Social Justice Committee – April 2016 Updates

Curious about what the university-wide Social Justice Committee is up to? Check out the minutes below from their April meeting. Or better yet, sit in on an upcoming meeting! The next meeting is Wednesday, May 25th at 3:00 pm in the Baldwin Rivera Boggs Social Justice Hub (outside rooms 513/514 in the University Center).

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Minutes from The New School Social Justice Committee

4/20/2016

In Attendance: Keisha Davenport-Ramirez, (co-facilitator, Staff co-chair) Paul Marcus (co-facilitator, Faculty co-chair), Cynthia Lawson (Staff), George Fisher (Faculty), Brita Servaes (Staff), Nicholas Allanach (minute-taker, Staff), Ollin Rodriguez-Lopez (Student), Warren Spielberg (Faculty), Kathleen Breidenbach (Staff), Susan Austin (Staff), Gigi Polo (Faculty), Zsusza Feher (Student), Gail Drakes (Dir. of Social Justice Initiatives). Gwendolyn Phoebe Allen (visiting intern), Tim Marshall (Provost), Tamara Oyola Santiago (Staff), Randolph Mulder (Faculty)

Not-Attending: Masoom Moitra (Student co-chair), Onno Dejong (Faculty), Susan Mayer (Faculty), Melissa Guerrero (Student), Jasveen Sarna (Student), Mariana Pizzol (Student), Jasmine Kabera (Student)

Guests: Rachel Francois, Joey Atkins (Student Senate), Julia Rachielle (Student Senate), Jennifer Huh (Staff), Timothy Porter (Board of Trustees)

 

UPDATES

Strategic Leadership – Report Back:

There was no strategic leadership mtg., because two of the co-chairs were unavailable to meet.

Conversation with Special Guest Timothy Porter:

Timothy Porter, who is a member of The New School’s Board of Trustees (BOT) and chair of the BOT’s Diversity Working Group, met with the SJC to discuss the findings and work of the BOT’s Diversity Working Group.

The BOT Diversity Working Group was established in September 2015. The Working Group was created as a result of university concerns regarding student enrollment and retention. The Working Group was tasked with the question: What does ‘diversity’ look like across the university? After some discussion with the BOT President Van Zandt and Timothy Porter decided to form the Diversity Working Group, which has met five times since Sept. and is constituted of Tim Porter, Lilian Wu, Sheila Johnson, Kay Unger, Dominique Bluhdorn, and  Stanley Silverstein (all from BOT), along with Tim Marshall, Tokumbo Shobowale, David Van Zandt, Gail Drakes, Paula Maas, and Donald Resnick.

There is, according to Timothy Porter, ‘good representation of staff and administrators at the highest levels.’

The first step of the working group was to gather data. And to analyze what we look like in relationship to these data?

Diversity Data (Staff) – December 2015

Diversity Data (Faculty) – December 2015

Diversity Data (Students) – December 2015

It should be noted that the development of these data is by no means complete. The data needs to be ongoing. This should be seen as iterative and part of a process.

The BOT Diversity Working Group also met with and heard perspectives of the overall environment at the NS from various stakeholders. For instance, the working group has had discussions with Dir. of Social Justice Initiatives, Gail Drakes, and Chief Enrollment and Success Officer, Donald Resnick, about student experiences and enrollment data.

The Working Group has also considered the experience and perspectives from members of the working group itself.

Timothy Porter shared his own personal experiences teaching and going to school as a lawyer as a black man in the United States.

Timothy Porter indicated that his “Approaches to diversity come from a number of different perspectives.”

Timothy Porter hopes that an ongoing discussion with the SJC will also add to and develop the BOT’s Diversity Working Group.

Mr. Porter claimed, “What we see in the data, overall, is that we’re not doing too bad, in comparison to other universities. Of course, having said that – the bar is pretty low.”

Porter went on to assure us that “Our goals (as a university) should be ambitious goals both as an institution and within our society as a whole.”

The Working Group realizes that “Retention is a major issue of focus.” When considering retention the Working Group has asked whether or not there are appropriate support systems, interactions with faculty, and are we able to meet the demands of all of our students?

Porter admits that, “We fall short in these respects.”

Porter went on to discuss the concern of International Students and whether or not the university maintains a culture of inclusion. The Diversity Working Group wants our students, faculty, and staff to feel like The New School is “a place where people belong” and that “everyone is included.”

Hopefully, the recommendations from the BOT’s Diversity Working Group will leverage the existing efforts the university is already making.

The areas that the working group sees as needing more focus are within the financial aid structure, admissions process, support for Parsons Scholars program. How can we ensure students of color are supported and succeeding here?

Donald Resnick and his team (in Enrollment Management and Student Success) took a look at applications from students of color. A significant number of them we’re not completing their applications. They focused on this data and asked, why?

The 2016 class, there was a significant number of acceptances.

The point – a very simple identification of an issue and applying resources to it, has made a significant beneficial change.

The Working Group has been analyzing data and facts and feels that The New School must continue to seek ways to diversify its faculty.

The New School should focus its efforts on our students of color.

How are we doing in relation to students from the local metropolitan area?

What are we doing to support our international students?

The Working Group hopes to continue to focus on the university environment and to bolster our Social Justice efforts.

How is the university perceived?

How do you build on the experiences of students here?

If you got satisfied students, word gets out and you get more applications.

The environment is crucial.

The Working Group has suggested that the university assess the needs for leadership to have Social Justice as a distinct part of their portfolios. How can ‘diversity’ become a part of the portfolio of senior executives?

 

Timothy Porter discussed with the SJC his role as a former dean of student affairs and the role he played re: diversity on campus.

We are seeking more input because there is more work that needs to be done.

We’re no longer at the beginning stage of this ongoing project.

Mr. Porter opened the table to questions from the group,

 

Question (from Faculty), re: Food and housing security. Member also asked whether economics have been considered alongside race in obtaining these data? Are these two items separate?

A: There is a correlation for students and needs. The BOT had been shocked to learn that there were homeless students sleeping in our buildings.

 

Q (from student): is there a channel, or way to contact you?

A: email me.

 

Q: (from faculty): Re: the application process. Will the working group look at changing the process, or the application process itself?

A: Donald Resnick and his team are looking at the application process and are considering the best ways for how to address these concerns. The admissions team is considering ways to systematize and clarify the application process.

 

Q: (from faculty): Re: concern about economic debt. The NS has a higher debt median.  Can this data be broken down by ethnicity? Black and low-income students have to request more to go to school and thus graduate with more debt. Are we compensating our low-income students with international students who can pay? Are ‘international students’ being broken down into regions and areas, or are we seeing them as a singular body?

A: I don’t understand your point, but I think I can speak to a couple points:

1.) Debt is something the Diversity Working Group is looking at. New York is the most expensive city in the United States to attend college. Thus, folks with lesser means are unable to attend, which is worrisome.

2.) Regarding, international students, The New School has many students from all over the world. These international students also have concerns about inclusion, acceptance, and feeling welcomed as well. Some students from international countries are also trying to adapt to American culture. They are also asking ‘How do I get my voice out?’

The point here is that despite having a large number of international students, these folks also experience problems with inclusion and acceptance.

 

Q: (from student): International students often do not know about the health insurance issue. Should it become the responsibility of the university to inform students about health insurance issues? European students have insurance at home, but while here, they don’t. Oftentimes, these students assume they will just have health insurance, but don’t.

There is also concerns about childcare; especially, childcare for international students with children. Again, this is something that many countries offer its citizens, which the United States does not.

 

Q: Re: admissions and inclusionary processes. Do we over-reward and under-reward some students, in regards to the retention rate? Is there any flexibility for high-need students? Perhaps these students need more grants and scholarships instead of loans, which will just put them into further debt? Do we overlook our students of need?

A (Tim Marshall): Re: financial aid dollars and how it is distributed out. I don’t think we’re excluding high-need students. Oftentimes, in regards to admissions there are a couple models to consider, one is a ‘needs-blind’ approach to admissions, the other is a ‘needs-aware’ approach. Financial Aid is a hugely complex area financial aid. But as far a ‘needs-blind’ vs. ‘needs-aware’, I don’t think there has been a conversation about this. Ultimately, you need to ask yourself ‘How much money is enough money to distribute to a student, or students so they can succeed?’

If folks do want to go in depth, Donald Resnick and/or Carol Kim would be good people to talk to about this issue.

I think we all agree that the worst situation is if students get accepted, but don’t finish with a degree.

 

Q:Is there room for TNS to revamp financial aid packaging policies so to avoid over-rewarding the low need (financial aid) applicants with scholarships because it takes away from highly competitive applicants who pose a high financial aid?

Supporting Argument Against this practice:

I understand there is a blind-need policy in undergraduate, but it has been said in an open forum in a Brown Bag lunch for Admissions that the practice of over-rewarding low-need students is common, so to secure wealthy student enrollment in hopes they will add to future endowment.

This practice, while common among universities, it NOT inline with the legacy of this school.

TNS should be a part of the Coalition for College Access along with Harvard, Brown, Cornell, John Hopkins, Columbia, American University, William and Mary, Princeton, UPenn, Purdue, etc.

http://www.coalitionforcollegeaccess.org/members.html

 

This practice excludes certain perspectives, where it devalues voices of low-socioeconomic status. This absence over time will create a homogenous student body and this will likely reduce innovation due to a lack of diverse perspective and knowledge.

A: —

 

Q: (from student): re: there not being enough faculty of color; moreover these faculty of color need to be better supported. Why are there no departments of Africana studies? Latino Studies? Native American studies?

A: —

 

Q: (from student) re: the Financial Aid situation. Oftentimes, students are being forced to make a choice between having health insurance and paying for school. Is there any policy in place, for Financial Aid? How do you allocate financial resources?

Tim Marshall: I’m not up to speed on this. And I would suggest having a more thorough conversation with Lisa Shaheen, Senior Director of Financial Aid.

Keisha: Lisa Shaheen met with the SJC. We also hope that the SJC can work more with Financial Aid on some of these issues. We all realize that more needs to be done. How can our Financial Aid office transition to a place that is more supportive?

Tim Marshall: You shouldn’t leave here with the impression that there is no policy in place. I would suggest making an appointment with Financial Aid and talking with them about their policies.

Keisha: need and need blind financial aid considerations tend to adhere to Undergrad students. Ultimately, we would like to work more with financial aid so that there is more clarity and students know what they’re getting into.

Financial aid is different for each student – especially among international students vs. local students.

 

Paul: how can we help our students economically? Is there a way for alumni gifts to help current students? When we help our students, these efforts come back to us in good ways.

 

Q: / Comment: (from Student) re: international vs/ local students. International students often feel like outsiders and are often trying to find ways of expressing themselves. Oftentimes those who were born here are unaware of alternative viewpoints.

Q: / Comment: (from Staff) re: Health insurance. We know that there are a lot of grad students who have waived the health insurance fee. In the new academic year (under the affordable care act), all students will have to prove they have health insurance coverage in order to be compliant with federal and state laws.

 

Announcement:

The Food Pantry is open and there will be an open house on Friday. The food pantry has been a result of a lot of work from members of the community.

It will run through the summer.

Q: (from staff) Re: data. Has the BOT Diversity Working Group looked at these data through hierarchical relationships? What is the racial breakdown of who is working where? Ultimately, who are the decision makers?

It would also make sense for all staff to have training re: social justice issues.

A: (Timothy Porter): the working group that Gail Drakes is chairing is looking at these hierarchical relationships* for the next iteration of these data. In fact, the next step (which will be done by an external agency) should be complete by Fall ‘16.

*(The task force is looking into options for training the senior leadership, with an eye to options for all staff. It is NOT addressing the “hierarchical relationships” issue. )

 

Gail: Much of this conversation highlights the desire to know more, have more access to information.. Additional transparency is fundamental. There are a lot of people within the TNS community who are invested in this work whom the university leadership could see as a partner in creating solutions. I would also like to see data that includes private loans and also tracks parent plus loans so as to get a real sense of the debt-load of each student and their family as a whole.

Comment (from staff): data re: specific areas, or clustering.

Comment (from faculty): it is not only important to be a ‘diverse’ school, but to celebrate this diversity. We should have places to celebrate our unique culture.

We need to find ways to communicate with each other and celebrate our common traits. We should celebrate our differences.

Keisha: Are these data going to be shared with the community?

A: Data has been shared (from the BOT diversity working group) and is public, but is a work in progress.

 

Timothy: the BOT Diversity Working Group will share more information with the full BOT and after that, with the rest of the university community.  Items will be implemented as we learn more.

 

Keisha: this ongoing work illustrates a shared understanding and respect for Social Justice initiatives around the university. These initiatives are also consistent with greater transparency.

Let’s share the information we learn across the university. There are many voices here and many who want to contribute to these social justice efforts.

Everyone should feel encouraged and empowered to do social justice work and training. We would like to see social justice become a part of the culture here. Everyone should be engaged in this work. This work needs to be more broad, across the university.

We would like to see the SJI office more resourced.

As we discuss restructuring, SJ should be a part of this work.

 

Gail: one of the findings from the BOT diversity working group conversation is that there needs to be accountability amongst leadership.

Comment (from staff): A staff member of the SJC, who recently attended the White Privilege Conference, brings up the point that ‘diversity’ as nomenclature is not as powerful as the terms ‘racial justice’ or ‘anti-racist’, in fact, at the national level people are moving away from the term ‘diversity’.

Staff member also reminds the committee that there will be Safe Zone trainings and Micro-Aggression workshops happening in the future. Staff member invites the BOT to attend an upcoming training so as to ensure all levels of the university share a common set of values.

Timothy: there are a number of members of the BOT that want to understand these substantive issues and to find viable solutions to concerns students are having. The number of issues can be interesting to keep up with. I am focused more on the substantive issues instead of the terms, which are subject to change.

We are talking about the present effects of racial discrimination and asking how to look at this through the lenses of advantage vs. disadvantage?

Despite what leads folks to a different conclusion, there are incremental changes in ways people think about these issues. In comparison to where we were, some changes in mindsets have occurred.

Comment (from faculty): A faculty member mentions that the minutes, which are posted on the SJ blog, are an opportunity for the SJC to show our relation to other areas and offices.

Student guest: indicates he sees a huge effort at this school around these efforts; however, he thinks there should be “sensitivity about communicating white privilege so that it doesn’t isolate white people.” This guest feels “privilege can have an aggressive connotation.” Moreover, that “Students see social justice as a quest. If you want to have a discussion, let’s have it, but let’s not shut each other down.”

Timothy: I think we should strive to be civil in all our communications.

Group discusses the term ‘privilege’ more as it applies to systematic racism.

Student makes a point that “International Students are vital. However, we should create pathways that are more open and diverse. There are students that could thrive here, but are not aware of the opportunities available. Why are there such a small number of local students from the area?

A student asks about the cost-benefit ratio in relation to TAP.

Gigi: example of working with local students as an example of ways to gain more access to students who are here.

 

Caregivers Group:

The caregivers group is planning to host a chain of events in the Fall.

What would the financial help be?

Keisha: make a proposal for the committee to consider.

 

Communications:

SJC reviewed and approved a logo / branding campaign to get the word out about the SJC.

There was also a proposal to purchase a button-maker for next year.

There will, hopefully, be a May mtg.  (Keisha create a where to meet poll)

Julia (Student Senate guest): is hoping to work more with the SJC and the USS. Hoping to better cultivate relationships. (Julia can attend future meetings, but will need to arrive at 4 p.m.)

Keisha: in our next meeting we should define the working goals for the SJC next year.  Close out the year. What have we prioritized? There is also room for new membership.

Financial Aid is something that the SJC would like to focus on.

Food and Housing Security.

Staff: between the prior academic year and the current year. Nominations process gets people excited to bring their goals, but those might clash with those already established.

Make the goals for next year clearly communicated within the nominations process.

Faculty member proposes to finish the by-laws.

Who might be on the SJC next year?

Phoebe plans to host a Social Justice lunch mtg. to better develop connections amongst the SJC and various senates.

Faculty member mentioned, “we’re starting to get a sense of how the SJC can function. We’re getting a better sense of what the connections are with the SJC and the SJI office. I think the work we can do in establishing more connections, the better.”

 

Tim Marshall: the caregivers working group is coming up in a lot of different areas. The issue about childcare and parental leaves. I do not know if this committee wants to be orchestrating these efforts, or not?

Is it the function of the SJC or the SJI to make these intersections?

I’m wondering if there are people within the university’s leadership, who might want to serve on the SJC? For example, there might be someone within Financial Aid that might be better to attend these meetings. I think it would be very helpful for senior leadership to be informed about this and for the SJC to invite senior leadership to future meetings.

 

food and housing security task force / update:

Tracy Robin sent goals/proposals to DVZ, Donald Resnick/ Michelle Relyea. re: –

1.)  Micro-grants

2.)  Temporary emergency housing on campus

3.)  Rental housing info. Resources for on and off campus rental info. (tenants’ rights)

Faculty / Student rental info. resources.

Trying to build a network of resources.

Move in a direction that has some ability to enact change. We need to agree on some issues to direct our efforts.

We should also leave some flexibility for issues that arise that we will need to address.

The SJC is evolving.

There is value in looking at new ways of doing things, while also considering and building on the past.