Date: February 26, 2015
To: Members of the MICA Community
- Samuel Hoi, President
- Neil Meyerhoff, Chair, Board of Trustees
Re: Public Response to BSU Open Letter
Dear MICA community,
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, the vice presidents and ourselves, we write to provide a public response to the Black Student Union (BSU) Open Letter that was delivered to the administration on December 2, 2014. This response also addresses a similarly-spirited letter from the 2015 class of the MFA in Community Arts program (MFACA), which was written in solidarity with the BSU and the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Development. Both
You will find at the end of this letter a list of signatures from every member of the Board of Trustees, the president, and vice presidents to demonstrate our unanimous agreement to the content herein. In addition, the faculty at the Full Faculty Meeting on January 16, 2015, as well as the staff at the General Staff Meeting on February 11, 2015, pledged their full participation in the upcoming campus dialogue on diversity, inclusion
Continuing our spirit of collaboration, we have shared a draft of this public response with the leaders of BSU and received in advance their endorsement. Hence, this letter may be viewed as an action roadmap forward rather than a back-and-forth communication between the administration and BSU.
The BSU Open Letter presents nine requests related to the enhancement of diversity efforts on campus in the interest of supporting the welfare, safety
Three themes underpin the nine requests. It is generally more productive to address the themes, although
Theme #1: Safety, Protection, and Transparency
Requests I, II, III
I & II Transparency around investigations of incidents involving racial bias incidents, inclusive of clear, timely, and further detailed reports to
Administrative discussions to increase transparency of MICA's campus safety efforts and communication of incidents pre-date the Leake Hall hate speech incident*. To develop a process that ensures input and support from the campus community, a Community Safety Review Group will be created in the near future and include faculty, staff, and student members, led by a vice president. Meeting quarterly, this group will be charged to review practices related to incident reporting, investigations, community education, and other related matters. The group will share its assessment with the president and vice presidents regarding the effectiveness of current practices and recommendations for improvement.
In addition, the following specific actions will take place:
Effectively immediately, incidents involving threats of racial bias will now be reported to the MICA community through the existing "Timely Warning System". This means a
Campus Safety will develop a specific tracking system for racial bias incidents that will be maintained publicly alongside MICA's current Campus Safety reporting policies and regulations.
Starting with the 2015-2016 academic year, a Racial/Bias Annual Crime Report will be generated annually for review by the Community Safety Review Group, vice presidents
*The BSU Open Letter asks why this incident was called a "crime with racial bias" versus a "hate crime." MICA follows the legal and judicial definitions of crimes, and the elements of the Leake Hall hate speech incident belong to the category of crimes with racial bias. This explanation was offered at various campus meetings after the incident.
III. Administration's review of the training resources of the MICA Campus Safety department to increase, and an advisory committee of students, faculty
and staff from multicultural backgrounds for Campus Safety
Before the end of this academic year, MICA will engage third-party experts to conduct a thorough organizational review and assessment of MICA's Campus Safety program. The external experts will have deep knowledge of higher education campus safety and will conduct conversations with students, faculty, general staff, and safety officers. This review will be comprehensive, and as such will include considerations on training and investigation protocols.
This assessment will yield a report to President Hoi and Vice President for Operations Mike Molla, who will in turn share key points of this report with the campus community. Recommendations that can be acted upon immediately will be undertaken; in consultation with the Community Safety Review Group noted above, a
IV. Clear and concise plan of action to ensure
protection of students of color on campus
Although no institution can realistically guarantee
Related to this theme but not articulated as a numbered request, the BSU Open Letter demands that the Leake Hall hate speech vandal(s) be held accountable. We share this desire. Unfortunately, despite all
Theme #2: Campus Community Diversity Training
Request VI (The part regarding mandatory faculty diversity training) and VII (Training for students, faculty, staff, and safety personnel regarding race) pertain to this theme.
Instead of rushing to agree to mandatory diversity training of the campus community, we strongly believe in and advocate for the primacy of a collaborative and widely participatory campus dialogue. Training is best grounded first by understanding and a collective commitment. As the MICA community engages in a campus dialogue as proposed in the next section, we will pinpoint our needs and identify best practices to inform our action steps for change. There is no question that a campus shift towards authentic diversity is our goal, and we will engage in the right process to determine if and how diversity training should be included.
Theme #3: Increase in Campus Diversity and Support for Diversity
Requests V (Move beyond "conceptualized" diversity plan towards action-oriented goals that are systemic and curricular), VI-A (The part regarding recruitment of faculty of color), VIII (Increased funding to support offices and programs for diversity, inclusion and globalization), and IX (Conversations on plans to increase student diversity of all forms, in particular among students of colors) pertain to this theme.
The commitment to this theme is to arrive at action goals by the end of May 2016 that are systemic, inclusive of campus community recruitment and curricular efforts, and that lead to transformative and sustained change. The path to successful identification of such goals is an open, honest and in-depth campus dialogue about diversity, inclusion, equity, and globalization that will be planned for and unfold over the 2015-2016 academic year. The outcome will be a concrete plan to support campus diversity in a comprehensive and powerful manner. This is the right approach for sustainable change because we must first explore among ourselves how diversity is understood and defined before we have a real chance to integrate it into our identity, culture, and practice. Such a definition does not yet exist at MICA. Also, since diversity is an ever-evolving concept and increasingly complex in a global world, our best hope to harness its power is to master a campus capacity for frank yet civil exchange that can manage sometimes difficult conversations for mutual understanding, respect and support.
The action timeline is as follows: From March through mid-May 2015, the existing Power/Equity Forum, composed of multiple constituencies on campus and led by a core group of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff from the offices of Academic Services, Community Engagement, Diversity and Intercultural Development, Graduate Studies and Student Affairs will work together to develop a key set of recommendations for the 2015-2016 campus-wide dialogue on diversity, inclusion, equity, and globalization. The recommendations may include third-party consultancy or facilitation. During the summer, the administration, under the leadership of the President's Office, will study the recommendations and prepare for a year-long campus process to begin in September. From September 2015 through April 2016, the entire campus community, led by the President and involving the Trustees, will engage in that process and dialogue. The end product in May 2016 is a college-wide, multi-year plan to achieve a more equitable, diverse, and reflective place of learning at MICA. In the context of our educational mission, we seek to deploy diversity as a catalyst for creativity, educational excellence, and responsible engagement.
Our work ahead will consider the interest of all students without losing sight of the specific reality and needs of students of color and within that group, the African-American students. The heartfelt pledges from Trustees, faculty, staff