College Pledges to Hire Professors Based on Skin Color, Mandates Social-Justice Workshops

Toni Airaksinen, The College Fix, February 3, 2017

A women’s college is planning to hire new professors based on the color of their skin because of the “demonstrated benefits” of nonwhite faculty.

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After a year of deliberation, the Barnard College Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion released a set of draft recommendations last week with the aim of improving “representation, inclusion, and social justice” in the classroom and on campus.

Beyond hiring a new C-level official to oversee diversity efforts, the recommendations include mandatory social justice workshops for all community members and extra academic support specifically for racial minorities.

The effort is so expensive that Barnard, which is affiliated with Columbia University, will have to launch a new fundraising campaign to pull it off, as the recommendations acknowledge.

The task force was created to “increase the representation of students, faculty, and staff from historically underrepresented and socially distinctive backgrounds” and to “create a campus-wide culture and commitment that values diversity.”

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Required workshops on “inclusion and equity” for students, faculty, administrators and staff will “focus on developing cultural competence with respect to race, ethnicity, gender, class, disability, sexuality, religion, and intersectionality.”

This will “create a shared understanding of the distinctive challenges facing … historically underrepresented groups,” according to the document. It’s not clear how Barnard plans to enforce workshop attendance; the task force only says everyone “will be expected to participate.”

It also wants to create two annual campuswide events “dedicated to diversity activities” that are “accessible to all members of the community.”

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A big part of the recommendations is new personnel: Barnard plans to institute affirmative action hiring for professors, adding “10 new faculty members from underrepresented groups in 5 years.”

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Another personnel recommendation is creating and hiring for the new position of chief diversity officer, which is described more as a coordinator of existing diversity resources. A new Diversity Council will advise the chief, who will “re-conceptualize diversity and inclusion as a strength/priority,” it says.

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A newly funded “Center for Academic Success and Excellence” would extend the work of an office that focuses on “students of color, first generation and low-income students,” though anecdotally the office serves almost exclusively people of color.

The plan is set to be implemented by 2020. To pay for it, the task force says Barnard will have to “prioritize” the plan in what’s left of its capital campaign “and launch a next stage targeted fundraising effort.”

According to the Columbia Daily Spectator, the capital campaign has raised 70 percent of its $400 million goal so far.

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Last semester, Barnard announced the creation of a $20,000 fund for student-created diversity initiatives, and the student life office regularly hosts events intended for students of color and LGBTQ students.

It also has a social justice-and-leadership workshop series, Barnard BLUE; a “resource room” with an “extensive social justice library, hot water for tea, comfortable furniture for reflection, and chalk boards for community brainstorming”; and an activism-focused “Social Justice House.”

 

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