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Release of Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion – An Action Plan For Brown University

 “There never were in the world two opinions alike, any more than two hairs or two grains, a universal quality is diversity.” Michel De Montaigne

Nature itself is a diverse phenomenon.  There is diversity in everything; even the water that flows into the same river can be of two types. Human beings are no exception to this phenomenon. They may have same physical structure, and all but their features vary to a great extent. These differences define nations. Diversity doesn’t end at the physical qualities of the person; it’s a great concept. Diversity has further classifications i.e. racial diversity, religious diversity, cultural diversity, geographical diversity, linguistic diversity and the list goes on. The classifications have further sub-classifications.

For centuries, racism has affected the lives of nations; the powerful nations destroyed the less powerful nations. I’m neither saying that the blacks have been oppressed all the time nor am I saying that the whites haven’t ever been oppressed at all. Over time, our world has turned into a competition for survival where everyone is fighting to survive.

We know that America is the most diverse nation in the world; there are people from almost every religious, ethnic, cultural and racial background. Take a ten-minute walk to the nearest park or grocery store and you’ll meet at least one person from another background.

Just as there are good things about diversity, so are there bad things one of which is racism. America suffers from this issue in almost every field of life, whether it is the education sector or the employment sector. The need of the hour is to understand, that every human being, no matter what their race, religion, language or culture, is a part of this world. They’re humans, each blessed by nature one way or the other.

The need of the hour is to find ways for the inclusion of all people irrespective of their religious, social or cultural backgrounds.

Miller and Katz have defined  inclusion in the following words:

 “Inclusion is a sense of belonging: feeling respected, valued for who you are; feeling a level of supportive energy and commitment from others so that you can do your best work.”

Release of the Inclusion Action Plan

In the words of Maya Angelou,

“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.”

Recently a working draft titled “Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion: An Action Plan for Brown University” was released by the President Christina Paxson. The aim of this draft is to,

 “Promote diversity and inclusion and confront the issues of racism, power, privilege, inequity and injustice that are part of the Brown experience for so many members of our campus.”

The draft opens with the following message,

“Brown’s pursuit of a fully diverse and inclusive community will define us for generations to come. The draft document Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion: An Action Plan for Brown University outlines a concrete set of actions to promote diversity and inclusion and confront the issues of racism, power, privilege, inequity and injustice that are part of the Brown experience for so many members of our campus. This plan is intentionally presented as a working document because the input of our students, faculty and staff is of vital importance for establishing a set of achievable actions to build a better Brown. An online feedback form will be open until December 4, 2015, to gather your feedback. After that date, we will review the responses and make modifications to the plan that take into account the community’s input and careful consideration of how any new recommendations might be implemented. We will release the final plan by the end of the semester.”

This Inclusion Action Plan contains data about how the University will deal with the issues of racism, injustice, and power. It is worth $100 million.

According to the draft:

“To implement this Action Plan, the University anticipates committing an investment in excess $100 Million over the next ten years.”

The University has mentioned live measures to be taken against all the diversity issues under four heads:

  • Campus Community: Creating inclusive learning environments
  • Investing in People: Building and supporting a diverse community
  • Academic Leadership: Creating Pathways for knowledge and success
  • Accountability

However, the draft is silent about the reforms in the Department of Public Safety. In this regard, the draft only says,

“University will “examine the need for additional diversity and sensitivity training for all officers in the Department of Public Safety.”

This Inclusion Action Plan Is a working draft in which there is still space to make changes depending on the feedback of the University Students, Faculty and administration as making such big changes in the University’s policy is a huge step that cannot be taken without the support of the concerned people.

 

Background

The Brown University has a legacy of racism and other injustice issues on the basis of diversity. It is said that right before the draft was released; there were whispers about the system’s racist and unjust attitude all over the campus.

Back in October, two columns were published by the Herald containing racially offensive opinions. These articles were criticized and by a number of students and teaching faculty. The editorial board had to apologize for publishing such articles and the teachers and administration department members also condemned it in the comments section of the Herald.

The Native American students not only criticized the two offensive columns but also demanded that the “Fall Weekend” be named “Indigenous People’s Day” as a protest.

There had been issues of the student being treated unjustly and degraded by the university officers too and getting beaten on protesting.

Feedback on the Draft of Inclusion Action Plan

It is said that option of feedback and suggestions was only given to the staff members who had their accounts on the Brown University’s websites. Others were not informed about this option. But as Forbidden Knowledge spreads faster than the speed of light, this news also spread like fire and resultantly, the students started criticizing this plan on almost every social platform as the students also had their concerns about the scheme. They also wanted some modifications in the draft.

International students were also not addressed in the plan that they mentioned on the social media.

From the student’s side, a list of demands was released on December 4.  And a group of students stood in front of the President’s office representing a demonstration they called “Day of Reclamation.”

12 faculty members of the ‘tenure stream’ released a modified version of the draft and named it as the “5 Percent Plan.”

So far, the draft has been criticized by the students and some teachers too. But I think this is a real step to a better and brighter future. To me, racism is a very primitive and conservative word. It shouldn’t belong anywhere in the modern world.