The College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) commits to co-creating an environment where faculty, staff, and students can, as a community, achieve new dimensions of positive change. With this in mind, CAS’s leadership aims to support dialogue, reciprocal partnerships, and care in our classrooms, in our on-campus and off-campus communities, and ultimately our lives. The following EJI (Equity, Justice, and Inclusion) vision and actions are the product of community input, and are intended to support an environment where communities that have been historically excluded in higher education are treated with dignity and respect. This vision also undergirds our shared pursuit of a more equitable and just society; a society that is intimately tied to our work as faculty and staff.
To this end, CAS seeks to attract and retain exceptional faculty members from a variety of backgrounds who will advance the pursuit and preservation of knowledge. Equally as important, CAS is committed to its staff members who bring a range of talents, skills, and backgrounds to enhance every aspect of our institution, including EJI work. The process of retaining the most talented faculty and staff is one that requires resources, for example, professional development opportunities, clear advancement pathways, and EJI funding for departments that support local and communal work. Just as important as material resources is the creation and maintenance of a space where faculty and staff can do their best work and bring their authentic selves. Building supportive communities through mentorship and collaborations, participating in dynamic workshops and other educational opportunities related to our research, teaching, and service missions, and establishing clear communication channels that foster transparency and accountability are just a few of the pathways we have identified. These action steps, while not exhaustive, are paramount to EJI work across the College of Arts & Sciences.
As we continue on our journey toward equity and justice, we are guided by a belief in the transformative power of education, in particular an education that liberates. How might we achieve a more democratic vision of education, together? What do we need as individuals and as communities? What ongoing work can we support? What new initiatives can we spearhead? What wins can we celebrate? And, importantly, what harms can we dismantle as we think about our relationship to power?
We will only succeed to the extent that we recognize and honor our responsibilities to each other; to our shared humanity. CAS leadership, with the support of the Dean for EJI, will hold ourselves to these values in the collective pursuit of a more equitable and just future.
Our action plan is informed by institutional values and priorities laid out in the Diversity Blueprint and the Race and Equity Initiative. In particular, it seeks to align with the Blueprint’s 6 main goals:
- Goal 1: Cultivate an Accessible, Inclusive, and Equitable Climate
- Goal 2: Attract, Retain, and Graduate a Diverse and Excellent Student Body
- Goal 3: Attract and Retain Diverse Academic Personnel
- Goal 4: Attract and Retain Diverse Staff
- Goal 5: Develop Place-Based Education and Engagement to Advance Access, Inclusion, and Equity
- Goal 6: Improve Accountability and Transparency at All Levels
It is also guided by the collective wisdom and insight of a large and diverse college. Through one-on-one and small group listening sessions as well as the first ever annual CAS EJI Climate survey [link to executive report here], various themes emerged. The following are themes that rose to the surface and some short- and long-term goals for addressing these issues and concerns.
Key theme 1: CAS Leadership and EJI Engagement
The CAS community has noted the importance of strong leadership in promoting EJI initiatives. While some people have applauded their department's proactive steps and commitment to EJI, others have highlighted areas where further progress could be made. CAS leadership plays a pivotal role in shaping departments’ climate and culture with regard to equity, justice, and inclusion by communicating clear goals, facilitating conversations across departments, and supporting departmental EJI work. Some initial steps for this year include:
- Implementing a quarterly newsletter that showcases EJI work in the College
- Providing consistent communication on an annual basis regarding EJI Vision, goals & actions
- Co-sponsoring departmental EJI initiatives and related work
Key theme 2: Establish a Holistic Approach to Building and Sustaining a Diverse College
Survey responses indicated support of EJI goals but a need for help in transforming ideas into action. CAS, with its disciplinary diversity, needs a flexible, multifaceted, and holistic approach to EJI work. We want to make it easier to find pertinent information about EJI best practices and to connect with colleagues across campus engaged in similar work while also acknowledging that individual units are best equipped to tackle the specific issues they face. Some initial steps for this year include:
- Piloting an Anti-Racist and Inclusive Pedagogy Program & CTL Partnership
- Updating EJI webpage & sharing a searchable repository with resources for faculty & staff
- Exploring & creating infrastructure for mentorship
Key theme 3: Cultivating Equity and Community
Survey responses frequently touched upon the climate and culture within both departments and CAS. Positive comments emphasized the importance of creating an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere, where everyone feels valued and respected. However, there were also concerns raised about instances of bias, discrimination, or exclusion that impact the overall climate negatively. Several respondents stressed the need for ongoing efforts to improve the department's culture and climate. Some initial steps for this year include:
- Support value driven work, community building, and collaboration
- Work with departments to improve culture & climate related issues
- Institute an annual EJI survey to assess initiatives and climate
Recognizing what many have articulated as a gap between stated EJI values and tangible actions, this action plan seeks to align philosophy and implementation. We also know that there are many ways that CAS can engage in EJI work and that meaningful changes take time. We are committed to laying the groundwork so that college administration, faculty, and staff can best support each other and the students we serve.