Tisch College Launches Action Plan to Confront Racial Injustice

The university-wide school of civic engagement highlights six ways it's working to create greater racial equality at Tufts and beyond
Tisch College’s Distinguished Speaker Series—which has previously brought to campus leading figures like Tarana Burke (pictured), Ayanna Pressley, and the late John Lewis, will explicitly address issues of racial justice this fall. Photo: Alonso Nichols
Tisch College’s Distinguished Speaker Series, which previously brought to campus leading figures like Tarana Burke (pictured), Ayanna Pressley, and the late John Lewis, will explicitly address issues of racial justice this fall. Photo: Alonso Nichols
July 29, 2020

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On the heels of a June 1 letter to the Tisch College of Civic Life community pledging increased anti-racism efforts, Dean Alan Solomont has shared the first set of actions Tisch College has taken to advance this commitment.

“Our civic responsibility demands that we act, especially in times of trauma and struggle. No institution is exempt from this responsibility, including Tufts University and Tisch College,” said Solomont. “I’m calling this an update because this work is not complete, nor will it be.”

These are just some of the steps Tisch College is taking to confront racial injustice:

1. The Tisch Fund for Civic Engagement: To support student-led work, Tisch College has opened the Tisch Fund for Civic Engagement early and doubled the funding available to support projects focused on racial justice. Students at all Tufts schools are eligible to apply.

In addition, the Tisch Student COVID Response Summer Program was expanded, and more than 70 grants were awarded to students across the University this summer, including 16 for projects that specifically address racial disparities exacerbated by the pandemic.

2. Navigating the Pandemic webinars: Tisch College just wrapped up an eight-week webinar series called Navigating the Pandemic, which aimed to support the entire Tufts community as they deal with the ongoing pandemics of both COVID-19 and systemic racism. Moderators opened each session with a mindfulness activity before turning over the platform to speakers who addressed topics such as the racial and social disparities of COVID-19, trauma, emotional resiliency, self-care tools, the role of politics, media and misinformation, voting, and civic leadership.

3. A new class on racial equity and civic engagement: “Because we believe that periods of adversity provide significant opportunities for personal and community growth, Tisch College is leading a collaborative initiative across Tufts that will provide foundational knowledge and skills in civic engagement to incoming first-year students,” said Solomont.

The course will combine curricular and co-curricular elements to instill Tufts values and build civic identity, leadership, and agency. Students will have opportunities to reflect on the role of inequality in our society, in our own lives, and in our community, and they’ll be responsible for creating a roadmap to chart their personal civic pathway and commitment to action.

4. The TUSM Common Book program: For the past ten years, Tisch College has partnered with the Tufts University School of Medicine’s Common Book program to offer a shared intellectual experience for incoming medical students who wish to explore the core Tufts value of engagement in civic life and its relevance to a medical education. This year’s book is So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, and Tisch College will host a virtual event with Oluo this fall for all members of the Tufts community.

5. Research into youth of color in politics: Two Tisch College research centers—the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) and the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE)—will continue to focus on strengthening the political participation of historically marginalized young people. CIRCLE is using exclusive new polling to highlight the role of young activists of color in ongoing efforts for social change and the potential impact of youth of color in this year’s elections, as well as to advocate for youth of color to get the support they need to vote this November. IDHE is undertaking a comprehensive study aimed at erasing disparities in college student voting, including gaps by race and ethnicity.

6. University-wide research partnerships on equity: “Tisch College is collaborating on six recently announced grants from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, all of which have a strong focus on equity and give explicit attention to race,” said Solomont.

In addition, Tisch College Associate Dean Peter Levine is co-leading the University’s Research Group on Equity in Health, Wealth, and Civic Engagement, which brings together researchers from across the University to investigate aspects of equity and inequity. The group conducted a nationally representative survey of Americans in May-June 2020, and the first results, on police mistreatment and discrimination, can be found here.

Tisch College is also taking steps to work toward becoming a more anti-racist organization. That includes examining policies and procedures related to hiring and promotion and engaging in a series of ongoing, all-staff discussions on topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition, for the benefit of Tisch College and of the entire Tufts community, the college’s Distinguished Speaker Series—which has previously brought to campus leading figures like Eric Holder, Tarana Burke, Ayanna Pressley, and the late John Lewis will explicitly address issues of racial justice this fall. The schedule of speakers will be announced soon.