Honors College Anti-Racism Statement and Actions

 

Honors College Anti-Racism Statement and Actions

Dear Honors Community:

Malcolm X said:

Education is an important element in the struggle for human rights. It is the means to help our children and thereby increase self-respect. Education is the passport for the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.

As an educational organization, we in the Honors College have an immense responsibility to fulfill the promise of education by creating an accessible, inclusive, and vibrant community. Education in general, and honors education in particular, has not always lived up to that promise.

In June, we told you that we were engaged in intensive work around systemic racism. We have now translated some of our ideas into productive actions, with the ultimate intention to transform the College into a more equitable, representative space, one that has lasting effects on students and their education. While our work is grounded in a commitment to making Honors an antiracist community, we will also be expanding this work to ensure inclusion of all students, faculty and staff with regard not only to race, but also ethnicity, religion, class, sexual orientation and gender.

Structural racism might seem unrelenting but we know that if beneficiaries act against it with constant resistance we can move toward a more just community. Every single faculty and staff member in Honors has expressed a willingness to be part of the constant resistance.

Our activities are organized around four action-goal pairs. Below, we provide a brief overview of these actions.

1. Create and promote conversations with the goal of increasing understanding and trust and fostering new, productive alliances. Directed conversations have many cascading positive impacts, from creating new relationships, sharing information about ways to achieve equity, to transforming people in their personal lives.

2. Examine our data to identify areas of inequity and equity and identify ways we can ameliorate the former, with the goal of achieving equity across the student life cycle. A thorough analysis of data will allow us to fairly set and assess our goals related to the student lifecycle (recruitment, education, graduation and post-graduation success) as well as to identify factors that might be good targets for needed change. Programs and actions will be measured against baseline and future data to ensure that the steps we take result in measurable improvements in equity.

3. Continue and accelerate the development of curricular and co-curricular approaches to decentering whiteness and centering diverse voices. Curriculum, taught in class and through experiential education, is central to an honors education. Through our courses, field trips, activities and projects we have the potential to expose one another to ideas from a diversity of cultures, times, and places. It is through an understanding of, and development of respect for, differing perspectives that we can develop greater empathy, compassion, and the ability to live together in a multi-cultural world.

4. Structural changes to empower student voices, with the goals of building an inclusive community as well as both supporting and harnessing your capacities and energies for change. It’s a cliché, but as students, you are the future. Your input is essential for all of our actions, and we have been looking at how to expand and amplify your ability to be agents of change within the Honors College, alongside staff, faculty, and administration.

We want the Honors College to be seen as a place for all. As a community of students, faculty and staff, we encourage all voices. We have been saddened and angered at the recent acts of violence committed against Black people, and even more so given the knowledge of the historical persistence of this violence.

We welcome all engaged, motivated, curious community members who want to connect across familiarity and difference. We invite student-driven proposals to celebrate diversity or improve the college. Please reach out. Here’s how:
• Join HSAC. https://honors.utah.edu/hsac-application/
• Submit ideas to student leadership (https://honors.utah.edu/community-leadership/
• Email and chat with Honors administration directly: Dominic Walker-Pecoraro (d.walker-pecoraro@honors.utah.edu)
• Dean Torti will hold open-office hours this fall in the Honors Center (Ft. Douglas) every Wednesday and can be contacted at sylvia.torti@utah.edu
• Associate Dean Pasupathi will hold open-office hours in the Honor Center (Ft. Douglas) on Fridays and can be contacted at monisha.pasupathi@psych.utah.edu
• Associate Dean Parker will be available via zoom (Laurence.parker@utah.edu)

Feel free to stop in, set up an appointment and chat.

Sincerely,

The Honors College

 

Appendix of Specific Actions

1. Conversations:

Local staff and faculty
• We have created an additional staff meeting per month to study and discuss issues that discriminate and exclude. Currently, we are holding conversations about anti-blackness and structural racism, BIPOC voices in curriculum, LGBTQ+ equality, and classism.

• Faculty meetings will regularly include visits from experts and groups across campus, trainings, conversation and discussions about campus life, pedagogy and curriculum.

Local students/cross-cutting
• Student-motivated conversations around race Fall 2020. The Honors College has contracted with Ms. Franque Bains who will train 25 honors students to lead conversations around racism and anti-blackness. Conversation groups will be organized around experience/comfort level (i.e., ranging from those for people who have never thought about race but want to learn more, to those groups that are well-versed and/or have lived experience with race).

National
• Dean Torti is co-lead for a group of Honors deans/directors organizing a workshop for the November meeting of The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Honors Council. The deans/directors organizing this workshop come from diverse schools (public, community college and HBCUs). Honors programs and colleges help perpetuate systems of privilege and inequity within academia and society, and the workshop sessions are meant to interrogate those systems and to design interventions that combat racism. Specifically, presentations will be case studies demonstrating how structural barriers have been targeted for change, either successfully or unsuccessfully in programs across the country.

2. Data
On-going data collection
• Honors regularly collects and reviews data on recruitment, admissions, graduation rates and compares these numbers to population demography, UU demography, and national trends. We also review our staff and faculty to assess diversity, pay equity, and professional development opportunities.

Requests for new data
• Honors is working with OBIA to solicit additional data that will reveal whether there are gaps in graduation rate based on gender, ethnicity, race, urban/rural background, etc.

Development of diversity strategic plan
• These data will be used to create a diversity and inclusion strategic plan (2021-2026) for the Honors College, and it is our hope that, like at other schools nationally, that HSAC will lead out on this effort with College faculty/administration support.

3. Curricular/Co-curricular
Curricula
• Honor 1000, a new required course for all incoming students, contextualizes liberal arts and sciences (both recognizing the past value of this curriculum as well as the ways it has and should change), and includes a module that about America’s enduring legacy of racism.

• We will continue evaluation of honors courses by faculty curriculum committee, with the addition of an HSAC student. The goal is to ensure that syllabi meet the spirit of honors education and provide faculty with constructive feedback on ways to broaden syllabi when needed.

• Increase our offerings to the global south through integrated pathways and provide scholarships to support students with need. Locations currently include Argentina, Central America, Ghana and Tanzania.

• Place equity at the core of all Praxis Labs. The 2021-2022 Praxis Labs will be as follows:
o Environmental Anti-racism
o Global Pandemics and Inequities in Health
o The Black Experience (designed by a former honor student)

• Visiting scholar/artist: we plan to bring 1-2 BIPOC scholars or artists into residence in the Honors College each year. The details of this program must be developed and ability to do so will require successful fundraising or allocation of honors student fee funds.

Co-curricular
• The Honors College has always participated in, and contributed resources, to events associated with Women’s Week, the Black Student Union dinner, the Gayla and other campus groups and activities that promote inclusion.
• Continue highly successful tradition started last year of Valentine’s Day poetry reading by Black Poets and expand with more multi-cultural programming.
• Highlight Honors students spotlights, experiences, and opinions in the Honors Newsletter and on social media to tell stories that reflect the diversity of students and their ideas in the College.
• Sponsor a Black film-makers film series.
• Solicit additional celebratory activities from students via HSAC.

4. Student Governance/Voice
Honors Student Advisory Committee
• This summer, we worked with Honors Student Advisory leadership to re-imagine and
strengthen role of Honors Student Advisory Committee. There is a new policy that requires diverse representation in terms of major and class standing. Additionally, we are planning a creation of a sub-group that will work with a faculty advisor to conduct an analysis and create a strategic plan for diversity and inclusion in Honors by April 2021. Note, this work will put UU honors students in conversation with honors students across the country who are also building strategic plans for their schools.
• Additional leadership roles in HSAC
o Continuation of HSAC representation of Honors Policy Board.
o Addition of HSAC chair at regular Honors leadership meetings.
o Addition of an HSAC student to the faculty curriculum review committee.
o Addition of an HSAC student representative from HSAC in all future hires.
• Make HSAC a key space for students to share what they know and experience with us and how they would like to see Honors, and the U more broadly, change and adapt.

Create more paid work opportunities for Honors students in program, and solicit applicants from a diversity of students in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and choice of major.
o Continuation of Honors Ambassador positions (8 students)
o Continuation of Whitby Fellow position (1 student)
o Creation of Honor 1000 Peer Mentors (17 students)
o Creation of Thesis Peer Mentors (10 students)
o Creation of additional work study positions (2-3)
o Creation of Honors-Salt Lake Public School Internships (up to 25 students)

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