Racial equity and social justice have been the work of the College of Education and Human Ecology and Dean Don Pope-Davis for years. But events in the spring 2020 have lent urgency to our commitment, and galvanized our efforts to collectively end the scourge of racism in our community and across our country. The time for action is now. As a college, we are taking decisive steps.
The dean in June hosted forums for faculty, staff and students to marshal our collective efforts. More will follow. These individuals’ commitment to racial equity and exposing systemic racism is powerful, and will be put to use.
Listening to their suggestions, Dean Pope-Davis has created a framework to guide our work and facilitate conversation. The plan, coordinated by Associate Dean for Equity and Diversity Noelle Arnold, calls for organizing efforts, encouraging self-reflection, teaching ourselves and others new perspectives, and transforming our communities:
The dean established a Racial Equity Task Force to lead the college’s call to action. This group will examine the impact of racism on various areas of the college beginning with a careful look at student, staff and faculty data. To ensure that individuals across the college are engaged, the dean asked each unit to identify a liaison to assist with communication and coordinate activities within their respective units.
An important aspect of anti-racist work is examining our own experiences by engaging in self-reflection and conversations with others. By doing so, we can deepen our understanding of racism and its impact on our lives. This may mean examining the language you use, recognizing the stereotypes that you have internalized about yourself and others and, more importantly, unlearning long-held biases. Strategies to support this include the White Racial Literacy Project (Patton-Davis, 2018) and EDGE-Y Conversations (Arnold, 2019), a new dialogue series led by members from across the college that support individual introspection and small group discussion.
Teaching and Learning
To create permanent change, we must engage in activities that broaden our perspectives. We must create a diverse array of learning opportunities ranging from traditional courses and workshops to podcasts and virtual town halls. To facilitate these activities, the dean has formed a Professional Development and Lifelong Learning (PDLL) Committee to look for opportunities to expand our professional learning activities. Another small group is developing a Racial Equity and Justice Repository to enhance our access to research, training materials, books and other resources. Faculty, staff and students were invited to contribute content to the repository and locate ideas for using these resources to support teaching and learning. In addition, we understand the need for additional instructional feedback mechanisms; a team has been working on an Advising Assessment (Dollarhide, 2019) and Supplemental Evaluation of Inclusive Classroom Instruction (SEI-CI)© (Arnold, Pratt & Penn, 2019).
Engaging and Advocating
We must lead the way in establishing EHE as a strong community partner in the fight for racial equity. We must harness our collective energy to stand in solidarity with Black people and communities in Columbus and elsewhere. This means providing training and professional development for our K-12 school partners, supporting reforms such as the Citizens Review Board for greater police oversight, pursuing funding to conduct research related to racism and lending our voices and expertise in the form of institutes and local and national forums focused on ending discrimination. Plans for these and other community-engaged activities are currently underway.
We must commit to transforming the areas of our college where we have structures, policies and practices that create and sustain inequities for faculty, staff and students. This means taking a hard look at our curriculum, addressing the differences in student experiences and opportunities within and across programs, and reviewing our institutional data to understand where we must make improvements. The dean is asking every department, unit and office to examine all aspects of their work and move toward building environments and adopting policies, procedures and investments that establish racial equity.
These are just the first steps we will take to ensure that our students are equipped to confront inequity in its many forms; that our faculty and staff are using their expertise to shape policy and practice in their fields; and that we stand arm-in-arm with our communities, offering solutions to make ours a more fair and just world.