Diversity and Inclusion Update #3

December 01, 2016

Simmons campus

A message from President Helen Drinan, Vice President for Communications, Diversity & Inclusion Cheryl Howard, and Assistant Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion Lisa Smith-McQueenie

With the anticipation and the uncertainty of a future in a changing social and political climate, let’s recognize that academic, co-curricular, and institutional demands compete with the need to take care of each other and ourselves. As we enter the last month of 2016, our value of honoring the humanity, dignity, and individuality of each member of our Simmons community and of those in different societies that surround us is more important now than ever before.

This week, Lisa Smith-McQueenie, Cheryl Howard, and I are sharing our third update on work underway to make Simmons a more inclusive environment that is welcoming of diverse perspectives and encourages all to grow and learn, together, as we weather seasons of change. We hope everyone will affirm Simmons as a community that is striving to create an environment free from bias, prejudice, discrimination, and hurtful/hateful acts that can prevent each member from thriving. Let’s honor our commitment to inclusive excellence.

Faculty Professional Development/Training

This past Monday, faculty members participated in the first “Teaching for Inclusive Excellence” seminar designed and presented by our Center for Excellence in Teaching in partnership with Romney & Associates. Faculty experienced an engaging, research-based, collaborative, one-day session utilizing an inclusive excellence framework. The training provided context and tools to support the development of courses with more diverse content, create an inclusive learning environment, and facilitate difficult conversations on critical issues. To date, 149 full-time faculty have registered for 160 available spaces in eight sessions running through mid-March. More training sessions are being planned for the summer and fall to accommodate additional faculty. Online training for our part-time and online faculty is in the planning phase now. We will also be preparing the next phase of diversity and inclusion professional development for faculty, which will be offered starting in fall 2017.

Simmons College Bias Response Protocol

As noted in our 10/20/16 update, we are implementing a Bias Response Protocol (BRP) to inform, instruct, and support those who have been affected by bias. The BPR is designed to educate and to raise awareness in our community about bias and hate incidents at Simmons that detract from our goal of an inclusive community that is affirming of all members. A draft of the BRP has been shared widely with many constituencies—student leaders, faculty, and staff—in more than a dozen sessions hosted by Lisa, Cheryl, and members of the Diversity and Inclusion Action Council (DIAC). Thank you to those who participated for your time in reading, reviewing, and offering input, insights, and questions that have been invaluable to the development of this new BRP process. The BRP draft incorporates feedback from all sessions and supports our desired learning outcomes for our community. Lisa and Cheryl will continue to work on addressing various questions that were raised in the feedback sessions.

On December 8, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. in SOM 501/502, members of the DIAC will host a community meeting to launch the Bias Response Protocol and to discuss the six-month pilot implementation. All are invited to attend.

During the six-month pilot phase, Lisa and Cheryl will continue to meet with key stakeholders; ensure appropriate support for those affected; begin a secure data collection process; and work on a seamless integration with existing practices and protocols. At the close of the pilot phase, an assessment of progress will be made and any necessary changes will be implemented to bring us to a “final” Bias Response Protocol by fall 2017.

Post-election Events and Programming

On November 9, 2016, the community gathered in Common Grounds to be together and to process responses and reactions to the election outcome. There were many speakers—students, faculty, and staff—who shared a variety of perspectives, observations, and concerns. Directly after the community gathering, a post-election discussion panel “What Just Happened?” was presented to a standing-room-only audience, eager to understand the election cycle and implications of the outcome. The presentations of Professors Abel Amado, Mark Bellamy, Kristen Dukes, Denise Horn, and Lena Zuckerwise and the follow-on discussion with audience members provided a start to the process of navigating critical challenges and issues. We hosted a 2016 Election Recap Webinar for our Simmons Alumnae/i Network, and our Student Life division hosted three lunchtime sessions open to all students the week following the election to address post-election concerns. There was staff present to offer support to students and assist in facilitating conversations.

Upcoming Programming

The Office of the General Counsel invites you to attend a panel presentation on Civil Rights Law designed to help you learn more about your civil rights. You will have an opportunity to pose questions to lawyers Jessie Rossman and Sophia Hall, both of whom work in the area of civil rights law. There are five topics expected to be addressed in their presentation—the Muslim Registry, Stop & Frisk, Mental Health Rights, Responding to Hate Crimes, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The presentation will be held on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. in the MCB, room C-103.

Student Spotlight: Like Minds Coalition Upcoming Programming

The Like Minds Coalition is a student group committed to promoting an equitable community that values and respects the diversity of human experiences. Like Minds Coalition strives to create a supportive environment on campus where individuals and groups are empowered to address issues around race, class, gender, and all other forms of social bias and oppression. Upcoming programming includes:

  • Campus Conversations on Race (CCOR) – a six-week module that engages participants in deep conversations around issues and impact of race on a college campus. CCOR will give students a new perspective of communities of color around them and equip them with the skills to talk about race in the classroom and beyond. This program will run from week of January 23rd to week of February 27th. Student facilitators are trained prior to the sessions and paired with a peer to lead conversations.
  • Annual Student Multicultural Leadership Conference (January 27, 2017) – a day of workshops and experiential activities designed to provide current and future Simmons student leaders the tools to learn the inclusive leadership skills necessary to be informed and inclusive not only in their roles at Simmons, but beyond. 
  • Multicultural Week (March 27-31, 2017) – a new collaborate program series. More details will follow in the next semester. 

As we work on these important initiatives, we find a genuine commitment across the Simmons community to make important progress on becoming a truly warm, welcoming, inclusive community that appreciates, values, and respects the humanity, dignity, diversity, and contributions of all its members.