to increase enrollment of black undergraduate and graduate students to 15 percent. They also requested an increase of the percentage of “full-time black faculty and staff to 10 percent across ALL departments,” with 10 departments given special note. These included the Heller School, a number of the social sciences and the hard sciences.

The final agreement did not include percentages, and many movement participants did not expect it to. Quota systems for minorities have been held unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court. However, the agreement includes provisions to double underrepresented faculty of color by 2021 and to “accelerate the trajectory of [student] applications from underrepresented students of color with the goal of 5-10 percent annual increases in applications starting Fall 2017.”

According to the most recent information available on the Brandeis website, one percent of Brandeis’ 348 faculty were black in 2013. To increase diversity of the faculty, the university will institute a Target of Opportunity Hiring Program. This means that when conducting a search for new faculty, if the university identifies a highly skilled minority applicant, they will place this candidate in a streamlined hiring channel.

Faculty search chairs and diversity representatives involved in searches will complete training on implicit bias. The diversity representatives will meet to discuss criteria, job ads and increasing diversity within their search. Brandeis will also allocate funding for up to two tenure faculty hires a year, as well as regular searches for faculty “who will diversify our faculty or curriculum in significant ways.”

A demand was also made regarding the mandate of yearly diversity and inclusion workshops for all faculty and staff. To address this demand, online Title IX training for all faculty and staff will be augmented in the upcoming year. The statement also highlighted existing programs such as the Center for Teaching and Learning’s workshop “Discussing Race and Inequality in Our Classrooms.”

The CTL began conducting this workshop in February of last year. It is a group discussion among faculty and is facilitated by professors Dan Perlman (BIOL) and Rajesh Sampath (HS). Perlman said the purpose of the faculty discussion group is to “share ideas and talk about issues that have arisen in their classrooms.” According to Perlman, the group aims to provide a way for faculty members to “get guidance from colleagues that may have a good way to handle these issues.”

Perlman believes that the workshop is the first of many new approaches the CTL may take. “We’re looking for a whole range of different formats, not just discussions amongst faculty but a wider array,” said Perlman. Moving forward, faculty development programs in the area of diversity will be a joint effort between the CTL and the Committee for the Support of Teaching and Learning.

Certain demands were absent from the final statement. A request to “increase funding of Black student organizations and programs” was not addressed. Lynch commented on this in an email to The Brandeis Hoot. “The students and the administrators both understood that club funding is an issue that should be addressed by the Student Union, which is responsible for overseeing the allocation process,” she wrote.

In an attempt to address the issue of increasing diversity on a large scale, the joint statement indicates that a task force will be formed to audit undergraduate degree requirements. This audit is expected to take place over 18 months. The process will include, “a mandate to consider how to incorporate issues of race, equity and inclusion in university requirements,” Lynch said in an email to The Hoot.

Both sides agree that all demands were met within the joint statement. However this progress is only the beginning; students and faculty will continue to work together to improve diversity on the Brandeis campus. “It will not be easy, as we noted in our joint statement, it is a complex process that will generate resistance and conflict. I am very optimistic, however, that we have the capacity to achieve our goals,” Lynch wrote.

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