Ten Demands Update: May 2016

May 05, 2016

President Drinan

A message from President Helen Drinan

This week I am pleased to present an update on the Ten Demands brought forward by student leaders just six months ago.

On behalf of the entire Simmons community, I want to thank all of our remarkable students. Many of them donated hours of their personal time in meetings, planning sessions, or alone or in small groups thinking about these important issues. To all of our students, and especially to those of you in the Class of 2016, I hope you know your legacy at Simmons is secure. You can be sure your efforts to bring forward the important issues of diversity and inclusion have been a catalyst in helping to make our College a better place for the students who will come here—long after you leave our campus.

I also want to thank our faculty, senior administration, and staff, who have helped ensure the good progress we have made on these Ten Demands in a short timeframe. You have all approached this work not with apprehension or caution, but rather with passion and energy—because our entire community recognizes the importance of diversity and inclusion to our College culture.

It has been very meaningful for me, personally, to engage in these important conversations, and I have learned much from our students, our faculty, and our staff. While there is certainly much more to be done, I hope everyone in our community can agree that we are firmly on the pathway to being the Simmons College community we all know we can be.

Below is the text of each demand, the administration leader for plans/actions on each demand, a brief overview of our progress to date and details on work that will be done in the near future.

All of this information was covered in the formal presentation by Provost and Senior Vice President Katie Conboy at the final Campus Forum of this school year on May 3, 2016. The forum was attended by many students, faculty and staff. Deans and Vice Presidents were in attendance and many of them answered questions/comments from students, staff, and faculty in a Q & A session that lasted well over 30 minutes.

The 2015 Ten Demands

#1: That Simmons lives up to its core values by: putting students first, preparing students for life’s work, creating opportunities, and investing in community. These values cannot be met unless Simmons financially commits to meeting the needs of students of color. This can be done through: increasing mental and physical health services that are accessible to students by increasing the number of trained and competent staff members for positions at the health center, counseling center, and nutritional services.

Lead: Vice President of Student Affairs and Associate Provost Sarah Neill.

Actions Taken:

  • Outreach to various affinity groups (ASA, BSO, OLA, and SIS) to determine how the Counseling Center can be more responsive to the needs of students of color.
  • Facilitated support group, QPOC, through the Counseling Center.
  • Budget requests for enhanced student resources, to include additional full-time clinician in the Counseling Center, additional full-time clinician to support the extension of Center hours to evenings and weekends, and to expand diversity trainings for Counseling Center clinicians.

Future plans: Coordinate a Student Health Advisory Committee consisting of Wellness Ambassadors to enhance support for students of color and advise the Counseling and Health Centers.

More Info: Thoughts From The President – February 4, 2016.

#2: Simmons College has a culture of tokenizing students of color. We recognize that this makes students relive the trauma that they experience on a daily basis, sometimes at the hands of their peers and professors, which is why we demand institutional support for students of color, especially black students, in the face of trauma and other racial events on campus, nationally and in the world at large. This includes timely response to these events that facilitates healing for our communities.

Lead: Assistant Provost for Diversity & Inclusion Lisa Smith McQueenie.

Actions Taken:

  • Established “Talkin’ on Tuesdays,” a series of campus conversations on Diversity & Inclusion (D & I) subjects.
  • Organized monthly “Campus Forums” since November to discuss issues in the world or on campus.

Future Plans: Develop plan for a Multicultural Student Center and other programming; review and evaluate initiatives undertaken in spring 2016.

More Info: Thoughts From The President – February 11, 2016.

#3: We demand that all faculty and staff of Simmons College be put through rigorous diversity training that emphasizes the requirement that they address micro-aggressions and mis-information in class. As part of this, we also demand that faculty are incentivized to participate in racial justice work as part of the tenure and promotion processes.

We would like to see repercussions for racist actions performed by professors and administrators or staff. Our micro- and macro-aggressions should be taken seriously and met with the highest level of urgency and care. That the FACES/FYS provide ample training for student facilitators, development curriculum that reflects the history of Boston.

Lead: Provost Conboy, with support from the Talent & Human Capital Strategy Department.

Actions Taken:

  • Faculty Senate developed micro-aggressions session for 12/16/16 all-college faculty meeting.
  • After a nationwide search, Romney Associates, Inc. has been hired to develop and administer D & I training.

Future Plans: Execute trainings according to this schedule: Operating Team & Deans training (summer 2016 and winter 2017); faculty seminars on teaching for inclusive excellence (January & May 2017); Workshops on recruiting a diverse faculty (spring & summer 2017); Diversity, Inclusion & Equity workshops for staff (Timing TBD); training for students (Timing TBD).

More Info: Thoughts From The President – February 18, 2016.

#4: We demand an overhaul of the curriculum that includes and highlights the contributions of people of color across all disciplines. We also demand that this curricular overhaul be student-centered by actively including students of color in the voting, negotiation and decision-making process in academic curriculum committees.

Lead: Provost Conboy and academic deans.

Actions Taken:

Each of the five schools offers opportunities for student participation in curriculum review—via such vehicles as Faculty/Student Task Forces or student representation on Curriculum Committees.

  • All schools are developing, or have in place, criteria and mechanisms for comprehensive curriculum review.
  • Student Course Evaluations have been, or are being, revised to include feedback about the inclusion of D & I content and student classroom experience.
  • SLIS: performing a diversity audit of all courses. Established a D & I Task Force with a student and faculty representative from each SLIS program.
  • CAS: has had a student seat (SGA rep) on the curriculum review committee for years. Establishing a student-faculty committee designed to generate student feedback.
  • SOM: has added a full-voting student member to the SOM curriculum committee.
  • SSW: began offering a course Dynamics of Racism that addresses many issues including white supremacy and oppression. Formed a school-wide Undoing Racism group.
  • SNHS: has established a D & I Committee that meets monthly. Offers multiple speakers and workshops on such topics as implicit bias. The next speaker is on healing and will take place on May 12th. It is open to the entire community. Also upcoming is the Dotson visiting lecturer on Sept 29th Dr. Deirdre Walton, past president of the National Black Nurses Association.

Future Plans: Additional academic and co-curricular activities, including work to fill curricular gaps; comprehensive approaches to assess the classroom and school experiences of students; and revisions to school-based structures and processes to include student representation are being planned for school-wide or within each school participation.

More Info: Thoughts From The President – April 7, 2016.

#5: We demand a practicing professional civil rights lawyer to represent students of color. This lawyer will be paid by the college to inform students of their rights with no financial burden to students or student activity fees.

Lead: Vice President & General Counsel Kathy Rogers.

Actions Taken:

  • Created a schedule for a working group to develop a process for addressing complaints of identity-based discrimination, including violations of Title IX and a process for addressing micro-aggressions at Simmons. Draft process will be established this summer and presented to students in fall 2016.

Future Plans: Website page to publicize process and other resources available to students, faculty, and staff who experience discrimination; the Legal Department will present a workshop for students on legal protections available to them, and two workshops for faculty and staff to enhance their collective understanding of their legal responsibilities around Simmons students’ rights; a guest speaker on campus to present to students on their civil rights; examine and resolve the potential of Ethicspoint for use by students to report racial incidents on campus and other incidents of hostile environments and intolerance.

More Info: Thoughts From The President – February 25, 2016.

#6: We demand an overhaul of the office of admissions at Simmons College which includes:

We want an honest portrayal of the demographics of people of color on this campus. While we understand that the MOST program is a crucial part of multicultural student recruitment, it provides unrealistic expectations for prospective students regarding the level of representation of people of color at the College.

We also demand an increase in the resources allocated for the recruitment of students of color, including having more people of color working in the office of admissions. There should be at least one staff member focused on managing and creating events for the mentorships in the MOST program.

Lead: Vice President of Enrollment Management John Dolan.

Actions Taken:

  • Admissions office collaborated with student affinity groups to recruit on-campus hosts for this year’s MOST event; added student panel to MOST.
  • Dedicated admissions officer to work with Community Based Organizations (CBOs) as the College Multicultural Recruitment Coordinator.
  • Vice President of Marketing and the marketing team hosted campus forum on April 21, 2016 to discuss D & I and marketing materials.
  • May 3, 2016 Vice President of Enrollment Management reported a sizable increase in U.S. students of color who have paid their Simmons deposit for fall 2016. The incoming freshman class will have 31% students of color compared with 27% for the 2015 freshman class.

Future Plans: Expand the number and value of our CBO partners.

More Info: Thoughts From The President (Marketing Materials) March 31, 2016; (Recruiting and the Admissions Office) April 21, 2016; (Student Organizations and Initiatives) April 28, 2016.

#7: We demand a Multicultural Student Office in the Student Activities Center on the Academic campus as a safe community space where we as students of color can gather and support each other. As part of this initiative, we demand that there be increased staff to support the Assistant Provost for Diversity & Inclusion.

Lead: Assistant Provost for Diversity & Inclusion Lisa Smith McQueenie.

Action Taken:

Renovated and fully furnished the Multicultural Student Office, a large dynamic space to be shared by student affinity groups. Official opening was Monday, May 2, 2016.

Future Plans: Developing a planning committee to include students, alums, faculty, advancement, and other staff who will meet beginning in June to map out the scope, location, and resources for a Student Multicultural Center. Preliminary report expected fall 2016.

More Info: Thoughts From The President – March 24, 2016.

#8: We demand an increase in the number of Faculty of Color and Staff of Color at Simmons across all academic disciplines and administrative roles. This increase should meet a 30% minimum representation across all colleges, matching the ratio of students of color in the student body. We also demand institutional support and mentorship for staff of color.

Lead: Provost Conboy and academic deans (faculty); Vice President of Talent & Human Capital Strategy Regina Sherwood (staff).

Actions Taken:

  • In January 2016, Provost Conboy authorized four tenure-track positions targeting the hiring of candidates of color, and also worked with Deans to ensure candidates of color were being considered for all other open positions.
  • Of the nine completed searches for faculty positions this year, we hired five people of color. We have achieved other kinds of diversity in these searches as well, including LGBTQ and international diversity.
  • Job announcements for senior-level staff to be posted to at least three vehicles geared to recruit candidates of color.

Future Plans: THCS Director of Recruiting will complete Diversity Recruitment Certification Training in May 2016 and will work with hiring managers to improve diversity recruiting. THCS staff will be trained by College University Personnel Associates on strategies and techniques for inclusive search committees (summer 2016). Diversity training for staff via Campus Answers software is currently under consideration. Mandatory invitations to participate will be considered.

More Info: Thoughts From The President – April 14, 2016 (staff); May 12, 2016 (faculty).

#9: We demand that the college meet the financial needs of students of color through merit and need-based scholarships, giving special consideration for first-generation students of color.

Lead: VP of Enrollment John Dolan.

Actions Taken:

  • Unfortunately Simmons College does not have the financial wherewithal to meet all the financial needs of students of color. However, we are committed to helping all students find more financial assistance. Financial aid counselors met with BSO president to discuss workshops and timeframes that would be most helpful to students as they seek additional aid.
  • Created a website that lists outside scholarships and a Twitter account (@Simmons_SFS) to disperse scholarship information to students.

Future Plans: Financial Aid workshops to be held in the fall to coincide with the U.S. Dept. of Education new early FAFSA cycle. Organized a virtual Scholarship Match event for May 6, 2016. Students can email or Tweet information about themselves using the hash tag #Simsmatch, and Financial Aid staff will send back scholarship opportunities that may be available to them.

More Info: Thoughts From The President – March 17, 2016.

#10: We demand that all of these requests be addressed in the strategic planning for the college with a concrete timeline that is before the end of the Fall 2015 semester.

Lead: Provost Conboy.

Actions Taken:

Assistant Provost for Diversity & Inclusion Lisa Smith McQueenie drafted a Diversity & Inclusion Plan for the College that will inform the broader strategic plan.

Future Plans: In summer 2015, the Board of Trustees put the College’s strategic planning process on hold to embark on the redesigning Simmons initiative. It is intended that the College will return to the strategic planning work, informed by the Diversity & Inclusion Plan, and submit the strategic plan to the Board of Trustees for approval in October 2016.

The presentation that Provost Conboy used at the meeting is located here.

The important work of diversity and inclusion will continue over the summer, and we look forward to re-engaging students upon their return to campus in the fall. All of us at Simmons should be proud of how far we’ve come since November, while remaining mindful that there remains much more to do.