University News

Students point to flaws in diversity plan

Administrative fragility, opportunities for staff feedback among topics discussed at UCS forum

By
Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A panel of five administrators fielded students’ criticism and concerns regarding the University’s plan for diversity and inclusion Tuesday night.

“This isn’t to put you on the spot, but it’s to put you on the spot,” said Mae Verano ’17, addressing a panel of five University administrators at an open forum dedicated to the University’s recently released action plan for diversity and inclusion hosted by the Undergraduate Council of Students Tuesday.

Verano’s concerns were about the perceived “fragility” of administrators in dealing with the issues of promoting diversity, one of many criticisms levied by students who assert the plan is non-inclusive and that it is insufficient to meet the challenges of ensuring a diverse community.

The forum stoked heated discussion between students and the five panelists: Provost Richard Locke P’17; Dean of the College Maud Mandel; Vice President for Academic Development, Diversity and Inclusion Liza Cariaga-Lo; Interim Assistant Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Mary Grace Almandrez; and Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin P’12.

Locke opened by touting the plan’s mission to “establish a set of concrete, achievable actions to promote diversity and inclusion and confront issues of racism, power, privilege and inequity … on campus.” The plan includes four categories for targeted intervention — the campus community, investing in people, academic leadership and accountability.

The plan calls upon academic departments to take the lead in implementing changes, and the responsibility for enacting diversity promotion falls largely to them, Locke said. “Every department has to own this.”

Attending students identified a variety of areas they feel deserve more attention.

Candice Ellis ’16 brought up issues of “fear and insecurity” about the plan and its recommended changes voiced by community members who do not belong to a minority group. She cited the presence of a “White Student Union” on campus that perpetrates a “harmful ideology.”

Almandrez stressed the need to identify regressive voices by naming problems of structural oppression for what they are and in turn recognize the “good work” done in response.

“We have to change the conversation,” she said. “People are at different places in their comfort. The challenge is not to cater to the lowest common denominator.”

A key component of addressing the “vulnerability of white students” is including all students in departmental conversations about increasing faculty diversity, Cariaga-Lo said. “We need you to be seen as empowered agents in those departments,” she told the audience.

In response to a question about whether staff in all areas — including facilities management and Dining Services — would be given an opportunity to provide feedback on the plan, Locke said all staff are “encouraged” to raise concerns.

A few students immediately responded with criticism. “Let’s tell the truth here,” said Kobe Pereira ’19.

Only those staff members with Brown email addresses were made aware of that opportunity, said Justice Gaines ’16.

“We do have to recognize that people in facilities and dining don’t have easy access,” Cariaga-Lo said. “We have been in conversations with Human Resources to address this very issue. This is work that we pledge to do.”

Verano called on Locke to alter his statement in light of Pereira’s comments regarding the alleged untruth of administrators’ statements. “The proper response would have been ‘thank you for telling me that’,” she said, meeting wide applause.

“Thank you, that was good feedback,” Locke responded.

The plan’s actions to reform the University’s existing mentoring programs were a target of critique.

Alexandra Sepolen ’16 voiced concerns about the way mentoring programs were presented in the plan as “increasing quantity over quality.”

Belinda Zhou ’17 mentioned that Meiklejohn Peer Advisors were not acknowledged in the plan and that training for Meiklejohn advisors is insufficient to address issues of diversity. “I definitely didn’t feel supported by the leadership in terms of training for navigating difficult conversations,” she said.

“We have a tremendous amount of work to do” to improve the Meiklejohn program, Mandel responded.

International students, including Divya Mehta ’18 and Camila Ruiz Segovia ’18, expressed surprise that the plan did not address this group of students. “There is a perception that all international students are white, rich kids,” Segovia said.

“We’re merged into the category of people of color,” Mehta said. But, she added, “Brown isn’t need-blind for international students.”

Administrators acknowledged the disproportionate role of the Brown Center for Students of Color and independent student activists in educating the community about diversity.

The common mode of communication “should not be the oppressed educating the oppressor,” Almandrez said.

“We want to ensure that individuals who are doing independent work will be justly compensated,” Cariaga-Lo added.

Topics:
  • student

    These students are out of their minds – there are few places on earth they could be farther from oppression. Cries of injustice fall on deaf ears the world over – the only thing these ridiculous echo chambers prove is how completely uneducated and insulated from reality this crowd really is.

    The Brown admins need to start acting like adults and stop being afraid of radical bullies.

    • Anon

      I am so appalled by the way that students speak to administrators. When I was at Brown, this is how my classmates would often talk to me for holding divergent viewpoints (even on small things). The militant attitude has now reached new heights, targeting the very people who carry the torch for diversity and inclusion. Crazy.

      • kizmet paradigm

        ThThey seem to be unaware their level of disrespect shown to everyone is a reinforcement of stereotypes of blacks lacking respect for anything. The I DONT GIVE A F*** attitude is really tiring. Feel especially sorry for the black kids with white friends that just want to get an education. The new black radicals live in a tiny bubble and are not open to getting to know white people. Loved the college administrator that did speak up and said THIS ISNT A DAYCARE!

  • > Candice Ellis ’16 brought up issues of “fear and insecurity” about the plan and its recommended changes voiced by community members who do not belong to a minority group. She cited the presence of a “White Student Union” on campus that perpetrates a “harmful ideology.”

    I haven’t heard anything about this. Does anybody know anything concrete about such a group existing at Brown?

    • anonymous

      There is a group advocating for free expression, and there is a secret online group for open debate: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/427713/underground-brown-university

      One of the comments, made under #browntogether, stated that Reason@Brown is “ludicrous, comical in its offensiveness, and a possibly a precursor to the White Student Union at Brown”. The commentator then goes on to say that “they trivialize the importance of safe spaces for students of color, yet demand safe spaces for their racist and sexist opinions. Again, we see the use of ‘free exchange of ideas’ and ‘censorship’ to mask their true desire freely being racist without cosequence. They invalidate the histories, and lived experiences of students of color at Brown, and they label students of color fighting for equality and safety as bullies”.

      • “Possibly a precursor” is wholly different than “there’s a White Student Union at Brown”.

        I think that commenter is trying a little too hard to divine a single motive for a heterogeneous group of people they don’t know, who are having discussions that they haven’t seen.

      • kizmet paradigm

        Are you saying that white people dont deserve safety from attack by these racist black radicals?

    • anon
      • Wow, that’s awful. I’m hopeful it’s just a hoax in terrible taste.

        • Anon

          If these students and members of this message board were actually researching this issue, they’d realize that these “White Student Unions” are a hoax perpetrated by members of 4Chan. Give me a break guys.

        • kizmet paradigm

          Why do you hate white people? Nobody deserves to be attacked as RACIST white supremists like the Stanford library incident. Which was the most RACIST thing I have ever seen. Imagine if it were the other way around!

  • Tehy

    social justice is the true cancer

    despite not having the grades, they go to top rank universities, then they just complain all day. I wish I were black – i’d get into Brown, ignore silly comments, get a great job from the degree and live my life

  • I am screaming

    I’m a student who went to the lecture, and I didn’t think that any portion of the forum was “heated”. I just got the impression that students had questions and concerns that they presented just like they would at any other University event, and administrators subsequently responded and exchanged ideas. Yes, students have access to many things that others do not, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with students wanting to further improve upon the resources that are provided on campus. The article also assumes that the framework that students of color use to ask about University initiatives is monolithic when it’s not… BlogDailyHerad and Bluestockings did a much better job at covering this story. The Herald only tells part of the story but not all of it.

    • I am screaming

      I also feel like people are jumping onto the “students are ungrateful” and “we hate social justice warriors” national media hype, and it takes away from objectively engaging with the issues that pop up on campus. Fact is that many students stated in this year’s Fall Poll released by UCS that resources related to mentorship, advising and addressing campus climate were lacking and weren’t responding to student need appropriately. Social justice warrior or not, those are objective problems that have been documented.

      • kizmet paradigm

        What problems? A free education paid by whites taxes? Lower standards of admission for blacks? Colleges bend over backwards for black students and it means nothing to them. They are the most disrespectful rude unappreciative spoiled children on campuses.

    • kizmet paradigm

      Yea nothing says civil debate like calling every white person an evil white supremist and DEMANDING what they want. Angry racist mobs of black people shouting anyone down that dare challenge their simplistic narrative is creating more enemies and sewing hatred on campuses nationwide.