Response to Student Demands from SDCT Leadership
Three of you came forward with demands for change regarding the Black student experience in SDCT. Thank you for speaking up and for holding us accountable. We have failed you through structures and policies and behaviors that we are committed to changing. Below, we address each of the six demands in your letter.
We also want to thank you for meeting with us on June 30th to begin a dialog about each of these demands and more. We’re continuing to work with the college and university on these challenges, and we have the support of the Dean’s office and the Fine Arts Diversity Council for the following first steps:
1. Designated scholarships and art kit stipends for Black students
As you state in your letter, the tools and equipment for much of our work can be extraordinarily expensive, and we agree that this expense should never be a barrier for any student’s success. While the University policy prohibits creating scholarships for students of any particular race, ethnicity, religion or gender, we will prioritize supporting students with financial need.
We commit to:
- An audit of current equipment/material/software requirements for students with an eye to reducing costs across the board. If we are unable to reduce costs, we will look to subsidize those costs through other means.
- Clarifying these costs in our communication materials with students up front and along the way. We feel that these costs are all the more difficult when they come as a surprise.
- Using estimated total expenses as a tool for fundraising specifically for the purpose of reducing the financial burden for students.
- More vigorously eliciting in-kind donations from companies who produce the equipment and software we require. Companies who will benefit from hiring our graduates should be particularly interested in supporting our students.
- Exploring all avenues of fundraising for students with financial need.
2. Create a Fine Arts + SDCT Diversity Report and host quarterly Town Halls to provide updates & receive feedback
The college will develop a diversity and inclusion status report on an annual basis, which will include data specific to SDCT. We commit to creating the report annually since the relevant data only becomes available on a yearly cycle. You have asked for the report to reflect the following:
- Percentage of Black students in Fine Arts (additionally broken up by majors)
- The number of Black students accepted into Fine Arts + SDCT
- The number of Black faculty and staff in Fine Arts + SDCT
- Retention of Black students in Fine Arts + SDCT
- Graduation rates of Black students in Fine Arts + SDCT
To the greatest extent that this data is available and within our legal bounds to report, we will report it. Our commitment is to devote great effort and resources to increase the numbers above each year.
Additionally, we feel an SDCT Diversity Report should include the following items as well as university statistics (but may well include more):
- Number/percentage of BIPOC applicants to our programs
- Number/percentage of low-income applicants to our programs
- Number/percentage of first-generation applicants to our programs
- Number/percentage of BIPOC applicants to jobs
- Individual changes to individual syllabi/course plans that support anti-racist pedagogy
- Number/percentage of visiting lecturers/workshop leaders who represent marginalized groups
- Implementation of mandatory training in anti-racism and inclusive pedagogy for all faculty and staff
- Campus safety updates (as raised in your letter) and other experiential factors that may impact Black students or students of other marginalized groups disproportionately
We commit to publishing the first version of the report as soon as the data is made available to us.
3. Hire Black faculty, administrators, and advisors
While this goal has been at the forefront of recent searches, we have failed to meet it. In all future hires we commit to:
- Setting a target minimum percentage of applications from BIPOC, in consultation with the Fine Arts Diversity Council. If the percentage is not met, we will continue the search or declare a failed search.
- Rethinking job descriptions so roles might be more broadly cast to include a more diverse pool, again in consultation with FADC or another consultative body.
Because hiring in higher education has especially long timelines, we further commit, in the meantime, to asking individual faculty to report on the number/percentage of guest critics and lecturers of color with a minimum threshold agreed upon in advance and reported in the SDCT Diversity Report (above).
4. Expand outreach for prospective Black students
This is the only way to substantively change the numbers in our student body. To support this, we commit to:
- Examining and changing the framing of our current applications to be more broadly welcoming and accessible to all. This includes eliminating the requirement of a traditional portfolio for design, which is outdated, pretentious and exclusionary.
- Emphasizing recruitment activities in high schools and communities with a high percentage of Black students and other students of color.
- Increasing the number and percentage of Black applicants to our program every year.
5. Support fine art students in their personal endeavors
In your letter, you specify poor racial representation from companies who visit SDCT for recruitment (career fair type events), limited conference attendance for Black students due to financial barriers, and a lack of racially representative guest speakers. We agree that these touch points with professionals outside of SDCT are critical to our students’ futures, and we have not done nearly enough to ensure that Black students see Black professionals in the field. To support this demand, we commit to:
- Explicitly and consistently requesting that companies who come to industry events at SDCT send BIPOC.
- Requiring a baseline percentage of guest lecturers be BIPOC (percentage to be determined).
- Continuing to sponsor students with financial need in professional development activities. There is designated support for this in our budget, but there has likely not been wide enough awareness of the availability. We commit to developing a more transparent process for accessing these funds.
6. Promote allyship and anti-racism within the Fine Arts/SDCT community
Starting this year (2020-2021), we will require mandatory participation in anti-racism training for all SDCT faculty and staff. We are currently researching modules that are interactive, in-person, and already proven/tested. All faculty and staff in SDCT will be required to report the dates of their training in their annual performance reviews for the coming year, and we are already working to implement a tracking system for participation.
For students, we commit to researching how other units are handling anti-racism training, including at the highest level of the University. We commit to implementing the most progressive version possible. Mandatory student training is somewhat out of our control, but we can commit to offering optional training to all SDCT students. We commit to research options and to being aggressive with our timeline for implementing this.
In conclusion, we want to emphasize that the bullets above are important first steps, but are not a checklist that easily leads us to racial equity in SDCT. We know that, and we will need to take many, many more steps and have countless more difficult conversations.
This is by no means comprehensive. We know that we have to assertively change our programs and syllabi to include a much broader definition of our fields, which have been dominated by a White point of view. We commit to making those changes.
We are committed to sustaining the effort needed to make positive changes moving forward. We will continue a dialog and keep reporting out. We believe in you, and we support you.
Assistant Dean, School of Design and Creative Technologies
Chair, Department of Design
Chair, Department of Arts and Entertainment Technologies