The Brown University Community Council met Tuesday afternoon for the first time this semester to discuss new projects and receive updates on major University affairs, including the reaccreditation process and progress on the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.
Deputy Provost Joseph Meisel began the meeting by presenting information on the reaccreditation process, which the University began over the summer, The Herald previously reported. Meisel summarized the steps of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation process, including who the accreditors are, the value of the process and the visiting team that will assess the University in spring 2018. Meisel emphasized that it will be easier to compile information for the report because there are a lot of pre-existing committees to work with.
Kurt Teichert, senior lecturer in environmental studies, noted that most faculty members became aware of the accreditation process through new required syllabi changes. This semester, faculty members were asked to include on their syllabi the number of hours students should expect to invest in a given course. Teichert asked how those credit hours related to students on work-study or those who work multiple jobs alongside their full-time school work.
Meisel explained that the new protocol is meant to provide standardization across accredited universities. The change stems from the U.S. Department of Education, Meisel added, and the idea is to ensure “integrity in the award of academic credit” — in other words, to ensure students are earning the credit value assigned to each class.
“How that squares with realities of student life is not part of what is being contemplated by the accrediting institutions,” Meisel added. The University is required to present credit hours, but students are expected to manage their time accordingly.
The meeting then turned to a progress report on the DIAP, presented by Provost Richard Locke P’17 and Vice President for Academic Development and Diversity and Inclusion Liza Cariaga-Lo.
Locke began by recounting the review process of departmental DIAPs, which occurred this past summer. The Office of the Provost and the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion reviewed each departmental DIAP and provided feedback on a case-by-case basis.
Locke said the offices “did not come up with some sort of formula” to judge the departmental DIAPs across the board, but rather, they recognized that “different departments have different realities.”
“To my very pleasant surprise, the vast majority of these plans were very well done,” he added.
Common among the successful plans were strong ties between the larger issues of diversity and inclusion and the personal departmental plans through curriculum, faculty hiring and student resources, Locke said. Successful plans also included evidence of broad-based participation in crafting the plan, a clear timeline of action, a system for accountability and an investment in leveraging available expertise, he added.
Weaker plans relied too heavily on University resources, were too ambitious without realistic implementation strategies and had little evidence of broad departmental participation in the development, Locke said. The revised plans are now available on the DIAP website.
Locke emphasized that by requiring plans from departments, centers and administrative offices on campus, “we will slowly but surely change our culture” on campus.
Likewise, Cariaga-Lo emphasized the building of community within departments and centers through the process of forming these plans. While the departmental DIAPs provide accountability on a departmental level, Cariaga-Lo also noted that the accountability body for the entire university is the Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Board, which meets every few weeks to hear from different constituencies about the progress of the plan.
DIOB is preparing its first annual report to be released in February, she added.
Alongside accountability, Cariaga-Lo focused on capacity building in terms of resources, opportunities and programs to address the ambitious goals put forth by the plan. DIAP plans include doubling faculty members from historically underrepresented groups in five to seven years, increasing mentoring opportunities among students, staff members and faculty members, innovating curriculum, advancing professional pipelines, assessing campus climate and creating opportunities for professional development and training. Therefore, this massive body of work requires increased attention from all campus community members, Cariaga-Lo said.
“At the heart of this work is the idea that this cannot just be owned by a few administrators,” she said. “This is collective work that we do as the University.”
With regard to capacity, Teichert recounted his struggles trying to get into the professional development programs on diversity and inclusion offered to faculty members, many of which are capped. Cariaga-Lo noted that the OIDI is attempting to offer weekly training sessions as well as keynote speakers and a staff development day during the spring semester. Brown is also hosting a national diversity summit in March, she said.
The meeting concluded with a presentation about Brown’s new policy to consider students who are undocumented or qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as domestic applicants in admission.
Marisa Quinn, chief of staff to the provost, explained the process that brought this policy to the University and the need for such a policy, emphasizing the student efforts involved. The resulting policy also commits the University to providing more deliberate resources for undocumented and DACA-status students, she added.
Silvina Hernandez ’17 and Renata Mauriz ’17.5 are members of the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition and initially reached out to the Office of the Provost to discuss issues of undocumented students last spring.
“I’m coming to this from a very personal take. I’m a DACA(-status) student, so this is close to my heart,” Mauriz said.
Mauriz noted that policies like these are impermanent given that DACA itself is impermanent — the policy is dependent on who is president, she said. To help mitigate these challenges, Mauriz said the University should look into how to support undocumented and DACA-status students after they graduate, given that many struggle to find work.
Brown also needs to be conscious that most undocumented and DACA-status students start their higher education through community college, and many will not end up at a private university like Brown that will meet their financial aid, she said.
Alexis Rodriguez-Camacho ’18, who was also very involved in the undocumented and DACA-status student admission policy-making process, added, “This policy change is not just a policy change. I want to see this as a culture shift at Brown.”
Linda Welsh, a psychotherapist at Counseling and Psychological Services, asked the panel, “Is there any risk to students for revealing that they’re undocumented? How can we protect them?”
Hernandez noted that her team had the same question and that further research needed to be done to determine how protected students are at private colleges.
Locke also noted that the students brought to the University’s attention its ability “to help move students from undocumented to DACA status so they are protected during the duration of their education.”
BUCC meetings are held monthly in the Kasper Multipurpose Room.
Correction: A previous version of this article referred to the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition as the Brown Human Rights Coalition. The Herald regrets the error.