McGovern College faculty, staff, and students:
I have outlined in previous posts my commitment to creating, supporting, and sustaining an equitable, respectful, and anti-racist environment in the McGovern College of the Arts. I write today with an update on actions we are taking on this critical priority for the College.
Town hall meeting with the Dean: Thursday, August 6, 2020, 1:00 PM
Please mark your calendars for a town hall meeting with the Dean, for all faculty and staff, on the first Thursday afternoon in August: Thursday, August 6, 2020, at 1:00 PM. We will be discussing the issues below as well as any other issues that are of interest, including any issues related to delivery of fall instruction (with the first day of fall classes right around the corner).
Listening and dialogue to date
I have previously spoken to the importance of providing space for substantive dialogue among all members of our community. These opportunities for dialogue allow for I and all of my colleagues to listen, learn, and develop meaningful actions steps that are rooted in what we hear.
To date we have taken the following steps:
- held two open listening sessions with the Dean for McGovern College faculty and staff of color. These meetings had no formal agenda; the floor was open, and the discussion was informative and productive.
- held a meeting with College leadership and a small, invited group of current and former students. Again the meeting had no formal agenda; the discussion was frank, illuminating, and valuable.
- fully integrated the discussion on anti-racism into the ongoing agenda of the College leadership team--and devoted numerous meetings of this group completely to explorations of this topic.
Student listening circles
We are providing space in which to fully and deeply engage with our student community on these critical issues. To that end, Center for Art and Social Engagement Director Sixto Wagan will host a series of student conversations on anti-racism in the last half of July and first half of August. Over 40 sessions in which students may participate will be available, all of them designed as hour-and-a-half meetings for listening to, learning from, and documenting students' experiences in, and future vision for, the McGovern College of the Arts. Invitations will be sent shortly. For more information, contact Sixto Wagan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you may sign up online.
Task Force on Anti-Racism
I have previously announced that I intend to appoint a McGovern College of the Arts Task Force on Anti-Racism, and these plans are continuing to develop. The Task Force will be charged with, among other responsibilities, development of a multi-year plan that conveys the College’s commitment to diversity and anti-racism and articulates specific goals, objectives, and action plans for implementation; and development of a decision on the status of the task force itself as an ongoing, standing committee in the College bylaws. The Task Force will include faculty, staff, and student representation. I expect that the Task Force will work closely with the Faculty Governance Committee of the College and with the faculty and staff at large, as much of its work will involve policy decisions on which the bylaws charge the faculty, via the Faculty Governance Committee, with oversight.I will keep you informed about this task force as plans evolve.
It has become clear from our dialogues that many in the College community are actively seeking further education on how to best address issues such as race, racism, power, privilege, and others, both in our everyday personal and professional lives as well as in specialized situations--such as in the classroom. To these ends, we are taking the following actions:
- 2020 McGovern College Summer Read Program, reading Ibram X. Kendi, How to be an Anti-Racist (New York: One World, 2019)
This program was announced in June and launched this week. Response from across the College has been tremendous; we have provided, at no charge, nearly 100 copies of the book for interested faculty and staff. The program is brilliantly led by Music Library Coordinator Madelyn Washington, and it is not too late to join. Please contact me or Madelyn directly if you are interested or have questions.
- Fall 2020 Inclusive Teaching workshop
This is an upcoming one-day, all-day teaching workshop for McGovern College faculty and staff, scheduled for Friday, September 11. The workshop will be led by Marcia Chatelain, Provost's Distinguished Associate Professor of History and African-American Studies at Georgetown University. Prof. Chatelain is a leading national expert on social issues including racism, universities and the history of slavery, and activist movements in American history; and she is equally highly regarded for her inclusive teaching workshops aimed at helping build capacity for engaging in constructive and progressive classroom discussions on race and privilege. Prof. Chatelain's Georgetown website is here; her professional website is here.
I will soon be sending a dedicated communication with more information about the fall 2020 Inclusive Teaching Workshop.
Also clear from our dialogues has been the need to think deeply about curriculum across the College, including the ways in which our curricula support the anti-racism position to which we have committed.
In an effort to immediately promote faculty engagement on this issue, I am announcing a Culturally Inclusive Curriculum Grants program in the McGovern College of the Arts. The program will be open to all full-time faculty of the college, regardless of rank and category. The program calls for proposals to develop courses that diversify and address the structural racism and other related inequities in the existing arts curricula across the College's units. More information, including proposal guidelines and a cover sheet, may be downloaded here. Proposals are due September 7.
I will send a dedicated communication about the Culturally Inclusive Curriculum Grants Program soon.
I am committing to fostering a respectful, supportive, inclusive, and civil climate for every member of the McGovern College of the Arts. There is no place in the College for, and there can be no excuse for, speech or other action that raises barriers between or reinforces systemic inequities among valued members of the College community.
To that end, last week I asked the Faculty Governance Committee, chaired by Michael Ray Charles, Cullen Distinguished Professor in the School of Art, to draft a McGovern College of the Arts Civility Policy. I have asked for a draft policy that respects AAUP guidelines on standards of civility and professional ethics in the academy, and one that draws a careful distinction between free and critical speech versus speech that is uncivil or aims to cause offense, humiliation, or emotional or physical harm. I have asked the committee to present me with a draft policy for review by the middle of October. I expect that the committee will engage fully with the faculty and staff of the College on this issue. The end goal is for the policy to become a standing policy in the College bylaws.
There is much work to be done; the steps I have outlined here are the beginning, not the end. I will continue to keep you informed of our efforts and our progress. I call on every member of our community to engage with the process of making the McGovern College of the Arts an even better place, and an organization that every one of us can be proud of, no matter our position, our background, our field, or our career path.