Undoing Racism Collective Discusses Training Programs

Pictured above, the training programs are led from the Dorothy Day Center of Service and Justice. (JASON BOIT/OBSERVER ARCHIVES)

Pictured above, the training programs are led from the Dorothy Day Center of Service and Justice. (JASON BOIT/OBSERVER ARCHIVES)


Following the bias incidents and calls for increased diversity at Fordham in the fall semester, the Undoing Racism Collective, an organization of students, faculty, administrators and staff that formed in the wake of Ferguson in 2014, held a cross-campus anti-racist training strategy session on Feb. 11. 

Sponsored in partnership with The Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice (DDCSJ), the meeting focused on determining the most effective anti-racist training program for the Fordham community as a whole.  Held on both the Lincoln Center and Rose Hill campuses and connected through Skype, the meeting was facilitated at Lincoln Center by Katheryn Crawford, associate coordinator of service-learning for DDCSJ, and Jamie Saltamachia, assistant director of DDCSJ.

One impetus for the strategy session was a teach-in held by the collective last October to address “the racial injustice that was happening in the Fordham community and outside the Fordham community,” according to Crawford. 

“One of the main things that came out of the teach-in was the idea of training,” Crawford said.   She elaborated that the discussion of training focused on “how do we bring anti-racist training on to campus to really train students, to train faculty to have conversations in the classroom, to train staff and administrators to start to really build with each other a space of training and education.” 

[quote_right]The meeting addressed both the various proposed anti-racist training opportunities as well as myriad topics involving race and culture.[/quote_right]

“And that’s why we’re here today: to really start to strategize as a community the different trainings that are available and how do we bring that and organize that to be on Fordham’s campus,” Crawford continued. 

The meeting addressed both the various proposed anti-racist training opportunities as well as myriad topics involving race and culture.

The strategy session consisted primarily of small group discussions that focused on selecting the most effective training program for Fordham University as a whole.  As part of this discussion, individuals considered having all members of the Fordham community go through the same training. Others, however, proposed that the students, administration, faculty and staff each have their own training sessions tailored specifically to them. 

Participants included both undergraduate and graduate students, administrators, faculty and other members of the Fordham community.  Among them were faculty senators as well as members of the Task Force for Race and Gender Equity and the DDCSJ. 

The proposed training programs were the People’sInstitute for Survival and Beyond’s Undoing Racism Training; Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing and Training’s Introduction to Systematic Racism; and Crossroads’ Understanding and Analyzing Systemic Racism program.  Other unnamed programs identified as “Workshops Tailored to Fordham’s Jesuit/Faith-Based Mission” were also proposed.

Each of these programs, however, costs upwards of $3,000.  When asked about the costs during the meeting, the facilitators said that they wanted the discussion to focus on the “content of the programs” rather than “the restrictions of cost.” They continued that cost would be considered afterwards, once the desired elements for the eventually selected training program to have were determined.

Following the small group session, the meeting reconvened to discuss ideas. While many groups on both campuses said that a training program tailored to Fordham would be the most beneficial, others, such as one Rose Hill student, said that “a tailored training would be at the expense of the whole comprehensive understanding that the Undoing Racism Workshop gives you.”

[quote_left]“It’s not only about a strategy session; it’s also about connecting with each other and building with each other,” Crawford said. [/quote_left]

Another group said that “we thought it was important to have both a broad, simple taster training and introduction to help provide a broad number, particularly of students, with the concepts and ideas of racism as they operate with students and members of the Fordham community.”

“But we also think that simultaneously there needs to be a deeper dive for key decision makers, faculty, staff and leadership at the university, because those are the people who are going to help promote this more broadly and put the resources toward it to really see the institution move along the lines of becoming more anti-racist,” the group continued. 

Other ideas discussed included incorporating experiential learning into the training program, as well as making the training a part of orientation at the beginning of the academic year.

The meeting, however, did not entirely focus on the strategy sessions and included meditation and discussion on culture, as well as poetry by a Rose Hill student. 

“It’s not only about a strategy session; it’s also about connecting with each other and building with each other,” Crawford said. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, written copies of the ideas and comments of the strategy groups were collected to be considered in the selection of an anti-racist training program. 

Speaking on the need for an anti-racist training program at Fordham, another Rose Hill student during the meeting said that “there needs to be more training to encourage and to help people to explore themselves and other people in a safer way because we decided that right now, Fordham is not a safe space.”

The proposed ideas included:

Undoing Racism Training

Organization: People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond

Length: 2.5 day workshop/Fee: approx. $10,000

This training is framed on the central principles of: learning from history (and the systematic racial injustices in US history), analyzing power and the manifestations of racism and recognizing internalized racial inferiority/internalized racial superiority.  The training includes sharing culture among participants and the importance of networking, developing leadership and maintaining accountability in our future organizing work.  Note: This is the prgoram that members of the Undoing Racism collective at Fordham have undertaken, and the language/framework that we have used in our meetings/Teach-In, etc. This workshop is prepared and delivered by the People’s Institute, with minimal input from institutions where the workshop is presented.

Introduction to Systemic Racism

Organization: Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing and Training

Length: six to eight hour workshop/Fee: $3,200 plus the travel expenses for two trainers.

The purpose of this workshop is to introduce stakeholders to the idea that oppression/racism is not a matter of individual prejudice; rather it is a systemic, institutional problem of power. Subsequently, the workshop aims to create the rationale for a structural intervention to dismantle oppression. This workshop is an introduction to Crossroads strategic methodology that assists people in dismantling racism in their institution.  It is designed to assess the interest/appetite for stakeholders in the institution to complete the longer workshop (below). Note: The Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Institution was developed by Crossroads.  Crossroads works with organizations to tailor their workshops to specific institutions. 

Understanding and Analyzing Systemic Racism

Organization: Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing and Training

Length: 2.5-day workshop/Fee: $8,500 plus expenses for two trainers

The aims of this workshop include: Creating a shared language within the institution for talking effectively about systemic racism in society and in the institution.  Analyzing what racism is, how it originates and operates institutionally and culturally and how it impacts identity of individuals.  Engaging a socio-historical exploration of the development of institutional racism in the U.S.  Equipping organizations with a framework for examining organizational culture and moving toward anti-racist transformation of the organization.

Workshops Tailored to Fordham’s Jesuit/Catholic/Faith-Based Mission

There are several organizations and individuals within the Jesuit, Catholic network who offer workshops on anti-racist practices drawing on the specific Jesuit and Catholic elements of our institution. Workshop leaders might include: Pax Christi USA, which has been noted to take a pastoral approach, Alex Milkulich, Ph.D., of Loyola University in New Orleans or local anti-racist organizers in NYC. These workshops could be crafted collaboratively in discussion with these particular organizers.