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Update on Community Equity Action Plan

Dear members of the Emerson community,

Our commitment to creating a culture of equity at Emerson is only as strong as our willingness to carry out this hard work inclusively and transparently. To that end, a newly established communications working group drawn from across the College will provide periodic and regular progress updates on our community equity plan. These updates will be shared both via email and on the College’s social media accounts.

Also, in the coming weeks, we will launch a new section of the website dedicated to tracking our community’s progress and to providing resources for all members of our community.

In the weeks that have followed Emerson’s February 5 Community Equity Statement and apology, several actions have been taken that will have the capacity to impact positively many dimensions of the College’s culture, values, and pursuit of equity:

Administrative

Formation of Presidential Advisory Group

Students, faculty, and staff representing key areas across the College, as well as ESOC student leaders, have joined the Presidential Advisory Group on Community and Equity.  

The advisory group will provide guidance and feedback on various aspects of the College’s equity initiatives, including:

  • Securing external support for the College’s larger work of identifying and addressing structural barriers affecting students of color.
  • Reviewing the role and responsibilities of the Emerson College Police Department as part of the national conversation on policing, and;
  • Planning an all-campus forum that will be held in April to update the community on our work and invite feedback.

The group will have its first convening in March. 

ECPD

  • A public apology from the ECPD was posted online on February 10.
  • The College will move forward with its planned ad hoc committee to review the role and responsibilities of Emerson College Police Department. 

Faculty

Progress on Faculty Initiatives (launched prior to #ESOCWeekOfAction)

  • Proposals by the Educational Equity and Justice Committee of Faculty Assembly and the Academic Cabinet to alter the teaching and service components of the Faculty Handbook will be discussed and voted on at the March 23 Faculty Assembly.  These proposals articulate new guidelines for teaching effectiveness that are aligned with inclusive classroom experiences. Students and faculty contributed to creating these important revisions that acknowledge inclusive pedagogy as foundational to academic excellence.  Proposed changes to service for faculty recognize the wide range of contributions that faculty make beyond traditional committees and clarify that this work counts toward promotion. As the document that provides guidance and standards for faculty and administration, the Faculty Handbook is the traditional venue for recording important changes affecting all faculty.
  • Training for faculty search committees was substantially updated at the start of the year to foreground equity at all stages of the search.

Progress on Faculty Initiatives (launched after #ESOCWeekOfAction)

  • Students will attend the next Academic Cabinet meeting in March with chairs, deans, and academic leaders, moderated by Dr. Tuesda Roberts.
  • New guidance was developed with and for department chairs who meet with students about identity-based harm in the classroom. The guidance emphasizes care, listening, support, an action plan, and follow-up.
  • The process for external program reviews that happen every 5-7 years for every academic unit and program has been revised so that equity, diversity, and inclusion questions and issues are foregrounded and will be at the top of every report.
  • The Undergraduate Curriculum Committee made changes to forms for both new classes and revisions to existing classes by requesting additional information about how the course reflects Emerson’s commitment to equity, diversity, and justice initiatives.
  • As announced in the February 5 Community Equity Statement, action plans for individual departments can be viewed here.

Financial Aid

  • A comprehensive student support proposal, inclusive of significant additional financial assistance, was presented to the Board of Trustees on February 11. Follow-up meetings and conversations will be held in the coming weeks.

Social Contracts

  • On February 23, the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership invited student organization leaders to a series of workshops to share collective ideas, strategize, and plan together the formation of a new Student Organization Compact. Workshops will begin the week of March 1.
  • Beginning in Fall 2021, all student organizations must commit to review and change the systems within their orgs to ensure they do not reinforce structures that lead to marginalization of students of color. Through this compact, all affiliated organizations must agree to review member recruitment, member selection, member training, program selection, leadership selection, and more. The compact will provide accountability tools to ensure our student organizations are actively engaged in anti-racist work.

Support for BIPOC Students

  • The College has begun a search for a new, full-time counselor position specializing in BIPOC experiences, beginning with the development of a position description posted on or around May 1.
  • Counseling and Psychological Services have created a bi-weekly support group specifically for BIPOC students.

Teach in.png

(Related Initiative) 4th Annual Teach-in on Race:The 4th Annual Teach-In on Race will be a virtual two-day event on March 18 and 19. Sponsored by Academic Affairs and the President’s Office, in coordination with the Social Justice Center, the event will explore ways to combine leadership, critical thinking, culture, and activism — and is open to the entire Emerson community. This year’s theme is The Year of Living Dangerously: Equity, Self-Care, and the Pursuit of Justice, featuring a keynote address from Dr. Eve L. Ewing, a sociologist, author, poet and visual artist. Panels with students, faculty, and special guests will follow to encourage meaningful discussion around issues of race, equity and racism on campus and beyond. More information will be coming soon and will be posted across Emerson channels.

The work that it will take to change our culture is difficult and unending. While it will require continuous improvement and commitment, it is critical to ensuring that every member of our community feels safe, welcomed, and able to fully participate in and benefit from the life of the College. Email us at communityequity@emerson.edu.

Sincerely,
Lee Pelton

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