Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion update

By Claire Crittendon & Kaie Quigley – Co-Editors-in-Chief

(L-R) Professor Christina Alejandre and Professor Sara Large teach a section of SOC104: Equity and Intersectionality. Photo by Rebecca Osowski

On April 29, 2021, The 1851 Chronicle spoke to President Alexander, Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) Jesse Tauriac, and other campus leaders about the state of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Lasell community.

Now, 10 months later, we return to the topic. Is the momentum still there? Have promises been fulfilled? What is currently being done to ensure the safety, comfort, and development of our minority students?

According to CDO Tauriac, “it’s not always fully linear. I definitely would say that the progress is there, and that the support is there for sure. I think that there are real signs of progress and things that we can point to and can say… we really made strides. And along with that there are things where we go, okay, we need to keep pressing forward to make sure that this stays on our radar.”

In August 2021, The Donahue Institute gained a third full time staff member. Alanis Perez (‘21) was hired as the Coordinator for Intercultural Engagement and Commuter Life. James Perry was hired as full-time Associate Director for Equity and Inclusive Initiative, the old position of newly appointed Director of Student Activities Thomas Morgan.

A new course, SOC104: Equity & Intersectionality, is now a requirement for first-year students. With nine sections currently running, this class is co-taught by a mix of full-time faculty and staff.

“For years, students have been really requesting a class that would focus on issues around social identities and around inequities that would really help people to have firm footing, in terms of understanding things related to diversity and equity, how that operates with our societies, how that relates to people’s personal lives, but also their professional lives,” said Tauriac.

Director of Residential Life Scott Lamphere said the course will give a baseline on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) for students, especially those who may not have elected to take the course on their own.

“We’re getting at a cross-section of the campus that, you know, it’s not challenged by choice anymore,” said Lamphere. “Everyone is getting some information, so I think that’s a huge, huge step forward for the community as a whole.”

Education for the community has also come from the Bias Education and Support Team (BEST). Lamphere, a member of the team, said, “for the most part, we’re talking about educating students and trying to create some growth and development.”

According to Lamphere, part of that growth and development is helping students foster healthy relationships so incidents of bias do not go ignored.

“I think it’s having a positive impact. And certainly, BEST is a big part of that,” said Lamphere. “Before there was, you know, a place to report these things, students might not have had an outlet for it to be addressed. And so, you know, it looks kind of ugly when you see all these things that have been reported. But if you think about it, without BEST, some of these things may have never been addressed.”

According to the BEST report from Spring 2021, four of the 22 incident reports occurred in residence halls. In addition, at a Student Government Association (SGA) meeting in September, a group of Resident Assistants (RAs) reported incidents of racial bias and microaggressions from within the Res Life office dating back to last year. According to Lamphere, intense conversations took place between RAs and staff regarding DEI-related issues, but he expects nothing less.

“I sort of see it as, you know, we brought a really diverse group together, we should expect some friction and challenges,” said Lamphere. “I think some of that angst and upset is rightly placed, and then some of it, you know, is a reflection of bringing people together and creating dialogue. We can’t have dialogue without expecting some difficulty to come from that… it’s part of the process of learning and growing, is having difficult conversations… We definitely have folks who have voices and use them. And, you know, that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

According to Lamphere, Case House, the Equity and Intersectionality house, is making connections with the Donahue Institute to ensure students who choose to live in that community have opportunities to be activists.

In Summer 2021, a virtual faculty workshop – “Creating the Inclusive Classroom” – was launched and required for current and future faculty, regardless of full-time status.

Last October, a campus-wide DEI and cultural climate survey was sent to all students and full-time faculty and staff, which is currently under review.

An Accessibility Team has also been formed according to Lamphere, who is disabled himself. “We’re looking at accessibility issues on campus, and how can we make campus more accessible to folks with disabilities, make it a more welcoming place.”

According to Lamphere, gender-neutral housing will no longer be confined to 75 rooms. “It’s a little premature, but we will be having room draw in a couple of weeks, and we’re going to be promoting it, but all of our returning students will have an option to form groups and select into ungendered housing options, and that’s going to exist in our suites, all of our buildings with internal bathrooms,” said Lamphere.

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