Action Plan

Submitted to the Dean by the RCOAL Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism Council

June 24, 2021

I. Overview

In the fall of 2020, the leadership of the Reynolds College of Arts & Letters (RCOAL) established the RCOAL Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism Council, largely in response to events that occurred earlier that year, such as the murders of George Floyd and other Black Americans and the protests that followed, including social media campaigns such as #BlackatMoState and protests on campus.

Faculty and staff from each of the seven departments in RCOAL were invited to serve on the Council. Once formulated, the Council decided to focus its efforts on creating this Action Plan. Council membership was distributed among five subcommittees, corresponding to the focus areas deemed most relevant to this Action Plan. Each of the subcommittees was charged with developing a set of recommendations for the College and its constituent departments. At various points during the academic year, Council members met as a group to hear reports from the subcommittees and to offer input. Records, including meeting minutes, are stored in a SharePoint folder. The Action Plan presented in this document represents the outcome of this process.

Section II provides additional information about the charge, membership, and organization of the RCOAL Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism Council. Section III contains the action items and recommendations we encourage the College and its departments to implement as soon as possible. Section IV identified some addition recommendations and steps the College should take to ensure the sustainability of its diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-racism, and justice efforts. Section V (Appendices) provides links to the College climate survey results.

The Council is grateful to Dean Wahl for his support of its efforts.

II. Council Charge, Membership, and Subcommittees

Council Charge

The RCOAL Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism Council makes policy recommendations aimed at increasing diversity in the College and ensuring that all individuals—but particularly BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and international faculty, staff, and students—feel welcome, safe, represented, respected, and valued. In fulfilling this purpose, the Council engages in actions including, but not limited to:

  • assessing the College’s overall climate regarding diversity;
  • developing and periodically updating and the College’s diversity action plan;
  • proposing and coordinating diversity and inclusion strategies and initiatives;
  • coordinating with other College and department committees to ensure that events, recruitment and marketing efforts, curriculum, hiring practices, etc., are broadly inclusive;
  • supporting the efforts of the Division of Diversity and Inclusion, Multicultural Services, departmental diversity committees, and other similar campus units; and
  • assessing the impact of the College’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

Council Members

The following individuals served on the RCOAL Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism Council during the 2020-2021 academic year and contributed to this Action Plan:

  • Antoinette Barffour, Modern and Classical Languages
  • Isabelle Bauman, Communication
  • Fatih Benzer, Art and Design
  • Lisa Brescia, Theatre and Dance
  • Alejandra Cerdas Cisneros, Modern and Classical Languages
  • Jung Choi, Music
  • Mara Cohen Ioannides, English
  • Chris Collins, Communication
  • Jennifer Hard, Theatre and Dance
  • Michelle Harvey, Theatre and Dance
  • Holly Holladay, Media, Journalism, and Film
  • Colby Jennings, Art and Design
  • Rachel Johnson, Art and Design
  • Jason Jolley, Reynolds College of Arts & Letters
  • Daniel Ketter, Music
  • Valerie Kidd Turner, Career Center
  • Gordana Lazić, Communication
  • Luis Lombilla, Modern and Classical Languages
  • Carol Maples, Theatre and Dance
  • Joy Millana, Media, Journalism, and Film
  • Eric Morris, Communication
  • Marty Morrison, Music
  • Todd Payne, Music
  • Suneeta Thomas, English
  • Alan Tinker, English
  • Andrew Twibell, Media, Journalism, and Film

Subcommittees

Members of the RCOAL Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism Council worked with one or more of the following subcommittees:

Incident Response Subcommittee

The role of this subcommittee was to determine how to handle issues that can and should be addressed in the short-term and to coordinate responses to flashpoint incidents or critical diversity-related issues as they arise.

College Climate Subcommittee

The role of this subcommittee was to assess the College’s climate with regard to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism and to make recommendations for improving it.

Education and Outreach Subcommittee

The role of this subcommittee was to make recommendations and propose initiatives to educate students, staff, and faculty, and community (curriculum, trainings, lectures/performances, etc.) regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism and related issues.

Student Recruitment and Retention Subcommittee

The role of this subcommittee was to propose initiatives to recruit and retain diverse students (marketing, scholarships, etc.) and to coordinate the integration of student input into the Council’s work.

Faculty Recruitment and Development Subcommittee

The role of this subcommittee was to propose initiatives focused on hiring, mentoring, and developing diverse faculty, valuing their contributions, and increasing representation (teaching, research, service, leadership development, etc.) across the College.

III. Action Items and Recommendations

The RCOAL Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism Council recommends that the College and, as appropriate, departments begin immediate implementation of the action items and recommendations contained in this section. These recommendations, organized by focus area, were generated by each of the corresponding subcommittees and endorsed by the entire Council.

Incident Response

When student organizations, departments, or departmental committees from the College wish to issue statements of support or condemnation in response to local, state, regional, or national events relating to diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-racism, or justice, College and department administrators should be supportive of the issuance and publication of such statements (which may be subject to review and approval) on organization, department, and College websites and social media accounts.

College Climate

The College Climate Subcommittee developed and administered climate surveys for students and for faculty and staff (see Section V for links to survey results). Based on the data obtained through these surveys, the subcommittee makes the following recommendations:

  • The College should share summaries of results of the student and faculty/staff climate with RCOAL students, faculty, and staff.
     
  • Since survey results confirmed that a majority of respondents have witnessed different kinds of microaggressions in the College but are reluctant to report them, the College should develop clear protocols for reporting microaggressions and encourage students, faculty, and staff to report them.
     
  • The College should develop educational or training programs to teach students, faculty, and staff about offensive speech and behaviors, including micro and macroaggressions.
     
  • College and department administrators should take steps to ensure that micro and macroaggressions do not continue. The Dean and department heads should develop, publicize, and implement disciplinary protocols with real consequences to hold perpetrators of offensive and unprofessional behaviors accountable.

Education and Outreach

  • Since diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism concerns must be addressed at a systemic and structural level, it is crucial to establish methods that educate holistically. One of the more effective ways to engage all parts of the system, particularly as it pertains to RCOAL, is to establish an educational approach that fosters interconnection among Arts and Letters disciplines. Such interdisciplinary practices are essential for educating various populations and to ensure a micro- and macro-level integration of effective procedures. Therefore, the subcommittee recommends the development of an annual interdisciplinary DIA symposium in the Arts and Letters. Furthermore, the subcommittee recommends funding to invite scholars with distinguished research in DIA issues. The subcommittee also recommends that the structure of the symposium include a partnership with Dr. Kimberly Martin (director of Multicultural Programs), which will further inform our own practices and extend the impact of the symposium’s education and outreach.
     
  • Since engagement with the community is an imperative step to bolster dialogue and increase safety, both within the College and the surrounding areas, the subcommittee recommends investing in community outreach, allyship, and internship opportunities with organizations that explicitly address DIA concerns in their organizational mission statements. Additionally, to highlight the relationship between the College and the community, the subcommittee recommends a centralized website hub that provides supporting documentation, materials, and event notifications that pertain to RCOAL DIA initiatives. The development of an ongoing dialogue with community members and RCOAL should include the implementation of an annual roundtable event with community organizers that address DIA issues in Springfield. The roundtable would be a means to establish protocols and practices that contribute to productive and lasting change in the community.
     
  • Since student voice is essential for maintaining a dialogue across structural components within the College, the subcommittee recommends the development of an interdisciplinary RCOAL student organization or cohort focused on DIA issues. Student organizations with a DIA focus would help identify the needs of marginalized voices and foster communication across the micro, mezzo, and macro levels within the College. Education efforts must recognize and integrate the knowledge of students as a critical component for maintaining, monitoring, and addressing the needs of specific populations.
     
  • Since observation and acknowledgement are important components in the preservation of a sustained commitment to DIA issues, it is imperative for the College to recognize the works of those individuals who serve in this capacity. To accomplish such a goal, the subcommittee recommends the implementation of annually scheduled comprehensive programs across the College. These comprehensive programs pertain to annual event programming, anti-racism training, and College divestment from organizations with a history of discriminatory actions or policies. Additionally, the subcommittee recommends the development of an awards program or a distinguished award that recognizes those individuals whose work contributes to an excellence in RCOAL DIA education and outreach. The formation of a distinguished award would allow the College to recognize those students, staff, or faculty members who have provided a substantial commitment to diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism practices.    

Student Recruitment and Retention

  • Since student voice is crucial, RCOAL should develop and support a Student Diversity Council that focuses its attention on diversity and inclusion in line with Dean Wahl’s charge. The student group will also work with Dean Wahl, through collaboration with the College committee, to establish priorities for their work. The student group will be trained to execute focus groups, allowing them to learn and share information from students across the College.
     
  • Since feeling safe and included is central to the work, RCOAL should develop systems to receive and respond to concerns raised by students. The “response team” could comprise of someone from the senior leadership team, representatives from the Student Diversity Council, and the RCOAL Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism Council to ensure that allies and advocates are able to keep visible reports and outcomes.
     
  • Since feeling safe and being heard are two characteristics of diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism, RCOAL should provide a safe space for students which will be generally available to students and particularly available when an event in our community or in our country warrants conversation and reflection.
     
  • Since visibility affirms mission, values, and approaches, RCOAL should develop communication strategies to ensure that diversity and anti-racism work is visible to students and the campus community.
     
  • Since higher education employs reward structures for review and promotion, RCOAL should develop specific incentives to recognize faculty and staff who support students.
     
  • Given the importance of advising, RCOAL should work to develop (and reward) advising protocols with explicit, evidence-based practice to support students. This work should be done in consultation with advising professionals and others with expertise, like Dr. Kimberly Martin.
     
  • Since hiring is of central importance to showcase RCOAL’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, RCOAL should include students as part of hiring process to ensure that the hiring process makes visible the role of students, particularly as it relates to diversity and anti-racism.

Faculty Recruitment and Development

  • RCOAL should create a college-wide Diversity Officer whose duties include advising hiring committees on effective practices for hiring diverse candidates. The Diversity Officer could also be responsible for college-wide training and development regarding diversity and inclusion.
     
  • As departments put forward hiring requests, position descriptions should identify responsibilities that attract diverse candidates. The Diversity Officer may assist departments in having conversations that help develop such descriptions.
     
  • RCOAL should ensure that search committees seek input from student representatives of color in the search process (though not necessarily in the decision-making phase).
     
  • RCOAL should encourage departments to work together to consider joint appointments or cluster hires whenever feasible to attract and hire diverse candidates.
     
  • RCOAL should develop materials that make a case for what the College can offer incoming faculty members and include in those materials elements that would be attractive to diverse candidates. Some of the language of these materials should be included in position announcements.
     
  • RCOAL should recruit former students to apply for faculty positions.
     
  • RCOAL should provide funding for faculty development in the area of diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. This money could fund:
    • departments trainings in diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism;
    • course release for faculty doing research or creative work in the area of diversity and inclusion and anti-racism;
    • travel to conferences;
    • research (travel, supplies, transcription, etc.) in the area of diversity, inclusion and anti-racism;
    • creative work (travel, supplies, etc.) in the area of diversity, inclusion and anti-racism; and
    • community outreach in the area of diversity, inclusion and anti-racism.
       
  • RCOAL should create or continue proactive mentoring programs for junior faculty beginning in the first year and continuing through promotion to the rank of associate professor.
     
  • RCOAL should create college-wide affinity groups in support of diverse faculty.
     
  • RCOAL should offer a catered lunch once a semester for faculty to drop in to develop community of faculty across College and promote similar efforts to encourage faculty to expand their networks beyond their own departments.
     
  • RCOAL should develop teaching and learning communities to make cutting edge research and teaching materials in the area of diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism readily available to faculty members.
     
  • RCOAL should recognize and encourage departments to value and recognize in their RTP guidelines diversity-related efforts frequently performed by diverse faculty members and that are often not incentivized by or captured under existing structures. Such contributions toward diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-racism, and justice might include:
    • advising;
    • anti-racism and culturally conscious education in our own departments;
    • creative work at the department or College level; and
    • activism.
       
  • RCOAL should review departmental annual review and RTP guidelines with this factor in mind within the next three years (e.g. as part of the Provost-level review required every three years).

IV. College Support and Sustainability

  • The College Dean should publicly endorse this Action Plan, circulate it to College students, staff, and faculty via email, and publish it on the College website.
     
  • The College Dean should support the action items and recommendations this Action Plan contains with appropriate financial and human resources.
     
  • The College Dean should designate a College Diversity Officer charged with directing the implementation of this Action Plan, coordinating the ongoing efforts of the RCOAL Diversity Council, and assessing the effectiveness of its work.
     
  • The RCOAL Diversity Officer should serve on the Provost Diversity Council and coordinate diversity-related work between the College, the Division for Diversity and Inclusion, diversity councils in other colleges, and department committees within RCOAL.
     
  • The College Dean should, in consultation with the College Diversity Officer and representatives from the RCOAL Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism Council, establish specific goals and develop strategies for increasing the number of diverse students, faculty, staff, and administrators in the College (i.e. adopt a goal-oriented approach to recruitment).

V. Appendices

The College Climate Subcommittee sent out surveys to 1) students and 2) faculty and staff. To see the survey results, please follow the following links: