School of Arts and Sciences Affirms Commitment to Confront Racial Injustice
During a virtual town hall with the School of Arts and Sciences staff last month, Dean James Glaser affirmed his commitment to confronting racial injustice within the school and described the school’s ongoing and multi-pronged agenda with regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“I am committed to an anti-racist education, and I'm committed to educating myself further,” Glaser said. “I pledge to you that I will examine myself, as well as the school.”
Glaser highlighted some of the steps taken in recent years to address issues of racial inequality, including the creation of a Division of Student Diversity and Inclusion, which brought together the school’s six identity-based centers under the leadership of Nandi Bynoe, associate dean of student diversity and inclusion.
“The definition of that role was not just to work with student affairs,” explained Glaser, “but also to work across all of the units in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, including the library, admissions, student services, and academic advising.”
On the staffing side, the school funded new positions in the Asian American Center, the LGBT Center, and the Latino Center to enable them to provide expanded services and programming.
“Our division works to really think about the holistic support of Black, indigenous, and people of color on this campus—so having a space for us to work together and having additional staff will be really critical to engaging in the support work,” said Bynoe.
In the coming weeks and months, Bynoe, together with Associate Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Robert Mack and others, will be leading diversity, equity, and inclusion conversations across all departments and programs. These conversations will be tailored to faculty concerns and provide a mechanism for talking about anti-racism and anti-racist pedagogy in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities.
“I’m having a lot of conversations with the student-facing departments about what folks can do to really address this issue,” Bynoe said. “And I’m working to make sure that some concrete actions come out of these conversations. There will be more to come as we make our way through the summer and into the new academic year.”
Bynoe also acknowledged the institution’s role in preparing the next generation of strategic leaders and thinkers to break down racial hierarchies in higher education and beyond. To that end, she said the School of Arts and Sciences will be applying to the Association of American Colleges & Universities to host a Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation Campus Center at Tufts.
In addition to diversifying the faculty, Arts and Sciences is also in the process of diversifying its curriculum. Glaser noted the creation last summer of four new tenure-track positions in support of the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora, a faculty-led initiative for which the school received a $1.5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation.
“We will, for the first time, be hosting a tenure stream faculty member in Indigenous Studies, Asian American Studies, and Africana Studies,” he said. These actions are the latest in a series of efforts to support inclusive education and diverse learning experiences at the School of Arts and Sciences, which includes the creation in 1975 of the Department of Community Health, one of the oldest multidisciplinary programs at Tufts and a leader in the study of health inequalities.
In the past six years, the number of Arts and Sciences faculty of color has grown 14 percent, largely due to active search management by the dean’s office and anti-bias hiring trainings.
This has added significant talent and expertise to the academic community, including Natasha Warikoo, a leading expert on diversity in educational systems and professor of sociology; Kasso Okoudjou, professor of mathematics and chair of an American Mathematical Society task force on racial discrimination; Sarah Fong, assistant professor of studies in race, colonialism, and diaspora; and Kerri Greenidge, noted author and scholar of African-American history and literature, who was hired into a tenure track position (from full-time lecturer to assistant professor) earlier this year.
Joining the faculty next year will be renowned Latinx scholar Lorgia García Peña, one of the world’s foremost experts on race, colonialism, and diaspora, along with Courtney Sato, a scholar of Asian American studies and critical race and gender studies.
Glaser added that the school is piloting test-optional admissions for the next three years in an effort to have more equitable admissions processes. Arts and Sciences leadership is also initiating a task force to explore a proposal from the Tufts Community Union Senate to turn the world civilization requirement into a diversity requirement.
Though plans are still taking shape, the leadership of Arts and Sciences has made one thing abundantly clear: theirs is an action agenda. “It doesn’t mean that it’s fully populated or that we have figured out all the things that we need to do to improve ourselves now and in the future,” Glaser said. “But I want people to know that there is an active agenda that is well underway, that we care about it, and that we’re resourcing it.”
In response to a faculty vote taken last winter, departmental conversations have begun to discuss inequality and systemic racism within each academic discipline as well as the school. “By dissecting racism department by department, program by program, we will set our agenda for the future,” Glaser said.
Other schools at the university are likewise examining diversity, equity, and inclusion in their programs and faculty, and will be reporting their findings this summer.