Tufts releases Equity and Inclusion workstream report, recommends anti-racist educational programs

Ballou Hall is pictured on Aug. 8, 2020. Nicole Garay / The Tufts Daily

University President Anthony Monaco announced the findings of five workstreams, launched in July as part of the effort to make the university an anti-racist institution, in an email to the Tufts community on Feb. 17. The Equity and Inclusion workstream’s recommendations include new educational programs, improvements in student support services and changes to the faculty hiring process.

The Equity and Inclusion workstream opened its report with an outline of its mission, which was delivered to the workstream’s members by Provost and Senior Vice President Nadine Aubry on Sept. 30, 2020.

“Specifically, this effort will consider training programs for faculty and staff as well as revised curricula, new education programs, and strengthened academic and support services for all our students within and outside the classroom,” Aubry wrote. “Such programs will help ensure that issues of equity and inclusion are addressed in our classrooms and all non-classroom learning spaces, and throughout our community.”

The report divides its workstream recommendations into seven parts.

Part A recommends establishing mandatory anti-racism workshops for students, faculty and staff, as well as a set of “diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice” educational initiatives that will be continually evaluated. 

“It is important to establish a baseline of common understanding, language, and values of Tufts University’s anti-racism work,” the report says.

Part B outlines potential changes to curricula and recommends developing a required course on anti-racism, as well as adding a question regarding the issue to applications for admission.

“Developing a common understanding of systemic racism and anti-Blackness across all students will provide a base upon which to build shared values and will provide a foundation for discipline-specific interruptions of racist narratives, or narratives that perpetuate systems of oppression,” the report says.

Part C calls for improvements in academic and support services at Tufts, such as new mentorship programs for graduate students and a more comprehensive undergraduate advising program.

“Mentoring at the graduate level can either advance or, because of implicit bias, derail students in achieving their goals,” the report says. “Advising, like mentoring, can either support minoritized students to pursue and persist in their field of choice or support their development in new fields.”

Parts D and E focus on aspects of the faculty experience. They recommend mandating anti-bias training, reforming the hiring process and providing ongoing mentoring.

“There is a potential for bias to exist in every aspect of our decision-making processes,” the report says. “Searching for and selecting leaders who embody Tufts’ ideals and a stance of anti-racism is essential to the success of this part of our institutional vision and to achieve diversity of leadership.”

Part F calls for the university to review and revise its mission statements, and to continue to hold itself accountable on an institutional level and an individual basis. 

“We are calling for a process of holding ourselves accountable at the institutional level as well at the level of every individual member of our community,” the report says.

Part G calls on Tufts to take a leadership role among universities in the anti-racist effort.

“We believe that Tufts University can leverage its vast assets and reputation within higher education to not only lead but also serve as a convener of institutions in the region to work collaboratively to transform higher education into an equitable, just, and diverse industry in which inclusive excellence is a marker of the prevailing culture,” the report says.

In an email to the Daily, Aubry explained that she and the administration organized the workstream to help make Tufts an anti-racist institution by identifying racism in all forms at the university.

“The Equity and Inclusion workstream was convened because we want to work to identify and remove structural racism from all processes, procedures, and practices within all schools, units, and levels of the university,” Aubry wrote. Aubry is the “responsible person” for the workstream, according to the Office of the President.

Joyce Sackey, associate provost and chief diversity officer for the Tufts University health sciences schools, as well as co-chair of the workstream, reflected on her experience working on the project in an email to the Daily.

“It was challenging, exciting, and rewarding,” Sackey wrote. “Finding common ground, across schools, helped us move forward. In addition, getting feedback from the larger Tufts community helped us hear a range of perspectives and hopes.”

Bárbara Brizuela, dean of academic affairs for the School of Arts and Sciences and co-chair of the workstream alongside Sackey, explained how the workstream decided on its recommendations.

“We wanted to ensure that issues of equity and inclusion were addressed in our classrooms, laboratories, clinical training settings, and throughout our community, so we looked at how those issues are addressed now and considered how they could be better addressed,” she wrote in an email to the Daily. “We also had a focus on designing more equitable processes, recognizing and promoting excellence within our community members in this important area, and preparing our students for academic and personal success at Tufts and beyond.”

Aubry further elaborated on the university’s response to the workstream’s findings.

“My view is that we have made significant progress identifying concrete steps we can take to become an anti-racist institution, and I am looking forward to the university community making progress,” Aubry said. “I am heartened by the commitment and energy on this effort from university leadership, academic leaders, students and staff alike. We look forward to the development of the implementation plan, which is underway.”

Sackey explained her hopes for steps the university will take, now that the report has been released.

“The recommendations from our workstreams give us active work to do to realize the vision of becoming an anti-racist institution,” Sackey said. “I appreciate the university’s $25 million financial commitment in support of the workstreams’ recommendations and the commitment to making them come to life. There is much work to be done but we as a community are ready for positive change.”

Brizuela echoed Sackey’s sentiments.

“The workstreams and the gathering of community input has put us on a path forward,” Brizuela said. “We have concrete recommendations and work to be done, and I think we all are eager to get underway and to begin realizing the changes that we envision.”


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