SLIS Diversity and Inclusion Task Force

March 18, 2016

Students and Faculty Join Forces to Build a Safe, Inclusive Environment

Dear SLIS Community,

We would like to introduce the newly appointed SLIS Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. This committee was formed in response to student feedback and as an outcome of the August 2015 SLIS Assessment Retreat, and we began meeting in February of 2016. Our members include:

  • Kazia Berkley-Cramer, CHL/LIS dual degree Master’s Degree student
  • Janet Ceja, Assistant Professor
  • Jilliana Farietta, CS major
  • Joyce Gabiola, LIS student archives concentration
  • Laura Saunders, Assistant Professor
  • Nanette Veilleux, Professor

The charge of this Task Force is to advise the Dean on providing a safe and inclusive environment for all students, staff, and faculty of SLIS, including the CHL, CS, and LIS degrees and programs. To that end, we will assist in developing and sustaining diversity and inclusion initiatives across SLIS, including advocating for students by helping to create, build and sustain a safe, inclusive, anti-oppressive environment; serving as a resource for students to discuss concerns related to diversity and inclusion at SLIS; lead and support efforts to increase diversity on the faculty, staff, and within the student body; support efforts to increase attention to diversity and inclusion within the SLIS curriculum; and communicate with the SLIS community regarding these efforts.

This Task Force will build on existing efforts to create a safe, welcoming, anti-oppressive environment for all SLIS members. We are planning a series of listening sessions where SLIS students can bring concerns, questions, and ideas to the committee to help us focus our efforts. We are also developing a form that students can use to submit concerns anonymously online. We will work closely with Dean Abels in hiring the new Dean’s Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion, and then will work with the person in that position to identify and implement new initiatives. We will also keep the SLIS community informed of our efforts and abreast of new initiatives.

As one of our first actions, we would like to highlight some of the activities around Diversity and Inclusion at SLIS, and to outline our ideas going forward. First, we would like to acknowledge the work of various students and student groups in raising awareness around these issues and in leading efforts for change at SLIS. 

  • Students created and lead a break-out session on diversity and social justice as part of orientation for new students.
  • A group of students initiated an LIS education forum entitled DERAIL, (Diversity, Equity, Race, Accessibility, and Identity in LIS), a “student-led event initiated to address the need for critical discussions of the intersections between social justice issues and our roles as students and information professionals.” The event will take place at Simmons on March 26th, 2016 (see lisedforum.wordpress.com for more details).
  • Student groups have initiated discussions and lecture series addressing topics of diversity and inclusion, including the Progressive Librarians’ Guild’s anti-racism lecture series, and the Students of Color at Simmons socials.
  • Students have spearheaded an initiative to include questions addressing classroom climate and attention to diversity and inclusion on the course evaluation forms. 
  • CS students have been actively participating in Simmons-wide community meetings.

In addition to the creation of this Task Force, other in-progress and ongoing responses and initiatives around diversity and inclusion at SLIS include:

  • A presentation by the Associate Provost for Diversity & Inclusion at the SLIS student orientation. Beginning with the fall 2015 orientation, the Associate Provost  presented at each orientation to discuss issues of race, inclusion, and respect, and encouraged students to engage with these topics.
  • Training for all SLIS faculty, including understanding and responding to microaggressions, and facilitating conversations on diversity and inclusion. SLIS is working in conjunction with Faculty Senate, the Center for Excellence in Teaching, and the office of Associate Provost for Diversity & Inclusion to plan additional training.
  • Curriculum review and revisions in the LIS and CHL program to include more attention to issues of diversity and inclusion across the curriculum, including creation of new courses.
  • Creation of a Dean’s Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion position
  • Revisions to the course evaluation form to reflect student requests for questions on classroom climate and attention to diversity and inclusion.
  • Creation of a Diversity & Inclusion page on the SLIS web site.
  • Launch of the Lee & Low and Friends scholarship to increase diversity in children’s literature in Fall 2016.

We value your thoughts and feedback, and encourage you to contact any of us with your ideas, thoughts, and concerns. You can email the group at inclusion@simmons.edu, or contact any one of us using the individual emails listed below. Please be on the lookout for further communications and updates, including dates, times and locations for the listening sessions.

Sincerely,

Janet Ceja (janet.ceja@simmons.edu)
Kazia Berkley-Cramer (kazia.berkley-cramer@simmons.edu)
Jilliana Ferriata (ferriata@simmons.edu)
Joyce Gabiola (joyce.gabiola@simmons.edu)
Laura Saunders (laura.saunders@simmons.edu)
Nanette Veilleux (nanette.veilleux@simmons.edu)