We are in the midst of a racial justice uprising. This is a moment in time in which there is the opportunity for change, but in which there is also immense pain, pain that is disproportionally and uniquely borne by BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color). We recognize this and as a department leadership team we want to do our part to support an anti-racist agenda. One of the most powerful ways we can do this is through working on ourselves and our department.
As a department, we are committed to creating a climate in which all of our faculty and students can pursue academic excellence. We, the leadership of the department, want to encourage our white faculty, staff and students to take responsibility for transforming the organizations in which we are unfairly privileged.
First, we want to acknowledge that we are open to input and guidance as we deepen our commitment to doing anti-racist work within our department. We want to take tangible steps in which we emphasize specific actions in response, but we recognize that institutional racism is an insidious and complex challenge and one that requires ongoing effort.
Second, we want to foster a culture of compassion and action in which we commit collectively to this work knowing that it will be done imperfectly, and being committed to learning together in a way that does not burden our students, staff and faculty of color.
We want to be a part of the solution emerging in this moment and reaffirm our commitment to racial justice. Here are some of the specific actions we plan to take and the intentions we want to share with you regarding how we want to approach this work going forward:
- We will identify and pursue specific, anti-racist institutionalized changes that support our Black students, staff and faculty, current and future. We will engage in this self-assessment guided by the APA Guidelines on Race and Ethnicity in Psychology and aim to identify and pursue specific actions that advance an anti-racist agenda for our department (a small number of these are explicated below).
- We have been providing a brief introduction to diversity and inclusion (offered by the Diversity and Social Justice Education staff of the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations – OIIR) during our new graduate student orientation. We intend to expand this for ongoing education opportunities throughout the year for graduate students across all program areas.
- We will institutionalize diversity and inclusion training for the instructors of Psychology 100 and begin to do this in other department courses as well (i.e., revisit curriculum, texts, readings and syllabi, support instruction that encourages diversity and inclusion). All department Teaching Assistants will now be required to attend the Racial Justice Allies & Advocates Training offered through OIIR. The Racial Justice Allies and Advocate training (https://oiir.illinois.edu/inthezone) is designed to provide students, faculty, and staff with a core awareness of the structures of racism, its role in interpersonal relationships, and empower allies to elevate the voices of underrepresented populations at the University of Illinois. Trainings are presented as a 1.0 (introductory) and 2.0 (advanced) levels. All participants are strongly encouraged to attend the 1.0 session prior to attending the 2.0 session. In addition, all members of the department will be encouraged to participate in this training and in others organized by OIIR.
- We will work with all instructors and supervisors of instruction to review their syllabi to incorporate the scholarship of people of color. Faculty will now report on updates and changes to syllabi and curriculum as it pertains to diversity and inclusion in their annual reports. [We already have this reporting in our annual reports regarding research and teaching, but we will endeavor to make this reporting more targeted to our specific institutionalized change goals.] We will make incorporating content from diverse scholars an annual topic for discussion in our orientation for junior faculty in which we “workshop” syllabi and make recommendations.
- We will aim to improve faculty mentoring of students of color using multiple support methods (providing resources, information, consultation, and workshops). The department will cover the registration fees for all faculty members ($325) who attend the Five Days for Change program sponsored by the OIIR January 11-15, 2021. Five Days for Change https://oiir.illinois.edu/programs/5-days-for-change is an intensive training program designed to provide university staff members with the opportunity to acquire and strengthen cultural competencies, awareness, and skills. This training will increase the visibility, skill, and effectiveness of allies in the cause of social justice. We will strongly encourage all faculty to participate in these education and consultation opportunities and will reinforce this engagement through program area leadership to encourage maximum participation.
- We will design and execute a climate survey in AY 20/21 focused on diversity and inclusion that is anchored to specific, actionable items that we can use to inform continued organizational change. We will consult individuals with expertise on assessing climate, especially as such assessment relates to diversity and inclusion.
- We will examine data on all students of color in our department to compute attrition levels over the past 10 years across all program areas and to assess, to the extent possible, whether there are any notable trends in attrition (e.g., with regard to advisor, program area).
- To pursue these aims with support, the department will fund a 50% graduate assistantship for a student who is interested in working on and guiding these efforts and supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives in the department. This student will also be provided with opportunities to enhance their knowledge and experience of activities in the other academic settings such as higher administration. This appointment will begin in Fall, 2020. Summer funding is also available for an early start.
- We will create opportunities for our white faculty, staff and students to do their own work on whiteness and to raise their self-awareness about the way they move through the world with privilege (in addition to covering registration fees for the Five Days for Change program (see item 5):
- The Diversity committee will organize reading and affinity groups that are voluntary. We will also be organizing learning opportunities for our faculty and staff on whiteness and privilege specifically as it relates to roles and responsibilities within academe (teaching, mentoring).
- For faculty, we will have at least one of the monthly Faculty Development Workshops dedicated to this topic, on a regular basis, and we will ask campus experts outside of the department to consult or assist with these workshops.
- We will provide small grants to support proposals for change, such as the creation of reading/action groups for our faculty, students and staff of color (self-formed and voluntary (for example, funds could be used for purchasing books or materials, providing food for gatherings if they occur during meal times, hiring hourly students to support the convening of the groups). The department will increase the budget of the Diversity Committee from its current funding of $1000 to $4000 to support these small grants. The Diversity committee will review proposals and administer the funds (likely using a granting process similar to the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities reading groups; see https://www.iprh.illinois.edu/fellowships/reading/index.html).
We recognize that doing anti-racist work within our department is a complex process. We know that we will not do this work perfectly. We hope, however, that everyone in our department participates in anti-racists efforts to make our department a truly inclusive place. We hope, especially, that members of our department with relative privilege will step up to contribute to racial justice – beginning with ourselves in academia – and beyond in our respective communities.
In solidarity, support and action,
Wendy Heller, Department Head
Nicole Allen, Associate Head and Director of Graduate Studies
Mark Aber, Associate Head and Director of Undergraduate Studies
Alejandro Lleras, Assistant Head for Diversity and Inclusion
Monica Fabiani, Assistant Head for Faculty Development
Diane Beck, Assistant Head for Information and Communication
John Hummel, Assistant Head for Infrastructure and Operations
Benjamin Hankin, Director of Clinical Training