President Ron Liebowitz updated the Brandeis community on the progress concerning the University’s Anti-Racism Plan, in an email sent on Aug. 25. With the help of David Fryson, Interim Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the university plans to form a more “equitable and inclusive” environment.
The update comes a little over a year after the plan was released; the Anti-Racism initiative was first introduced to the community in an email update sent by Liebowitz in June 2020. The official first draft of the plan was released to the public in November 2020, in order to receive feedback from the community, according to Liebowitz.
The plan was drafted through a compilation of action plans written by concerned community members targeting three parts of campus life: public safety and human resources, community living and residential life and athletics and the academic schools, according to a previous Hoot article.
In his email update, Liebowitz encouraged students, faculty and staff to read the draft of the Anti-Racism Plan and submit feedback via the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion page on the University’s website.
Liebowitz described the motive for creating the Anti-Racism Plan in his most recent email, writing, “In June 2020, a much-needed conversation on race and systemic racism was initiated around the country.”
The Anti-Racism Plan was originally spearheaded by Mark Brimhall-Vargas, former Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; the role has since been filled by Fryson. Liebowitz wrote that the University will move forward with the plans with a collaborative spirit that originally guided it. The University’s entire community “undertook the serious challenge of developing an intensive university-wide anti-racism strategy,” wrote Liebowitz.
According to Liebowitz, the anti-racism plan aligns with the spirit of Brandeis’ tradition of social justice. The Anti-Racism Plan will serve as a “strategy to identify and address any vestiges of racism at Brandeis,” Liebowitz wrote.
In November 2020, the first drafts of the Anti-Racism Plan were shared with the campus community for feedback. By Sep. 30, Liebowitz wrote that he plans to have gathered public feedback for a “final comment period” before an “ultimate compilation and external distribution.”
After the final review period, according to Liebowitz, he plans to have the university’s entire community familiar with the Anti-Racism Plan’s initiative. Community members will be able to engage in learning experiences with one another, deliberate what the best practices are for creating an equitable environment and start conversations about race and racism on campus, according to the email update.
Once plans are finalized, the Anti-Racism Plan draft will serve as a resource for the future as the university attempts to tackle the understanding, response and analysis of systematic racism at Brandeis and in its community, according to Liebowitz.
The finalization of the Anti-Racism Plan is not the end of the work to end systematic racism on campus, wrote Liebowitz. “The work of ridding our institution and society of lingering vestiges of racism— in all of its forms— will be an ongoing process. This is a goal which we are both enthusiastically committed to achieve,” wrote Liebowitz.
Each academic and administrative department within the university has produced drafts of their plans to address any instances of structural racism, according to the university’s website. Furthermore, there are more specific, division-wide plans for addressing racism in the Brandeis community as a whole, according to the university’s website.
The School of Arts and Sciences cites hiring professors from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds such as Latin American scholars as a top priority, according to their page. The university has also begun course content revision which has been cited as an additional response towards anti-racism. To do this, the university has begun including more courses that encourage students to learn about the wide variety of human societies, cultures and countries, according to the university’s global engagement page.
Recent developments in the School of Arts and Sciences include new hires within the Division of Science, according to their page. “The Biology Department has recently been very successful in hiring three Latinx scientists to their faculty,” reads the Division of Science Progress to Date section.