MCCL Annual Report 2008-2009

Committee Membership

  • Students: Judith Frank, ‘10; Zilin Cui,‘10
  • Staff: Kris Bergbom (Student Affairs), Winnie RiveraVallejo (Sr. Administrative Assistant, President’s Office)Spring ‘09, Catarina Costa-Wofford (Admissions) Rebecca Hernandez, (Student Financial Services) Fall ‘08; Elizabeth Kahn (Public Safety) Spring ‘09
  • Faculty: Lenore Reilly Carlisle, Co-Chair; Sarah Oelker; Renae Brodie, Fall, ‘08; Roger Babb
  • Administrators: Penny Gill (Dean of the College), Elizabeth Braun (Associate Dean of the College/Students),Gladys Moore, Co-Chair (Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life & Director of Diversity and Inclusion)

Committee Charge

The responsibilities and authority of this committee, as set out in Faculty Legislation, include: a) addressing issues chosen by the committee from among those brought to it by students, faculty and staff; b) advising the Dean of the College on activities and policies fostering an inclusive community that respects group and individual differences, and that serves the intellectual, educational and social needs of its members; c) advising and overseeing committees addressing all aspects of College life under the jurisdiction of the Dean of the College; d) reviewing, monitoring and proposing College policies to ensure that all practices at Mount Holyoke are unbiased and to provide ongoing anti-bias education throughout the institution. Faculty legislation further stipulates that the MCCL Committee (MCCLC) shall create, maintain, and work with permanent subcommittees, task forces, and ad hoc committees such as are necessary to carry out its work; that it shall meet regularly with the Trustee Committee on Student Affairs; and that it shall solicit from the College community suggestions and concerns relevant to the Committee’s charge.

Committee Activities

For most of the academic year, we have had a full slate of faculty, staff and students on our committee and have met regularly every other week. The committee continues to focus its efforts on addressing and monitoring progress on the 2005 recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Diverse Community as well responding to emerging issues and needs on our increasingly diverse campus. To that end, our work has been focused in three areas: illuminating complexities; gathering data; and devising and supporting opportunities for intellectual engagement, community conversations and action.

I. Illuminating Complexities

The MCCLC is invested in deepening campus-wide understandings of the complexities inherent in the work of creating and sustaining a diverse educational community. As the world and Mount Holyoke become increasingly more diverse, so too do the issues and ambiguities we face. Indeed, a generative question for our work this year has been, “How, when and by whom are people on our campus categorized?”

Simple identity descriptions no longer hold sway. For instance, the term “ALANA” does not adequately portray the multiple identities of our students of color in the 21st century. International students in a “racialized” United States context struggle to understand themselves and how they fit into our campus community. Religious and cultural identity markers are more fluid than ever. Thus, MCCL has supported initiatives that both recognize the complexities of identity and create opportunities for continuous dialogue.

Some of the initiatives MCCLC has encouraged or partially funded include: the Taboo series; Intergroup Dialogue; the expanded pre-orientation offering; the Race/Class Intersections seminar by Class Action; Community Conversations; Let's Talk About It; and various one-time offerings supported through our Inclusiveness Initiatives grants. (A full list of projects supported by the Inclusiveness Initiative Fun is available on the MCCL webpage.)

As we look to the future we are committed to soliciting and developing more opportunities for campus-wide assessment of our climate of diversity; to engaging the multiple and fluid identities that our students, staff and faculty bring to their respective work; and to creating proactive institutional processes for dealing with controversial issues

II. Gathering Data

The MCCLC, in accordance with its legislated responsibilities, routinely gathers input from various constituencies on campus regarding how each experiences our campus climate Our website feedback form remains open to all in the community and provides the Committee with on-going input.

Additional efforts to gather data included the following:

  • Dean of International Students, Donna Van Handle and our Coordinator of Multicultural Affairs, Tanya Williams were invited to be regular contributors to our committee process.
  • MCCL co-chair and Director of Diversity, Gladys Moore, conducted 9 department visits as part of her ongoing effort to collect information that informs the work of her office and the MCCLC as it pertains to the interrelated agendas of more fully realizing an inclusive community.
  • Important outreach/action oriented and collaborative work was accomplished through the vetting, funding and advising support offered to those submitting Inclusiveness Initiative Fund (IIF) Proposals.
  • Representative committee members attended all campus forums which was an essential component of participation and information gathering.
  • Meeting with students and faculty from the Athletics Department broadened our understanding of campus climate issues unique to that arena of campus and to established connections with students from SAAC whose diversity and inclusion work is gaining national recognition.
  • Round table conversations during with new and visiting faculty members were held during which they shared, as frankly as possible, their experiences at MHC. Their observations and suggestions focused on the entry process, first impressions about our campus climate, pedagogical successes and failures, and suggestions from other campuses. These conversations yielded useful suggestions and information, (see appendix A) much of which will contribute to addressing future MCCLC priorities.
  • MCCL invited Craig Woodard, Associate Dean of Faculty for Science, and Lois Brown, Director of the Weissman Canter, to participate in a roundtable conversation and to share extensive updates from their offices. The ongoing nature of their respective programs in support of student achievement is widely known and therefore not described here, but was nonetheless an important addition to our record of ongoing diversity and inclusiveness initiatives. Notably both agreed that faculty need more pedagogical support, and that the campus has yet to properly locate and sustain programs that will address this essential need.

Recommendations based on these data gathering efforts include:

  • Encouraging and supporting the institution of improvements to Faculty Orientation and Pedagogical Training by the Dean of Faculty.
  • Encouraging Staff Council and department heads to expand upon and develop new orientation and professional development programs aimed at increasing cultural competencies and lived/realized experiences of inclusion for all staff members in our community.
  • Continuing informal cross-campus collection of feedback (via forums, invitations to meet, tabling, web data, sub-committee work) on “campus climate” and investigating formal assessment and tracking tools for a comprehensive 2010 progress report.

III. Intellectual Engagement, Community Conversations and Action

The issue of how best to engage in conversations about difficult topics was a recurring theme for MCCL this year. As a committee, we discussed the need for the campus to consider how such conversations should be approached not only in the midst of crisis (as was the case when discussions of the event that brought author Norman Finkelstein and Smith College professor Donna Divine to campus occurred) but as a part of an ongoing component of our work. Questions about who decides who is an appropriate speaker to invite to campus, how disputes should be handled and by whom when disputes arise, how we understand free speech and academic freedom on a diverse campus, and whether or not we want to consider adopting principles of discourse to structure difficult dialogues, are all elements of this work that warrant further exploration. The DCC report clearly referenced the need to establish institutionally supported structures, protocols and practices to avoid the persistent cycle of flare-ups and lulls of frustration and discontent on campus; hence MCCL hopes to facilitate an inclusive process to address what clearly remains a pressing need.

Numerous forums for community conversation regarding issues of diversity were supported by MCCL this year, while the campus in general worked to ensure that essential dialogues about these vital issues occurred. MCCL supported community breakfasts and open forums as well as focused conversations following a serious racial incident on campus. As noted in Section I of this report, the campus sponsored many events designed to foster both conversation and action, including the Taboo series, Class Action workshops, Intergroup Dialogues, and Faculty and Staff of Color Dialogues, among others.

Finally, MCCL reports that Multicultural Perspectives Requirement amendments crafted in collaboration with the APC last year were approved by the faculty at the October 29, 2008 meeting (attached to this report as Appendix B).

Plans for 2009-2010

Committee discussions have led to the identification of three primary areas of focus for the next academic year. First among these is the need to move ahead with our commitment to implement a campus wide climate assessment. We realize that any such assessment will require broad buy-in across a wide range of constituencies: therefore it will be important to identify viable approaches and processes amenable to administration, faculty, staff and students. While we launched this task in 2008-2009 and have already had several conversations with both campus and outside consultants about how to proceed, other pressing issues took precedence. We have established this as a firm priority for the coming academic year

Second, we became keenly aware of how important it is for a diverse community to have discussions regarding processes and principles of discourse when controversial/difficult topics emerge. To date we have looked at documents from two other campuses that address this issue. We plan to engage the campus community to develop a locally nuanced document that will help guide the entire community in the future. In this way, we hope to institutionalize pro-active practices that will ensure respectful, rigorous and inclusive dialogues. Connected to this is the need to more systematically explore our individual and collective understandings of free speech on our diverse campus.

Third, we have fielded persistent and recurring requests from faculty and students to explore how the college can ensure that there is adequate opportunity for professional development of all faculty regarding teaching, learning and advising on our diverse campus. While there have been numerous successful initiatives targeting small segments of the teaching faculty, many have suggested the need for a more comprehensive and far reaching faculty development initiative in this area. Sharing effective practices currently being implemented, exploring new pedagogical approaches, and entertaining conversations about how to institutionalize faculty development efforts in this area will be an important aspect of our work.

A Call for Involvement and Action

MCCLC relies on the involvement of all segments of the campus working to foster an inclusive community that respects group and individual differences, and that serves the intellectual, educational and social needs of its members. We seek the support of the entire Mount Holyoke Community in advancing this work, whether through proposals to the Inclusiveness Initiative Fund, bringing pressing issues and difficulties to our attention, or participating in future conversations, initiatives and campus climate assessment work.

Respectfully submitted,
Lenore Reilly Carlisle
Co-Chair, MCCL

Appendix A

The following list reflects issues, concerns and suggestions shared with MCCL at its April 7, 2009 meeting with new and visiting faculty. It reflects a shared a desire for improved orientation to campus and sustained opportunities in the following arenas

  • Social and pedagogical mentoring relationships with established faculty from other departments (maybe from other consortium colleges)
  • Physical campus spaces and local environs
  • Social networking to supplement professional networking
  • Sustainable program for pedagogical training & development, including topics such as: “tricks of the trade”, student advising, understanding stereo type threat, cultural competencies on classroom topics relating to race, class, gender, religion, political affiliations, etc., conversations about the changing patterns of student accountability, tools for helping students learn to disagree without rancor in the classroom, better understanding of the networks of support available to students.
  • Faculty with alumni experience shared the ways in which they see the persistence of tensions around diversity and inclusion spanning time (particularly regarding racial/ethnic differences) to be both disheartening and hopeful - noting that they have witnessed an increase in dialog and inclusiveness actions and a deepening of the conversation into more complex and intersecting layers of understanding.
  • Desire for interdepartmental conversations with new and experienced faculty to take up the topic of what it means to teach a truly diverse group of learners and what impact our community’s expanding diversity & globalization has on pedagogy. Incorporate pedagogical strategies for teaching about the obstructions that white privilege can pose to an environment of excellence in learning for all.
  • Some academic departments (Anthropology, Psychology, Athletics, and Theater) reported ongoing faculty discussions on pedagogical strategies, diversity and inclusion topics, and sharing of “classroom case studies”.
  • Some with experience on other campuses were impressed by the cross-campus expectation of a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness work, even – and in particular – during the period of community response to the egregious harassment of a faculty member of color last fall.
  • Others expressed ongoing concerns that our campus is not as successful at retaining Faculty (and Staff) of color as it should be, and wanted more attention paid to climate issues contributing to this problem.
  • Attention to the lens of social class differences was noted as increasingly informing classroom conversations.
  • Initiation into teaching in on an all-women’s campus brings with it experiences that are new even to seasoned faculty from other campuses. Some would appreciate orientation/mentorship around this.

Appendix B

Multicultural Perspectives Course Requirement

Proposal for Change
Academic Priorities Committee
in consultation with
the Committee on Multicultural Community and College Life

Current Requirement:

Multicultural Perspectives requirement. One four-credit course which is devoted primarily to the study of some aspect of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, or the non-white peoples of North America and which incorporates a diversity of perspectives. This Multicultural Perspectives Requirement course may be fulfilled at any time during a student’s college career by completion of an approved course in the department of her choice. [See Catalogue for current list of courses.] With the approval of the Dean of the College, a course taken off-campus may be used to fulfill the requirement. (Legislation, p. 19)

Proposed Requirement:

In keeping with the mission of the College, Mount Holyoke’s Multicultural Perspectives Requirement encourages students to engage intellectually with the complexities of the world and its peoples.

Students must complete one 4-credit course devoted primarily to the study of some aspect of:

  1. the peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East; or
  2. peoples of color in Australia, Europe, or North America; or
  3. peoples in North America whose primary language is other than English.

This course must incorporate a diversity of perspectives.

The Multicultural Perspectives Requirement may be fulfilled at any time during a student’s college career by completion of an approved course in the subject of her choice. [See Catalogue for current list of courses.] With the approval of the Dean of the College, a course taken off-campus may be used to fulfill the requirement.

Rationale:

A major goal of this proposal is to eliminate the term "non-white," which characterizes people in terms of what they are not, rather than what they are. The MCCL and APC also thought it important to expand the study of peoples of color beyond the geographic boundary of North American (hence b), and to allow for the inclusion of courses on immigrant populations (hence c).

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Appendix B. Update: As noted in the above report the Multicultural Perspectives Requirement amendments were approved by the faculty at the October 29, 2008 meeting.