Anti-Racism Task Force enacts eight changes, including more bias training

After months of the Anti-Racism Task Force meeting, Chancellor Randy Pembrook recently announced they have chosen to implement eight of the most essential recommendations from the group.

 The eight recommendations stretch across four categories: communication, access and success, curriculum and faculty and staff, and will be implemented by the end of the year.

According to Pembrook, the team had 78 recommendations in total, and they chose the eight most important ones. Pembrook said it was crucial that the subcommittees finalized their ideas so the school could get a start on action against racism.  

“What we did was each of the four subcommittees prioritized their top two items from each of the areas. So, what we’re trying to do is make sure at least those eight top priorities are in movement by December,” Pembrook said. 

The first subcommittee of the force focused on communication. The group’s top two recommendations were to improve the relationship between the Edwardsville and East St. Louis campuses of SIUE and to create a communication hub, or  go-to website, in which the East St. Louis campus and its on-campus activities are included.

The East St. Louis Center is an extension of SIUE that houses a Head Start/Early Head Start program, a performing arts center and a charter high school. Its staff typically works with underserved communities. 

Megan Wieser, marketing specialist in media relations for University Marketing and Communications as well as co-chair of the Communication Subcommittee, said they are exploring ideas on how to repair the relationship between the two campuses. 

“We’ve heard through the years that sometimes [The East St. Louis] campus community has felt ostracized from the Edwardsville campus … We talked about perhaps creating a shuttle service from East St. Louis to Edwardsville. We talked about perhaps improving the various aesthetics of that campus,” Wieser said. 

Wieser said they have already started work on improving communications channels. 

“We’ve done just a simple phase one of that. It’s just updating our anti-racism site that we had added, and that’s accessible through the homepage. That was added this summer, but we’ve gone through and tried to create a website that offers easier navigation, and our plans are to expand that,” Wieser said. 

Communication has also come in the form of a recent Q&A between administration members and staff at the East St. Louis campus. In it, staff members were receptive to the ideas from the task force.

The second subcommittee was on student access and success. Their recommendations were simple: increase scholarships and create more financial assistance. According to one of the co-chairs for the subcommittee, Director of Student Opportunities for Academic Results Earleen Patterson, it’s important they offer these opportunities to Black students, given their graduation rates. 

“We were particularly concerned about Black students … We’re talking about the lowest graduation representation — these are Black students, and so we are unapologetically stating that has to change,” Patterson said. 

Patterson also said they hope to provide scholarships for current students as well as new ones.

“This is not just existing at the level of attracting students, in terms of a caveat for admissions, but we’re also looking at how we can support students who are continuing students — students who are currently at our institution and who are prolonging their time to degree because of work,” Patterson said.

The third subcommittee was on curricular and co-curricular experiences. Their two recommendations were mandatory diversity training for faculty, regardless of tenure status, and  diversity and inclusion sessions at student events like Springboard to Success, SIUE’s freshman orientation program. 

Economics and finance instructor Laura Wolff said it was necessary for the curriculum to improve. 

“These are really critical issues facing society. The university’s — part of our mission is to be engaged in the regional news, you know, like what’s going on in our region that is a critical issue. For example, if you’re talking about economics and you’re not mentioning race, there’s something wrong,” Wolff said. 

The fourth subcommittee focused on faculty and staff recruitment, development and retention. Their first recommendation was anti-racism and bias training for both supervisors and evaluators. The second recommendation was to recognize the invisible labor in diversity initiatives, like time invested mentoring, and the work of the committees themselves. 

Director for Equal Opportunity, Access and Title IX Coordination and co-chair of the fourth committee Jamie Ball said along with making sure evaluators are well-trained, they want to make the evaluation process a way to help employees grow.  

“[A] big thing is using the evaluation process as a really intentional way of developing employees. Because it’s not enough to recruit and hire a strong and diverse workforce, we have got to keep them,” Ball said. 

Find out more about the Anti-Racism Task Force on their website. 

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