Tufts Anti-Racism Initiative: Equity and Inclusion

New educational and training programs for faculty, staff, and students and equitable processes for faculty recruitment, retention, and advancement are among recommendations
A Tufts campus scene. New educational and training programs for faculty, staff, and students and equitable processes for faculty recruitment, retention, and advancement are among recommendations for Tufts.
“Mission statements are key ways in which to communicate with past, current, and future constituents about the values of the institution,” said Nadine Aubry, Bárbara Brizuela, and Joyce Sackey. Photo: Alonso Nichols
February 17, 2021

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On July 8, 2020, President Anthony Monaco announced the creation of a new strategic initiative aimed at making Tufts an anti-racist institution. As part of this effort, five workstreams were charged with identifying structural racism throughout the university’s academic and administrative enterprise and outlining the steps necessary for eradicating it. 

Following a presentation of their findings and recommendations at a Town Hall for faculty and staff on Feb. 12, Tufts Now spoke with workstream leaders about what they found, what’s been done so far, and what to expect in the next phase of work. 

Tufts Now asked Nadine Aubry, provost and senior vice president, Bárbara Brizuela, dean of academic affairs for the School of Arts and Sciences, and Joyce Sackey, associate provost and chief diversity officer for the health sciences schools, to share takeaways from the Equity and Inclusion workstream’s report. The full reports for all five workstreams are available on the Office of the President’s website. 

Tufts Now: What are the main recommendations of the group?

Nadine Aubry, Bárbara Brizuela, and Joyce Sackey: The Equity and Inclusion workstream came up with 12 recommendations. These included new educational and training programs for faculty, staff, and students, redesigning mentoring programs for graduate and professional students and junior faculty, and putting in place equitable processes for the recruitment, retention, and advancement of faculty. 

One of the top recommendations is mandatory workshops on equity and justice for all faculty, staff, and students. Are there specific recommendations for what such an effort should look like and how it can be ongoing? 

The educational proposal, which was approved by the Academic Council, has specific recommendations on how the anti-bias training programs will be rolled out. 

Another recommendation is to develop a common, required equity and justice course for all Tufts students. How will the diversity of experience among Tufts students be recognized and incorporated into the course? When will the course be introduced? Would students receive credit for taking it?

The workstream’s vision is that this would be a credit-bearing course whose core would be focused on the history of racism in the United States, and that each discipline/school would develop aspects of the course tailored to how racism and issues of equity and justice play out in their field.

The course will be guided by adult learning theory, which taps into lived experiences as an integral part of the course. Schools and programs will have the flexibility of deciding where in the curriculum to place the common course.  

What would revising the university’s mission statements and job descriptions accomplish?  

Mission statements are key ways in which to communicate with past, current, and future constituents about the values of the institution. They are also important benchmarks regarding the values of the institution to which we must hold ourselves accountable.

Tufts University declared on Juneteenth 2020 that it has committed to working towards becoming anti-racist. Mission statements prior to June 2019 did not include a commitment to anti-racism.

If we are to hold every member of the community accountable for working towards our mission to be an anti-racist institution, we will need to have a common language that reflects the core values of the university. This is why it is so critical that every school, unit, and division align with its mission statement. 

In terms of job descriptions, our goal is to ensure that issues of equity and justice are embedded in all our activities and do not remain separate aspects of our jobs to be relegated or left as an afterthought. 

The report recommends that DEI goals be built into the annual performance review process for all employees. What does that mean? 
 
Working closely with their managers, every employee will develop annual goals in diversity, equity, and inclusion. This can then be part of the performance review. Every year, employees—faculty and staff—will also be asked to report on their equity and inclusion efforts and activities. Likewise, every year each employee would be assessed and rewarded for their equity and inclusion efforts. 

Can you say more about the revised student advising system?

The specifics regarding a revised advising system will be designed at the implementation stage. However, the goal is to ensure that we are considering student advising in every aspect of the student experience at Tufts, and that advising is not on the shoulders of a few faculty members. This way, the responsibility for student advising can be shared across a wider range of individuals.