A Progress Report on Working Toward Racial Justice at MMC
Dear MMC Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Marymount Manhattan College (MMC) unequivocally affirms that Black Lives Matter. As a College, we have made important strides to turn this commitment into deliberate and intentional action, as indicated in this progress report on the promised action steps outlined in the June 15, 2020, MMC Community message, Working Toward Racial Justice at MMC. We are acutely aware that the work accomplished thus far is just the beginning, and that all of at MMC, including the College’s senior leadership team and Board of Trustees, have a long road ahead to develop MMC into the College we know it can become, and that we must reaffirm our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusions—EDI—and press ahead with the vital work we have undertaken in order to serve all members of the MMC community.
MMC has continually espoused the ideals of diversity and inclusion, yet as the nation reckons with the realities of racial disparities manifested through high-profile police killings and the mortality rate from COVID-19, we too have had a responsibility to better understand the disparities that exist among our BIPoC population and to rectify them. These moments jolted us into action, and we are working to ensure that inclusion and racial justice become fully embedded and foundational to how MMC learns and works. An accounting of progress is below.
The leadership from students, faculty, staff, and the Board of Trustees has been invaluable during this time. We look forward to the ongoing all-College work that will help us fully realize our goal of recognizing the realities of our college community across racial identities and walking a path toward social justice.
Kerry Walk, President
Rebecca Mattis-Pinard, Chief Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Officer
GOAL 1: Expanded Diversity of the Student Body, Faculty, and Staff
Over the last decade, MMC has become more racially diverse, yet with the exception of our Latinx population, our enrollment of students of color does not reflect national demographics. Our Admissions team is enhancing their recruitment strategy to bring about the continual diversification of the student population such that it more closely reflects the racial demographics of the US. This effort involves targeted recruitment in schools and communities with large populations of color, in particular Asian, Black and Native American prospective students. We are reminded though that the diversity of the student body does not solely rest with the Admissions team and that we must continue to build a culture of belonging and support where prospective students can see themselves. This also includes an examination of how to better financially support our students of color.
MMC has persistently struggled with hiring faculty from historically underrepresented backgrounds. The lack of racial diversity among faculty must be addressed as we deeply recognize the benefits of a diverse faculty on students, in particular students of color. The faculty has revisited current hiring practices and strategies in order to determine how to achieve a faculty composition reflective of the students they educate. Some of the recently adopted strategies of our faculty hiring process include:
- Targeted job postings which clearly address our commitment to EDI;
- Active recruitment within NYC graduate institutions and those across the nation with the largest number of doctoral students from underrepresented backgrounds;
- Participation in implicit bias trainings for all faculty serving on hiring committees;
- Requirement of all applicants to submit a Statement on Diversity;
- Inclusion of the Chief Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Officer in the interview process; and
- Reporting on outreach efforts of faculty hiring committees.
The President has appointed the Chief Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Officer to College’s Senior Leadership Team, known as the President’s Cabinet, making MMC’s commitment to racial justice central to the College’s strategic vision, which is set by the President.
The Board of Trustees has established a Special Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. This committee has been charged with developing a strategy to diversify the Board to be more reflective of the College and the US, and to incorporate a racial equity lens its work of College oversight and ultimate responsibility. The incorporation of this work at the Board level will ensure commitment to this work at the College as a whole.
GOAL 2: Ongoing Faculty Development and Training
On August 26th, the faculty participated in the annual Faculty Development Day which this year was dedicated to racial justice. The day, which was led by the Chief Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, focused on the faculty’s institutional responsibility to prevent the perpetuation of racism at MMC on interpersonal and institutional levels. Faculty worked within their respective academic Divisions to prepare for the development of Racial Equity Action Plans (more on this below).
On September 11, 2020, the President’s Cabinet participated in a half day retreat focused on more actively embedding EDI, and specifically racial justice work, into institutional priorities. The retreat not only focused on future planning around this work but also reviewed institutional history to identify commonly addressed concerns and requests. The work of this retreat resulted in embedding EDI priorities within each administrative Division.
The Center for Teaching Innovation and Excellence (C-TIE) is an intellectual space where our faculty members can exchange ideas, seek advice and resources, stay up-to-date on the latest developments in pedagogy, and constantly grow as teachers and mentors. C-TIE has dedicated their monthly pedagogy luncheons to focus on racial equity. The session topics include:
- Bias in Standards of Professionalism
- Decolonizing Academic Writing
- Racial Equity Study and Working Group
A Racial Equity Learning Series has been developed for all full time and part time faculty and staff. The Racial Equity Learning Series is a four-part cohort-based learning and development opportunity geared toward providing foundational understanding of race, racism, and racial equity to MMC faculty and staff. This learning series will be offered every semester and led by the Chief Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Topics include:
- Manifestations of Racism: Exploring the 4 I’s
- Understanding our Racialized Selves
- Examining How Our Biases Lead to Microagressions
- Racial Equity in Practice
Administrative leaders will participate in a Leading Towards Racial Equity Seminar on November 18th led by the Chief Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Officer.
GOAL 3: Curriculum Development
Integrating an understanding of racial equity across disciplines essential to helping students engage in an understanding of how racial disparities exist systemically. Departments have begun to develop forward curriculum change proposals to broaden EDI in each of their academic programs. The work is underway and is being further assessed through the development of division Racial Equity Action Plans.
Most immediately, the Division of Humanities and Social Science has worked to develop a new Race and Anti-racism minor, which was approved by the Faculty Council, the President, and the Board of Trustees in October 2020. This new minor will allow students to more thoughtfully engage in learning around the social construction of race, understanding of racial disparities and how to actively to dismantle them.
GOAL 4: Town Halls and Public Lectures
Each academic division has been holding listening sessions in order to honestly hear about the experiences of students that may be unknowingly contributing to a racist environment. The information learned from these sessions will help guide the priorities of each division’s Racial Equity Action Plan. Feedback forms have been sent out for students, faculty and staff who were unable to attend listening sessions but still wanted to share thoughts on the matter. We will welcome feedback from anyone who is still interested in doing so.
The Politics and Human Rights and International Studies Departments has organized a robust Event Series open to all faculty, staff and students.
GOAL 5: Greater Transparency Around Action Against Racism and Discrimination
We have worked to bring greater visibility to our reporting protocols and procedures. Our incident report form includes a drop down to most accurately report concerns and ensure they are routed to the correct parties. Reporting through this mechanism ensures a centralized place for recording that allows us to better monitor and track concerns. We encourage all members of the MMC community to report instances of bias or discrimination through this reporting protocol when you witness it occur.
GOAL 6: Campus Safety and Security
During the chronic security situation in Fall 2020, the College leadership recognized our failure to consider the experiences of communities of color who are disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system in the US. We made two errors. First, we sent out a blurry image of the suspect that clearly identified him as a Black man and failed to provide any other clear and distinctive features through which to identify him. In doing so, the College leadership risked putting Black-bodied individuals at risk of being targets of suspicion of a crime. Second, we failed to consider how the presence of an armed security guard at our main entrance would be experienced by our communities of color. We deeply regret and apologize for these errors. Effective this semester (Fall 2020), we have changed our safety protocol to ensure that only clear images of suspects are shared with the College community, and armed guards have been removed from MMC facilities without diminishing the security of these facilities.
GOAL 7: Methods for Tracking Progress
We have recognized that conversations on the matter of accountability have occurred for quite some time, but the work has not been formalized. We are committed to action to ensure the safety, comfort, and fair access of all members of our community regardless of racial identity. To embed this as an institutional priority at all levels, Racial Equity Action Plans are currently in development by each Academic and Administrative Division, as well as the President’s Cabinet and the Board of Trustees. This multi-level approach ensures that each area of the College is actively working through a racial equity lens and provides markers in which to remain accountable to this work. The approach will be strategic, collaborative, and long term in order to work in service of our vision of anti-racism.
The work is being guided by the Presidential Task Force for Racial Equity which comprises a Division representative from each area and two student representatives. A draft of the plans will be shared with the MMC community in late November 2020 in order to solicit feedback on the tactics developed. We will follow up closer to the date.
As noted above, we know that there is much work to do to follow through on our commitment to racial justice. This work has begun. We look forward to sharing progress reports each semester going forward.