Updated: October 8, 2021
Mount Holyoke College is committed to becoming an anti-racist community. We launched a formal Anti-racism Action Plan in August 2020 and have been providing regular updates on our progress. Here we share the commitments we’ve made, commitments realized and other relevant information and resources.
“Let justice motivate our every action as each of us strives to be better, to do more on our individual journeys toward becoming anti-racist, and as we commit our every effort to equity and to enduring and systemic change at Mount Holyoke and beyond.”
– President Sonya Stephens, August 2020, at the launch of the College’s Anti-racism Action Plan
Commitment for change
Our progress and commitments realized
As commitments made in Mount Holyoke’s Anti-racism Action Plan are realized, progress updates will be reflected here.
Faculty and curricular actions
Commitment: Establish a new faculty grants program
The goal of this $50,000 program will be to inform teaching, learning and research practices, and to build an academic culture that seeks to understand, analyze and challenge systems of oppression.
As of spring 2021, five grants have been awarded, totalling $10,810 of the available $50,000. The grants continue to focus on critical initiatives including expanding the curriculum, supporting the development of BIPOC scholars and creating a more just and inclusive Mount Holyoke for BIPOC community members.
The offices of the Dean of Faculty and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion seek proposals from faculty members for the College’s new Racial Equity Research and Action (RERA) Grants program. Applications can be submitted on a rolling basis and are reviewed monthly. Proposals are sought for research, course development and creative projects in any discipline or subject area that uses race and racial equity as the center of analysis and that promises to enrich the academic curriculum and/or education of the campus community.
Racial Equity Research and Action (RERA) grants committee members:
- Kate Ballantine, Environmental Studies, Faculty Grants Committee
- Wei Chen, Chemistry, Faculty Equity in Hiring Committee
- Gabriel Hall, Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
- Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
- John Tawa, Psychology, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Committee
Commitment: Invest in efforts to hire faculty who are Black, Indigenous or people of color
The College has renewed or initiated partnerships with several key organizations, both to enhance faculty development and to support efforts to recruit and retain Black, Indigenous or people of color among our faculty, as positions become available. These organizations include the Southern Regional Education Board Doctoral Scholars Program, the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance, and the Consortium for Faculty Diversity.
As part of the Racial Equity Leadership Alliance, the leaders of Mount Holyoke are participating in sessions led by the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center. Leaders participating in these sessions through January 2022 include the College cabinet, senior leadership team, and other manager and director-level leaders across campus. Session topics include the following:
- Fostering and Sustaining Inclusive Classroom for Students of Color
- Confronting Explicit Acts of Racism and Racial Violence on Campus
- Recovering from COVID-19 Racial Inequities
- Teaching the Truth About Slavery and America’s Racial History
- Strategically Hiring Faculty of Color
- Supporting and Retaining Faculty of Color
- Recruiting and Strategically Diversifying Staff at All Levels
- Creating Equitable Pathways to Leadership Roles for Employees of Color
The College has sought to continue to recruit BIPOC faculty by working in partnership with the Southern Regional Education Board. Associate Dean of the Faculty, Liz Markovits and Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, Kijua Sanders-McMurtry virtually attended the Institute on Teaching and Mentoring in March of 2021 to participate in recruiting for open faculty positions. The College has also engaged in ongoing efforts to recruit BIPOC post-doctoral scholars through our partnership with the Consortium for Faculty Diversity (CFD). Two new BIPOC post-doc fellows will begin this fall. The faculty affirmative action committee is now recalibrated as the faculty diversity in hiring committee. This group has been revising guidelines and search procedures to communicate widely with search committees a set of standards needed to build a diverse and robust candidate pool in an effort to recruit more BIPOC faculty.
Under the leadership of Jared Schwarzer and Barbara Rotundo, the College's Multicultural College Life Committee has been recalibrated and is now the DEI Advisory Committee with a restructured membership and charge that was voted into faculty legislation in May of 2021. This critical effort will ensure that the vibrancy of this important faculty led committee that has been in existence through multiple iterations continues to advance causes of equity, justice and inclusion throughout the campus community.
The Department of Human Resources has launched a new applicant tracking system that will improve all efforts to build diverse talent pools and specifically improve the process of recruiting BIPOC faculty and staff.
Commitment: Expand diversity education and curricula
Expand diversity education and curricula that directly challenge anti-Blackness and white supremacy. The Common Read will be dedicated to the interrogation of racism for the foreseeable future.
- The Fire This Time edited by Jesmyn Ward is the Common Read for 2021. This text is a New York Times bestselling anthology of essays and poems and poems on race in America. It consists of three parts -- Part I: Legacy, Part II; Reckoning, Part III: Jubilee--along with an introductory essay by Jesmyn Ward. The book’s title alludes to James Baldwin’s 1963 book The Fire Next Time.
- The 1619 Project was the Common Read for 2020: Mount Holyoke College’s Common Read this year is prose essays from The New York Times Magazine’s ongoing initiative. A robust set of programs focused on cultivating an anti-racist community and supporting community members who engaged in these readings was offered throughout the year with specific emphasis on voting enfranchisement, understanding the persistence of racial inequities, etc.
- All members of the Mount Holyoke community have access to a wide array of ongoing programs, learning opportunities and events designed to further our collective goal of becoming an anti-racist Mount Holyoke. Specific highlights have included events focused on Latinx Heritage, Indigenous Heritage, LGBTQ+ History, Trans Awareness Month and focused efforts on educating the community around challenging ableism. The work is intersectional and focused.
- The College held its second annual Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Week of Racial Justice and Reconciliation from January 18th-28th with a series of events including a two-day teach in on Fighting Anti-Semitism with keynote speakers, Rabbi Sandra Lawson and Rabbi Josh Lesser, an affinity-based dialogue for Jewish community members led by Rabby Hilly Haber ‘10, a womanist sermon led by Chaplain Q. Hailey ‘12 and a public keynote lecture with esteemed racial justice scholar, Jelani Cobb.
- The College cabinet is participating in ongoing reading, reflections and training sessions led by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and with the Liberal Arts Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA). These sessions are designed to challenge anti-Blackness and use anti-racist frameworks to inform the development of future policies and practices at the College.
- BOOM! Building On Our Momentum: Community Day. The fifth annual BOOM! learning conference was held on March 23, 2021. The keynote speaker for this year’s conference was Clint Smith, which can be viewed here: How the word is passed. Another featured plenary session was a focused panel on the book, Mutual Aid by Dean Spade. This very special panel featured MHC alum, Prentis Hemphill ‘04, Dean Spade, Taylor Alxndr and was moderated by Jina Kim. The discussion focused on the long histories of BIPOC, queer and trans communities that have engaged in mutual aid. It can be viewed here: Mutual Aid with Prentis Hemphill ‘04, Taylor Alxndr, Dean Spade and Jina Kim
- A number of new educational opportunities were offered including a course that directly addressed racism and the long history of violence that culminated in resistance movements throughout 2020, a course co-taught by Vice Presidents Dorothy Mosby and Kijua Sanders-McMurtry was introduced to first-year international students entitled: COLL-208-01 Histories, Memories, & Legacies: The Social Justice Protests of 2020. The primary course texts were Caste: The Origin of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson and Stamped from the Beginning: The History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi which these two leaders led a talk on in dialogue with Digital and Special Collections Archivist, Micha Broadnax in January 2021
- With the rise of anti-Asian hate, the College has held the following events and amplified the voices of our AAPI community. This has included events such as “In Solidarity: A Vigil for those targeted by Anti-Asian and Gender Based Violence” and ”Fighting Anti-Asian Hate: A Dialogue on Coalition Building and Community Care with Amer Ahmed and Lydia X.Z. Brown facilitated by Gabe Hall.” The following communications were shared with the community: “Fighting Anti-Asian Hate: Coalition Building and Community Care,” “The rise of COVID-19 and anti-Asian bias,” and “No more gaslighting anti-Asian hate.”
- The College held a number of events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month with a specific anti-racist lens highlighting specific programming support and healing circles for BIPOC community members analyzing the long legacies of violence towards Black and Indigenous communities rooted in gender-based oppression. A specific event featured the work of A Long Walk Home, a non-profit organization that focuses on girls and women with a focused lens on fighting racial inequities and gender based violence collectively.
- The Divisions of Business and Finance, LITS, the Art Museum Advisory Board, the Counseling and Psychological Services Team have all been engaged in anti-racism training led by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion throughout the year.
- Dining and Facilities Management have participated in extensive Title IX training throughout the year.
Education, training and professional development
Commitment: Include diversity, equity and inclusion education in orientation for all new members of the community
Orientation of all new students, faculty and staff will be revised, and in some cases expanded, to include tailored diversity and inclusion education, training and professional development. The First-Gen Network, in collaboration with the First Generation and Low-Income Partnership (FLIP), will enhance the existing pre-Orientation program. In order to continue providing support to students beyond Orientation, the First-Gen Network and FLIP will host a series of monthly virtual sessions for first-generation and low-income students to build a sense of community, while also providing resources tailored to individual needs.
- The Center for First-generation Student Success named Mount Holyoke College a First-gen Forward Institution in fall 2020.
- Orientation of all new students has been revised to include tailored diversity and inclusion education, training and professional development.
- The First-Gen Network, in collaboration with the First Generation and Low-Income Partnership (FLIP), is enhancing the existing pre-Orientation program.
- In order to continue providing support to students beyond Orientation, the First-Gen Network and FLIP has begun hosting a series of monthly virtual sessions for first-generation and low-income students in order to build a sense of community while also providing resources tailored to individual needs.
- The College is searching for a new Associate Vice President for Human Resources who will be hired in 2021. The AVP for HR will lead key elements of the anti-racism action plan goals related to faculty and staff. A new employee orientation incorporating essential anti-bias training will be a part of future developments.
Commitment: Student-leader training
Effective fall 2020, all student organization leaders are required to participate in training that includes an intergroup dialogue framework, focusing on understanding how institutional, cultural and structural oppression may manifest itself in student organizations. Organizations will also receive assistance in developing and implementing action plans detailing their efforts to become inclusive and anti-racist.
- Effective fall 2020, recognized student organization leaders participate in intensive anti-racism training. Through this training, student leaders gain access to resources in support of creating anti-racism action plans for their organizations.
Commitment: MoZone Peer Educator Program
The College will bolster the Division of Student Life’s MoZone Peer Educator program by compensating all fellows, effective fall 2020.
- The College has established compensation for all MoZone peer educators, as of fall 2020.
Commitment: Resource the work of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
The College will continue to resource the work of this office and its intersectional approaches to education by hiring an assistant director of Campus Diversity Programming and LGBTQ Initiatives in fall 2020. The individual in this role will continue to expand the training, education and professional development of all students, staff and faculty.
- Gabriel Hall joined the Mount Holyoke College Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as the assistant director of Campus Diversity Programming and LGBTQ Initiatives in September 2020.
Commitment: Finalize a community standards statement for alum volunteers
The Alumnae Association and the College are working together to finalize a community standards statement to which all volunteers must adhere. The Association will hire a director of inclusion and events. Their role will be to better support the needs of alums who are Black, Indigenous or people of color; place greater emphasis on and provide more robust diversity, equity and inclusion training for the Association, its Board of Directors and all volunteers; and develop anti-racist strategies, including ongoing education and programming for the alum community.
- The Alumnae Association established the director of inclusion and events position in 2020, laying the foundation for the future development of an integrated equity and inclusion plan for the Association.
- A new volunteer code of conduct with specific emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion was implemented in September 2020.
- Special DEI programming is offered to alums, and alums are invited to participate in selected community programs, as noted on the College calendar.
- The Alumnae Association recognizes and creates opportunities for alums to connect, based on shared identities.
- Development of request for proposals process: The Alumnae Association launched an RFP process, affecting the area of diversity education. Reviews are conducted to ensure consistency in method, priority and context.
Commitment: Engage local community leaders
The College will convene local community leaders to discuss furthering efforts toward anti-racism in South Hadley and surrounding areas. This will include expanded opportunities for education and dialogue, focused on ensuring that: students, faculty and staff at Mount Holyoke — particularly Black members of our campus community — are less likely to experience anti-Black racism; the communities in which our students and employees live and work have access to resources to further their own anti-racism work; and cross-collaborative efforts are focused on eradicating racism, including public visibility campaigns, such as signage on and around campus, public events and on-the-ground work with local officials.
- The College has joined the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council in order to engage in anti-racist practices and transform the surrounding communities.
- The College has created a new set of visible signage to demonstrate support for racial and social justice. The first of these will be installed on campus in March 2021.
- The College will lead training sessions on anti-racism and LGBGTQ+ inclusion with businesses in the Village Commons throughout the fall 2021 and spring 2022 beginning with Odyssey Bookshop in early fall.
Resources and equity
Commitment: Student Safety Net Fund
The College has, with the financial support of individual members of the Board of Trustees and others, added resources to continue the Student Safety Net Fund to assist students experiencing financial hardship.
The College has continued to provide resources to the Student Safety Net Fund and has now awarded more than $400,000 directly to students in need. Additionally, the College secured endowed commitments totalling approximately $1,000,000 that will make a steady stream of annual funding available to the Student Safety Net Fund in perpetuity.
Commitment: Training for enrollment staff
In addition to participating in campus-wide diversity, equity and inclusion professional development and education programs, the enrollment division, including staff in the Office of Admission and Student Financial Services, will participate in additional anti-racist and anti-bias training with an external consultant who specializes in college access and affordability.
The Division of Enrollment Management has continued ongoing education and training for the staff, with a specific focus on increased outreach to prospective students who are Black, Indigenous or people of color, and service to those students on campus.
Planning and accountability
Commitment: Launch a Bias Education Response Team
All reports of bias will be managed by the Bias Education Response Team, which will conduct investigations, adjudicate reports and determine actions and responses to incidents. The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has worked extensively across campus to present to campus partners a new vision for Bias Response with more than 15 presentations made to students, faculty and staff.
The committee, made up of faculty and staff, began meeting in September 2020 to review and revise the existing bias reporting process to be adapted by the Bias Education and Support Team (BEST). This new framework was presented to campus leadership in December 2020. Subsequent presentations focused on faculty governance groups including FCC, Advisory and FEHC. Presentations were also held with the DEI Advisory Committee (formly MCCL) and staff groups, including OPC and Counseling Services. Presentations to Student Senate occurred in April 2021. Feedback from each of the sessions has been incorporated into the drafting of the FAQ’s and this will continue through summer 2021. A final draft was then shared with legal counsel for review in April 2021. At the request of students, a recorded Zoom video of the presentation will be created and posted through Embark. The link to the video will also be made available to faculty and staff with additional information sessions being scheduled for June 2020.
A full-day training delivered by a team from TNG/ATIXA was held on February 22, 2021. Thirty faculty and staff who may serve as future hearing panelists and appeals officers participated in this training, developing their awareness with regard to how issues of microaggressions, bias, and cultural competence impact our campus, along with practical techniques to respond to and de-escalate situations as they arise. This training increased the pool of trained and capable partners in the BEST process, a necessary element in the implementation process.
Commitment: Ensure DEI efforts are reflected in staff performance reviews
The College will ensure that participation in professional development related to diversity, equity and inclusion, and efforts toward building an anti-racist Mount Holyoke, are included in annual conversations and performance reviews, and that such efforts by staff are appropriately valued in opportunities for professional advancement.
Progress update scheduled for June 2022.
Commitment: Ensure DEI efforts by faculty are evaluated
The Office of the Dean of Faculty will work with faculty governance bodies in 2020–2021 to ensure that faculty anti-racism efforts and professional development are evaluated in the holistic review of teaching and form a part of academic review processes in the future.
A new faculty anti-racism reporting section was added to the Faculty Activity and Service Summary (FASS), which is completed by each faculty member. This form provides the basis for annual conversations within each department and for annual reporting by department chairs. The annual report guidelines for department chairs have been updated to include specific language about anti-racism and are now in the implementation stage. Individual faculty are now asked to include discussion of their diversity, equity, and inclusion work in their Faculty Activity and Service Summary and department chairs will include a summary of their department's efforts in their annual report.
Commitment: Launch employee affinity-based dialogue groups and events
The College launched an ongoing series of employee affinity-based dialogue groups and events in fall 2020. To date, these affinity-based dialogues have been:
- Affinity-based dialogue for faculty and staff who identify as Black: Throughout summer 2020, and in April 2021.
- Affinity-based dialogue for faculty and staff who identify as Latinx: September 2020.
- Affinity-based dialogues for faculty and staff who are caregivers: October 2020 and December 2020.
- Affinity-based dialogues for faculty and staff who identify as LGBTQ: October 2020, January 2021, and April 2021.
- Affinity-based dialogue for faculty and staff who identify as transgender and gender nonconforming: November 2020.
- Affinity-based dialogue for faculty and staff who identify as Asian/Asian-American/Asian Pacific Islander/South East Asian scheduled for June 2021.
Other affinity based moments for the Fall included our Friday lunchtime Brown Bag Series which brought together faculty and staff groups for the following topic based discussion:
- 1619 Project Dialogue for BIPOC identified faculty and staff.
- 1619 Project Dialogue for White faculty and staff as Allies.
The College will continue to build upon this effort with ongoing affinity-based dialogues expanding the program to support BIPOC and community members from other underrepresented groups to provide ongoing support to diverse populations of community members.
Commitment: Reimagining campus safety
Public Safety and Service is a part of the Division of Student Life and is committed to safeguarding the civil rights of all and to fostering a campus environment that is rooted in understanding and respect.
- With the exception of campus emergencies, Public Safety and Service no longer posts outside campus buildings.
- Implicit bias and other social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion trainings are being reviewed and assessed in the performance evaluations of all staff members.
- New policies and procedures are being created to define when students might anticipate the presence of Public Safety and Service in residence halls.
- In collaboration with the Reimagining Campus Safety Committee, Public Safety and Service developed, reviewed and revised several policies related to student interactions in the residence halls and on campus.
Commitment: Expand Counseling Service’s capacity to support and treat BIPOC students
From August 2020 through June 2021, the Counseling Service is conducting a bi-weekly inservice on anti-racism and the treatment of the trauma of racism.
Understanding and acknowledging College history
Commitment: Establish a history and legacy task force
The College will establish a history and legacy task force charged with uncovering past histories with regard to race, racism, xenophobia and other forms of bias.
The president has appointed Head Archivist Leslie Fields and Chief Diversity Officer Kijua Sanders-McMurtry as co-chairs of a new History, Legacies and Memory Task Force. The goals and charge of this task force will be included in future updates, following the appointment of its membership and after its first meeting.
The History, Legacies and Memory Task Force held its first orientation meeting with alum, student, faculty and staff task force members in April of 2021. The task force is finalizing the charge in June of 2021 and will fully launch with all of its initiatives in the fall of 2021.
Commitment: Acknowledge the College’s past history with Indigenous communities
In accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the College will conclude the repatriation of the remains of an Indigenous ancestor to the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, returning to the earth a tribal member who was for so long rendered culturally unaffiliated by the original collection process and a lack of proper documentation. As of spring 2021, the ancestral remains have been legally repatriated to the Stockbridge Munsee Community through the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The Stockbridge-Munsee are working with representatives of the Nipmuc Nation (Hassanamisco Band) regarding the arrangements for the physical transfer and reburial. A public recognition and redress will take place soon after the burial.
Our commitments are focused on centering the lived experiences of Indigenous people. To ensure we begin the process of following through on this stated promise and fulfill the goals of the anti-racism action plan, the College is engaging in an Indigenous Peoples Day Teach-in that will educate all community members about the histories, legacies and voices both past and present of the Indigenous Peoples of North America. The College will continue this work throughout the month of November 2021 with additional speakers as part of Indigenous Heritage Month.
Commitment: Establish an Indigenous Histories, Legacies and Student Support Services Working Group
Progress update scheduled for June 2022
Commitment: Acknowledge the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day
Effective fall 2021, the College will acknowledge the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day in an effort to accurately reflect the significant histories and legacies of Native peoples.
Commitment: Recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday
The College will recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday, beginning on June 19, 2021. Juneteenth commemorates what has also been referred to as “Freedom Day,” which honors the emancipation of African people who were enslaved in the United States. The College issued an official statement and resources this year to align with our commemoration.
Commitment: Understand and document the experiences of BIPOC community members
In the fall of 2021, the College will conduct a comprehensive campus climate assessment to better understand and document the experiences of community members who are Black, Indigenous or people of color. An oral history project focused on Mount Holyoke’s Black alums, led by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, will become a part of the permanent collection of Archives and Special Collections.
This commitment does not currently have a progress update.
A living, growing effort toward an anti-racist Mount Holyoke
We remain stalwart in our convictions and welcome ongoing conversations related to these action steps and the plan as a whole. We will continue to engage our campus community as we move Mount Holyoke forward. Please share your thoughts with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.