By Katie Sittig-Boyd
Since the Ten Demands were first put forth to the administration in November 2015, there has been a series of community meetings to address issues of racial equity on an ongoing basis.
Tuesday, May 3, marked the final community meeting of the semester, and Provost Katie Conboy led the session by providing updates on current progress and future goals in place to address each of the demands.
In order to enact changes satisfying the first demand, Conboy addressed steps which have been taken, such as the QPOC support group and other initial efforts to support affinity groups through the counseling center. In the future, efforts will be made to ensure that the Student Health Advisory Committee will include initiatives to support students of color.
To meet the second demand, current progress encapsulates monthly forums as well as the “Talkin’ on Tuesdays” series, and future work will strive to evaluate how well efforts made in the spring 2016 semester have worked. Plans for a multicultural student center to coordinate diversity programming will be developed.
The third demand puts forth the need for diversity training attended by faculty, staff, and students. Conboy announced that Romney Associates, Inc. has been hired to train faculty and staff in diversity, inclusion, and social justice this summer. Additionally, future plans encompass trainings in the summer of 2016, as well as the winter of 2017.
With regard to the fourth demand, Conboy stated that deans from each of the Simmons schools are leading the changes, including curriculum review, student participation in ongoing evaluation, and reworking course evaluations in order to gauge classroom climate more accurately in terms of diversity and inclusion. Future work includes efforts by CAS to hire more diversely and create courses to address curriculum gaps; the formation of curriculum committees by various schools; and involving students in ongoing assessment.
The fifth demand addresses the necessity of legal representation for students at no cost to them. There are two workshops planned to discuss legal protections, responsibilities, and rights of students.
There is also discussion of Ethicspoint being expanded to incorporate racism incident reporting.
The sixth demand concerns student recruitment, and the progress to date includes a new panel as part of the Multicultural Overnight Student Travel (MOST) program, as well as partnership with community based organizations (CBOs) to reach out to a wider pool of candidates.
Conboy also announced that of the incoming class, 31 percent of students self-identify as students of color, up from 27 percent last year.
The new Multicultural Student Office, located in the SAC, officially opened this past Monday, which partly fulfills the seventh demand. In the future, there will be plans developed to establish a multicultural center planning committee comprised of students, faculty, alums, advancement, and others; a report is scheduled due for the fall.
The eighth demand concerns hiring faculty and staff of color. Provost Conboy authorized four tenure stream faculty positions, and hiring efforts were made specifically to publicize the positions to diverse candidate pools. Five new faculty of color have been hired already. Diversity Recruitment Certification Training has also been completed by the Director of Recruiting in terms of acquiring new staff members, and in the future, job announcements will be posted in places that diverse audiences will see, according to Conboy.
The ninth demand, which calls for improved financial aid for students of color, also addressed the need for workshops that will help students understand how to navigate FAFSA and other aspects of financial aid. The financial aid office will be holding a Scholarship Match event this upcoming Friday, May 6, on Twitter; students can tweet @simmons_sfs with questions and staff members will respond. Workshops are also slated to take place this upcoming fall.
The tenth demand calls for a timely approach, and Conboy highlighted the speed at which the demands have been addressed; Lisa Smith-McQueenie has drafted a Diversity and Inclusion Plan, which will inform broader planning going forward. The strategic plan will be developed for Trustee review no later than October 2016.
“We have no intention of letting up on our efforts,” said Conboy.
Attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions following Conboy’s presentation. Questions regarded Romney Associates, Inc. and how the organization was chosen; the commitment to social justice; and whether or not student representatives will be able to attend trainings.
Additionally, deans were asked to speak about inside changes, rather than calling in speakers from outside organizations, and each dean spoke briefly about changes they have been overseeing or involved with making.
Dean Renee White also spoke about her own office hours and encouraged students to give feedback if they are comfortable doing so. “When we say that our doors are open, we really do mean that,” said Dean White.
Students were concerned about reporting services. According to administrators, a model will be developed over the summer and presented to students for feedback and review come fall.
The Simmons Course: Explore has also been central in discussions of racism on campus, and Director of Education Catherine Paden spoke about changes that will be made for next year’s cohort of first-year students.
The meeting ended just after 5 p.m., and Provost Conboy encouraged students to reach out to the administrators named as “point people” for each demand, stating that there will be an email sent out to reiterate which individuals are responsible for overseeing progress in which demand.