The powerful events of the past few weeks have revealed the depth of racism and the deep schisms that exist in our country. They have brought with them a resounding demand for change, led by Black Americans and joined by people the world over.
As our nation has convulsed, so has our beloved Gallaudet University. We want our Black students, faculty, and staff to know that we see you. We are committed to change. Now more than ever, we need to work together to bring about changes.
Academic Affairs is examining its own recent work while planning for the 2020-2021 academic year and beyond. We wish to share with you what we want to see happen, and how we intend to do it.
Our goals are as follows.
Deconstruct bias in all its forms.
Identify educational practices that are fully inclusive.
Infuse Black Lives Matter principles into all of our courses and our curriculum.
Increase the number of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) faculty and staff.
Enrollment trends; increased Student Success support
A growing number of BIPOC students are studying at Gallaudet. In Fall 2019, 51% of our new degree-seeking undergraduate students were BIPOC. In response to this, our Office of Student Success and Academic Quality (SSAQ) recruited three Student Success Coaches, all people of color, and all first-generation college students, as a part of its pipeline efforts to create emerging leaders of color. These Student Success coaches work with our BIPOC students as well as with the general student body.
Multicultural Curriculum Transformation and Organizational Development Institutes
Academic Affairs faculty and staff started to engage in multicultural curriculum transformation (MCT) work in the fall of 2006. In the 14 years since the first MCTI, we have offered regular and advanced MCT institutes. We have also supported regular and advanced Multicultural Organizational Development institutes, and a series of three-day seminars for senior Academic Affairs administrators. The people who have completed this training have found it enormously beneficial. We will continue this work and make it more widely available.
Preparing for the coming academic year
Academic Affairs has moved from a two-school, 16-department model to a new structure with five schools, each with school leaders who report to the Interim Dean of the Faculty. We will use the lens of anti-racism and look critically and dispassionately at how we structure every element of what we do. The school leaders, along with their faculty, will reexamine everything from student support (tutoring, mentoring, and other programs), to rethinking the curriculum, and to changing how we view faculty hiring, screening, and evaluation processes to support an equitable, welcoming teaching and learning environment for our faculty, staff, and students.
Dr. Khadijat Rashid, ’90, Interim Dean of the Faculty, and Dr. Caroline Solomon, leader of the Department of Science, Technology, and Mathematics are working together on ensuring a smooth transition. They are reaching out to the Faculty of Color Coalition (FOCC), the Education Advisory Board, and Gallaudet’s Office of Human Resources to ensure that we address faculty hiring, assessment, evaluation, and other practices that might directly or indirectly perpetuate systemic oppression, and that we work to ensure that faculty and staff of color are given every possible opportunity to succeed within the new school structures.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in late March Academic Affairs established Faculty Online Teaching and Training. This group of faculty and administrators identified, developed, and implemented a training course to prepare faculty to teach online or remotely. On May 19, the training course, PST 500, was opened to faculty. It includes four components: diversity, online pedagogy, bilingual pedagogy, and Blackboard. The diversity training was collaboratively developed by Dr. Elavie Ndura, Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; Elizabeth Stone, Ombuds; and Dr. Cara Miller, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology. Their Culturally Responsive, Trauma-informed Pedagogy training program focuses on educating the whole person and enhances faculty’s capacity to practice mindful communication, create inclusive classrooms that foster empathy and trauma healing, and support student engagement and success through instructional practices that align the mind and heart.
Academic Affairs is also redesigning the General Education curriculum. The new curriculum will provide students with opportunities to explore their own identities in relation to the multiple identities of others in support of civic engagement, social justice, and anti-oppression, by experiencing various ways of thinking grounded in Gallaudet’s unique bilingual multicultural academic environment.
Our plans for this fall include:
- A common reading on racism and/or anti-racism for all faculty, staff, and students
- A First Year Seminar course (GSR 101) addressing the theme of systemic racism, focused on examples highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic
- Professional Development Week for faculty (August 17-21):
- Presentations and discussions on anti-racism, with the objective of understanding systemic racism and learning how to dismantle it
- Development of anti-racism programs within the five schools and the General Education program
- Ongoing professional development seminars on dismantling racism in higher education
- Regular meetings with students of color organizations
- Bringing back the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and Mothers of Black Boys (MOBB) as we have for the past two years to discuss relationships between BIPOC and the police, and ways to move forward
- Establishing a Student Online Training Team (SOTT) comprised of some of the same people who established the Faculty Online Teacher Training (FOTT), who will bring the benefit of their experience to help students prepare for a meaningful and enriching remote learning experience
We are also looking ahead to Multicultural Curriculum Transformation Institute (MCTI) training for new and current faculty, and a regular MCT Training of Trainers Institute, both in January 2021.
The Graduate School has collaborated with the Council on Graduate Education (CGE) to establish a core diversity requirement that will apply to all graduate students in degree-seeking and certificate programs. Implementation of this initiative will occur in phases, beginning in Fall 2020. Moreover, the Graduate School, in collaboration with CGE, is revisiting various academic policies (e.g., leave of absence, withdrawal, academic dismissal, and academic appeals) to ensure that they are more equitable and give students sufficient due process. We are also piloting a restorative justice framework in handling such matters.
The Graduate School launched a graduate peer coach program in Spring 2020 that will continue in updated form in the coming academic year. Under this program, a number of graduate students have completed training in coaching and are working individually with our graduate students, with the ultimate goal of assuring their academic success and overall well-being.
Gallaudet University Library
Library staff are developing a list of resources related to the Black Lives Matter Movement and related topics such as systemic racism in the United States, anti-racism, and United States race relations which will be transformed into a research guide. They are also working on a more general collection of diversity and inclusion research content to create additional research guides. Finally, they are working to establish a connection between the professional librarians and the FOTT and SOTT committees to support information and resource sharing.
Office of International Affairs
The Office of International Affairs is dedicated to fostering a truly “Global Gallaudet.” With students from 35 nations, we are working to ensure that they have equal opportunities for success and fulfillment. International Affairs will accomplish this through its Global Learning initiative, increasing the number of students of color who participate in study abroad programs and internships, and encouraging our global partners to create safe and welcoming environments. One shining example is our Gallaudet in Nigeria for Africa (GAIN) program, a partnership with Wesley University and the Nigerian National Association of the Deaf to promote institutional and national academic cooperation in Africa.
We look forward to this work, and to engaging our students, faculty, and staff in it. We will not rest until we have removed every last vestige of our racist and discriminatory past, and ensured that Gallaudet is a safe and welcoming environment for all.
Jeffrey W. Lewis