The following email was sent to Barnard students, faculty and staff on December 15, 2017.
Dear Members of the Barnard Community,
As we close the semester, I write to share initial progress on recommendations made last spring by the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion. It is our collective responsibility to create a campus-wide culture that sees a diverse, inclusive and equitable community as essential for academic excellence, and this commitment begins with me, as Barnard College’s president. I have discussed the work of the task force with faculty, students and staff and closely followed the creation of the Council on Diversity and Inclusion. This has provided an excellent opportunity for me to learn from and to thoughtfully engage with essential issues that touch all aspects of the life of the College.
At the beginning of the semester, Provost Linda Bell and I outlined several priorities for the council to focus on this year. The council, chaired by Professor Debra Minkoff, consists of faculty, staff, students, alumnae and trustees and is a permanent part of the College’s structure. Its work over the past three months has focused on ways to reach out to the community, frame events that advance community understanding of diversity and inclusion issues, and ensure that the task force recommendations are purposefully advanced.
Early in the semester, the council discussed a wide range of issues at SGA’s first student town hall. The discussion reinforced the importance of maintaining open channels of communication as we consider and act on the varied task force recommendations. The council has established a permanent email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) as well as an anonymous form posted on the Diversity and Inclusion webpage, and you are invited to use these channels to contribute your ideas on how best to advance our efforts. The council is planning more community conversations in the spring, along with campus-wide events such as the inaugural Grace Lee Boggs lecture in March.
In my first few months on campus, I have focused on three of the task force recommendations: increasing the diversity of our faculty, ensuring that there is a place for inclusive pedagogy in the new Milstein Teaching and Learning Center, and creating a senior-level position devoted to campus-wide diversity and inclusion efforts.
Provost Bell and I have spoken with the Faculty Diversity and Development Committee (FDD), the Faculty Budget and Planning Committee (FBPC), and department and program chairs to determine the best approaches to hire new faculty members from underrepresented groups. Different disciplines have different needs and require different strategies to diversify meaningfully. Early in the spring semester, we will provide a summary of these conversations and an outline of initial steps we are taking to provide support for departments to pursue targeted hires (and multidisciplinary cluster hires) that take into account historical patterns of underrepresentation in their departments and in their disciplines. This will be a long-term, high-priority initiative for the College.
This past Tuesday, many faculty attended a half day inclusive pedagogy workshop sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This workshop was preceded by a listening session with students in which the workshop organizers received student reflections on their classroom experiences and a listening session with student affairs staff who shared what they have heard from students about their classroom experiences. The workshop was a first step toward enhancing inclusivity in the classroom and curriculum, and we have more work to do on this front. It is important that our campus-wide programming is as effective as possible. Soon, we will assess the workshop, and we are making plans for future learning opportunities. A focus on inclusive classrooms will be a primary objective of the new Center for Engaged Pedagogy, housed in the Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning, which was developed in direct response to the task force recommendation.
In addition, having someone in a senior leadership position who focuses on diversity and inclusion initiatives campus-wide is essential to our long-term success. I am in active discussions with faculty, Provost Bell and Dean of the College Avis Hinkson about how best to structure this role and a timeline for its implementation.
Barnard College’s mission statement for diversity and inclusion states–and I firmly believe–that “academic excellence is impossible without the unique perspectives, ideas, approaches, and contributions that come from having the broadest diversity of students, faculty, and staff across the College.”
Though we have taken initial steps, we can and must do more. We are committed to ensuring that everyone at Barnard is able to work, think and develop to their fullest potential in a community that respects and supports difference. I look forward to coming together to write this next chapter for the College.
Sian Leah Beilock