Equity and Inclusion in the Office of the Dean of the Faculty: Our Ongoing Work
“The issues of structural racism that Bates partakes of are long-standing and deeply ingrained, and overcoming them will depend on sustained, collective effort across the institution.”
From President A. Clayton Spencer’s
The work of antiracism at Bates.
Our goal is to build and nurture a community that is respectful and open to the diversity of ideas, thoughts, cultural perspectives and human identities. This goal requires all members of our community to develop an understanding of the way that racism, sexism, ableism, classism, and other products of oppressive hierarchies have shaped and continue to shape the lived experiences of too many of our citizens. In the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, we commit to this work of improving our academic offerings through focused antiracist perspectives in collaborative, inclusive, and sustainable ways. As educators, faculty play an important role in developing the courses and curricular paths available. There is much work to do, but we are united in the goal of providing an educational experience where all students thrive.
In the curricular realm, we highlight how we pursue this work in two ways: transforming the Bates curriculum and recruiting, supporting, and retaining talented faculty. This page is provided as a way for community members to keep apprised of the Office of the Dean of the Faculty’s progress on these efforts, achievements, and on-going work.
The Dean of the Faculty includes updates regarding our work on equity and inclusion When he addresses the faculty. Those remarks listed by date:
Statement from Dean Malcolm Hill, February 2021
Curricular Requirement Focused on Race, Racism, Inclusion, and Equity
Comments to Faculty Meeting
February 1, 2021
I would like to take a few minutes to outline an approach for engaging issues of race, racism, power and privilege in our curriculum and the academic experience of our faculty and students. I want to suggest an approach, first, for engaging with students and faculty on the request of a group of students that we create a requirement that all students take a course in critical race theory and their calls for accountability from faculty, staff, administration, and their fellow students for the lived experience of BIPOC students in and out of the classroom. Second, I would like to talk about our broader institutional commitment to transform our curriculum and teaching overall to encompass consideration of America’s history of racism, its effects on what and how we teach, and on the experiences of both faculty and students in the academic program.
In the weeks between the end of the Fall semester and today, I, along with Clayton and Noelle, have spent time consulting with students, individual faculty, members of our governance structures, chairs of academic units, and groups of faculty from departments or units who have been in touch to share their input and understand how we will coordinate our work ahead.
Why This Work Is Essential
Let me begin with the following facts and observations. Too many students feel marginalized at Bates because of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation. They feel excluded from learning spaces and other important aspects of what Bates claims to offer to all students. This is not due to a lack of talent, resiliency, brilliance, or skill – it is because of the spaces we create.
The concerns that motivated the student protest this fall and the proposal for a curricular requirement are legitimate and pressing. The Black Lives Matter movement and protests in response to the murders of Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many, many other citizens at the hands of police shed a severe spotlight on the continued racism and injustice experienced by Black Americans. As our colleagues in Africana reminded us: “there is no institution or discipline that has not benefited from the creative and intellectual labor of people of color even as those institutions and disciplines are steeped in the ideology that allows them to ignore those benefits.” Psychological threat and biased experiences can result in synergistic and damaging feedback loops that lead to highly negative outcomes for BIPOC students. This is in direct conflict with our aspirations as an institution.
The evidence is pervasive, but it is not often understood at a level that creates opportunities for transformative adjustments to the curriculum or the courses that students experience. At the end of the day, the effects of pedagogies and curricula that are not attentive to inclusive and equity-minded practices fall short of our shared expectations of teaching excellence. We are all part of this system, whether we want to be or not, but we also have the means and position to be part of a movement that produces real change. As educators, we have one of the most powerful platforms to do this work, as we are responsible for providing new and transformative perspectives for our students. Part of this work involves educating ourselves so that we may recognize our implicit biases, and open ourselves to an authentic accounting of how we got to where we are. The reality is that there is broad agreement, among the faculty, on these important fundamentals, and we have straightforward approaches available to us to offer our students equality of experience and equal opportunities to thrive. While the work is challenging, it is also among the most rewarding work we can do.
A Plan For Advancing this Work
So what does the work look like, and what is our plan? Stasis is not an option. We cannot be neutral. The focus has to be on changing the systemic aspects of any oppressive system that are inhibiting our students. We must recognize that only inclusive excellence is true excellence.
Since December, the AAC has organized conversations with BIPOC students and faculty. I have met with student leaders to discuss what our winter semester plans might look like. The AAC initiated a conversation with chairs at the January meeting focused on departmental and programmatic approaches to curricular requirements. We are fortunate to have had wise counsel with productive conversations in all of these spaces. Based on the considerations outlined above, I, working with the AAC, would like to propose a two-pronged approach to addressing race and racism in our curriculum.
First, we will address the proposal that all students be required to take a course in critical race theory. This proposal is grounded in an argument that all students should gain some understanding of the history of racism and white supremacy that has shaped — and misshaped — this nation from its beginnings and remains part and parcel of every institution in our society, including the academy and our academic disciplines.
To advance this work over the winter break, I initiated some baseline work that will put us in a good position to make progress once the Winter semester begins. I requested that colleagues in IR and my office prepare an inventory of the existing courses in the Bates curriculum that substantially address issues of race, racism, power and privilege. I also asked for data on patterns in course enrollments disaggregated by race and gender. This information will allow us to make informed decisions about pathways potentially available to students outside majors. Finally, I have asked for a review examining similar curricular requirements at other institutions to get a sense of how they are structured, what has proved most effective, and what we can learn. This data-gathering work is currently underway.
We will need a team of faculty to help interpret these data in ways that shed light on our curricular options. We will also identify potential external consultants who would be able to provide useful perspectives and recommendations as we chart a course forward. As a starting point, I plan to appoint a working group, composed of 3 to 5 faculty, to guide this work during the coming semester. This group will need to meet and decide on its work plan, including how best to engage students in collaborative discussions about curricular change, and how to assess the data we collect. Ultimately, this group will be asked to propose next steps to our faculty governing bodies, and both the “whether” and the “how” of the curricular proposal will need to be debated fully and authentically by this faculty, within established frameworks for making curricular decisions. A call for nominations and self-nominations is forthcoming.
Second, and in parallel with the efforts described above, we will continue and expand on our longer-term structural work on curricular and pedagogical transformation across divisions, departments, and programs. Curricular transformation is predicated on understanding the barriers, is dependent upon racial equity awareness, and will require training and planning that will take different forms in different academic units. We will coordinate these efforts at a divisional level.
Efforts are already underway, with the HHMI grant in the natural sciences and mathematics, and the Mellon grant in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. The AAC is meeting with faculty leading the HHMI and Mellon efforts to understand how we can support and coordinate the work. We will announce soon a similar curricular transformation project in the social sciences, and are working towards a parallel effort in the interdisciplinary studies division. No single strategy will be equally effective in different academic units, but we must be united in a singular focus on improving the experience of BIPOC students and first generation students at Bates College.
Thus, we will engage units to assess what kind of racial equity training would be most effective and then engage appropriate disciplinary experts to facilitate the work. Not all academic units are in the same place with regards to the antiracist work that is advocated and required. As each academic unit engages in this work, we will then use evidence to facilitate an understanding of barriers that might exist in the curriculum as we plan strategies that will remove disparate impact based on race and gender. Through conversations that are open, respectful, and reflective, we have the opportunity to make substantive changes in courses, curricula and practices. The reality is that several academic units have embarked, or are preparing to embark, on antiracist initiatives, which have already generated significant positive changes. There are many potential partners within the Bates community and in the broader academic community to help us, and it is some of the most creative and important work we can do.
Adopting antiracist approaches to our teaching, to our curricular development, to the academic communities we desire to build is about building a mindset, a skillset, and an expandable toolkit. I think it is safe to say that our colleagues do not believe that the -isms that plague our society are inborn and immutable. Rather, my understanding of this faculty is that we want to do better, we want to create spaces where BIPOC students thrive, but we may not have all the tools right now to do that work. I want to signal, clearly, that we will provide that support, and we will work with you to elevate this work in compassionate, creative, collaborative, and supportive ways. I believe that our faculty can do this work, that to solve these problems we will need to draw on the energy, talents, and creativity of all our faculty with their broad diversity of interests and experiences, and I believe we can do this work well.
The liberatory potential of education includes defending a faculty member’s right to teach topics from their expertise and to organize their courses in a manner that they deem appropriate. It is important that work of inclusive excellence at the department or program level is carried out in ways that respect discipline-specific goals, content, and methodologies. At the same time, we need to make sure that we are accountable to the quality of the educational experience available to all students. Our students are correct. Any understanding of the world is incomplete without an accurate accounting of the role oppression played and plays in our academic disciplines and our academic communities – in this country and in the world. We need to address in intellectually rigorous ways, the history and legacy of racism, and its ongoing manifestations if we are to prepare future leaders committed to “responsible stewardship of the wider world.” Excellent teaching ensures that every student with talent and interest finds a safe and responsive intellectual home. Excellent teaching also ensures that every Bates student will gain an understanding of the realities of racism, sexism, and ableism in the world we inhabit.
I look forward to partnering with you as we do the vital work of making our commitment to equity and inclusion the lived reality of every student at Bates.
Transforming the Bates Curriculum
Our Ongoing Work:
- In his remarks at the September 13, 2021 faculty meeting, the Dean of the Faculty asked that all departments and programs engage in Foundational Dialogues by the end of the 2022-23 academic year. The goal of these dialogues is to help units build the intellectual and emotional capacity as well as the background knowledge to begin or continue curricular transformation work.
- A foundational dialogue engages departments and programs on race, power, privilege, white supremacy, and colonialism as they relate to the academic unit’s curricula and pedagogies. The engagements will involve at least a day’s worth of work (8 hours) for departments and programs with a disciplinary expert while addressing one or more of the following topics, according to the needs of the unit:
- Begin examining the “historical,” “traditional,” “foundational,” “inherited,” or “colonial” framing of disciplinary content and curricular trajectory.
- Discuss predominating mindsets and attitudes within the academic unit and how those relate to the academic unit’s curricula and pedagogies.
- Discuss the experiences of students and barriers they encounter in the current structure of the curriculum (including policies and practices within the unit).
Consider Curricular Requirements that Substantially Address Race, Racism, Power, and Privilege:
- During the winter semester of 2021 faculty will conduct an exploration of how all students could substantially engage race, racism, power, and privilege in the Bates curriculum. To facilitate the work, the dean has formed an ad hoc task force of 5 faculty to help him. This task force will collaborate with students while exploring various models and pathways that use either existing or new curricular structures. The task force will also work with staff in key offices to get a holistic view of college needs and the impacts that such a requirement could have.
Develop Curricula that Remove Systemic Barriers:
- In 2018, Bates was awarded a large institutional grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute aimed at transforming the college’s curricula in the sciences and mathematics. The work began in the summer of 2018, and has resulted in significant curricular changes in the departments of Biology and Physics and Astronomy. Other departments are just beginning their work. More details on the grant and its work is on the HHMI Inclusive Excellence web page.
- Also in 2018, Bates was awarded a curricular transformation grant for departments and programs n the humanities and humanistic social sciences from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation. This work is similar to that being performed in the sciences and mathematics. The award is centered around curricular transformation grants for departments and programs as well as faculty development programming. One departmental grant has been awarded, and the committee is working with 4 other units as they develop their proposals. Information on the Mellon-funded work is available on the project web page.
- While the above two initiatives are important for Bates, many of the departments in the social sciences are not eligible to participate in them. Recognizing this significant gap, Bates is self-funding an initiative focused on curricular transformation in the social sciences. This work is beginning in the winter of 2021, and we expect departments to begin addressing their curricular changes in the 2021-22 academic year.
- The Dean of the Faculty’s office recognizes that while many of them quality for funding in the above three initiatives, there may be gaps in funding for interdisciplinary programs. Once the work of the 3 main initiatives is established, we will work with those programs that can be funded by neither the HHMI and Mellon grants nor the social science initiative as they pursue curricular transformation.
Recruiting and Retaining Talented Faculty
Our Ongoing Work:
Continued Commitment to Recruiting Talented Faculty: Tenure Track Faculty Hiring.
- Because of an emphasis on creating inclusive search processes that result in diverse applicant pools, the demographics of our tenure track faculty, those faculty who are appointed to long term positions at Bates, have changed since the fall of 2012 with the percentage of faculty of color rising from less than 20% to more than 26% in that time. The bulk of this change happened with those faculty arriving at Bates beginning in the fall of 2015. Over the previous three falls (2012, 2013, and 2014), 1 of the 15 new arrivals was BIPOC. Beginning with that 2015 fall, of the 44 faculty hired 21 have been BIPOC, including 6 of 9 faculty hired for the fall of 2020.
- With continued improvement in the processes themselves as well as their execution, we anticipate that the above trend will continue and hope to have 30% BIPOC faculty by 2025 (a net addition of 7 BIPOC faculty after the fall of 2020) and 35% (a net addition of another 7 faculty) by 2030. Changing the demographics of our faculty will improve our alignment with our stated values, position our faculty to better reflect the demography of our student body as it changes in the coming years, and keep our curricula relevant in terms of bringing us the cutting edge of scholarship in the academy.
Growing Efforts to Support our Faculty: Faculty Mentoring:
- In the summer of 2018, Bates purchased an institutional membership to the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD). The center provides third party mentoring services designed to help faculty succeed in the academy. Faculty gain access to these materials through online resources and there is potential for them to attend in-person workshops as well.
- In the past three years, Bates has begun to change how its provides mentoring to its faculty. Until now the dominant model has been an apprenticeship model with very little structure or support from the institution. This approach leaves those faculty unable to find compatible mentors without advocates and guidance as they construct their career at Bates. In the 2020-21 academic year, Associate Dean of the Faculty Krista Aronson has brought support, intention, and structure to the program, and the lessons learned from these initial changes will inform further development in the coming years.
- At the same time, the Committee on Personnel is developing a “Guide to Good Practice” to act as a guide to mentors and candidates alike for faculty reappointment, tenure, and promotion processes. Aimed at both mentors and mentees, this guide will have the goal of explaining the steps of these important processes in a faculty career. It will be available in the fall of 2021.
- Beginning in the fall of 2021, the Dean of Faculty’s Office and the Committee of Personnel will begin work with academic units to create career profiles for candidates in each academic unit. Career profiles provide necessary discipline-specific guidance to faculty candidates. Through their creation, departments and programs can provide specific recommendations to candidates about the types of work and activities needed to thrive in the Bates community and for success in reappointment, tenure and promotion at Bates. Due to the varied nature of faculty work and different conventions in various disciplines, these profiles will be different for each unit.
- All of these items are components of a robust mentoring program designed to illuminate and remove traditional barriers to success for BIPOC faculty in the academy. With continued attention and progress, the program will improve Bates support and development of its faculty.
Tenure and Promotion Review Committee.
- The Tenure and Promotion Review Committee (TPRC) worked through the 2019-20 academic year to clarify Bates’ reappointment, tenure and promotion criteria and practices. In the winter of 2021, the Bates faculty are considering the TPRC’s proposed, substantive changes to Bates’ criteria for reappointment, tenure, and promotion that, if approved, will bring them in line with the current practices. The changes clarify the expectations around governance and engagement work from faculty, clarify the types of evidence that will be considered for teaching, and rephrase the criteria for professional achievement. Emphasizing the holistic nature of faculty work, the new criteria acknowledge the arc of faculty careers while also containing professional development requirements and the expectation that faculty use of inclusive teaching practices.
- These new criteria will pair with a proposed reorganization of the faculty handbook describing the reappointment, tenure, and promotion processes that will bring clarity for candidates and their mentors. Taken together these changes will represent the removal of a major barrier for faculty in lectureships and tenure track lines.
Development of an Equitable, Inclusive, and Antiracist Faculty Culture:
- Any institution can improve its culture. Bates has begun to provide racial equity training to its faculty and staff while also bringing the truth, racial healing, and transformation process to campus. So far, more than a third of staff across the college (218) have participated in racial equity training over the past three years. To date, however, only 34 faculty have taken part in this kind of training. We will increase the number of faculty who receive this kind of training over the next two years as part of our curricular transformation work. Through these efforts, we will develop and sustain racial equity training opportunities focused on pedagogy and curricula.
- The truth, racial healing, and transformation process is newer to the campus and focuses on the relationships and culture of the campus. In the winter and spring of 2021, Bates is running a 3 part series that will result in the participants being trained to lead racial healing circles. More than 60 students, faculty and staff have participated in the first two sessions of the program. The third phase is scheduled for April. Once complete, Bates will have a core of facilitators able to lead conversations that we hope transform the campus culture around race and racism.