The College at Brockport campus is empty because of COVID-19, but the work to improve inclusion continues.
“Strengthening our campus climate remains a top priority,” Brockport spokesman John Follaco wrote in an email. “While COVID-19 has affected the mode of what we do, it has had no impact on our commitment to (equity, diversity and inclusion) work. …”
In mid-April, Brockport President Heidi Macpherson updated the college community on plans and goals for the Office of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.
The office became a point of contention in late January, when Chief Diversity Officer Cephas Archie was dismissed. Macpherson, citing protections around personnel decisions, did not provide details of the dismissal.
Students held peaceful protests. Over the following few weeks, Macpherson laid out steps to address their concerns. SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson visited the campus and met with students.
In her most recent email, Macpherson said the college has made “significant progress on our EDI planning and activities.” Details are on the website Building a Better Brockport: Strengthening Our Campus Climate. The site tracks progress in five areas: academic affairs; advancement; administration and finance; college communications; and enrollment management and student affairs.
Macpherson wrote to the college community: “We are ensuring accountability for EDI across all academic and business functions, and this includes a particular focus on policy development and review.”
She wrote that the Policy Management Steering Committee will ensure that “all new and revised policies support EDI principles and do not introduce unintended bias,” and put that phrase in bold type. She also wrote that the committee is to seek the “widest possible diversity and representation… .”
She wrote that Brockport is committed to SUNY’s plan for equity, diversity and inclusion, and she listed what is being done. Here is a summary:
Rodmon King, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at SUNY Oswego, has been assigned to help Brockport for the spring semester.
Among his activities, King has attended Cultural Council and community conversations, joined the president’s cabinet, met regularly with each vice president and meets regularly with Macpherson to plan and assess equity, diversity and inclusion training.
Revamping bias reporting mechanism
The Bias Related Incident Reporting System is operating despite distance learning. The Bias Team is conducting a multiyear review of all bias incidents to identify trends.
The team has been asked to read Speech Spotlight from the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Community Engagement on bias response teams. From that reading, the team is working to determine how Brockport will apply the principles, including avoid self-censorship by campus community members who fear being reported; making sure the campus knows about the team and can access its effectiveness.
A comprehensive plan is being developed by the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Human Resources that will include online and face-to-face training in implicit bias, institutional racism and structural inequality.
Recruitment of the new Training and Development Officer in Human Resources is on hold, pending clarity over the fiscal impact of COVID-19, state budget cuts and enrollment.
The president’s cabinet has completed four modules on implicit bias training through the Kirwan Institute.There are renewed efforts in comprehensive, across-campus online training for students, faculty, and staff that will include modules on diversity and inclusion.
Brockport produces an Affirmative Action Plan that sets “placement goals” for departments that are not as diverse in terms of ethnicity and/or gender as they might be, given demographic data around the available workforce.
The College has a draft Diversity Recruitment Plan. When hired, the Diversity Recruiter will take ownership of the plan. In the meantime, recruitment strategies are moving from passive (advertise and they will come) to active and are training the recruitment team to be “active recruiters” and not rely just on the Diversity Recruiter to fill this need.
There are no quick fixes for departments where there are no vacancies, and there are no guarantees of a diverse hire for a vacancy. The College is working to create the environment where diverse candidates are attracted to Brockport.
Additional community conversations
We are committed to holding additional community conversations to hear issues and concerns that need to be resolved and to rebuild trust in our community.
In addition, the Office of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion is looking at ways to keep connected with the academic community, such as virtual office hours, organized topic cafes and themed social media days.
The Town-Gown Committee remains active.