College Council Discusses Diversity Training




College Council held their last meeting of the Fall 2016 semester on Dec. 1. The discussion went primarily over the Undergraduate Awards’ introduction to Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) and the specifics of a recommendation to the provost for pedagogical training on race and diversity in the classroom.

To begin, Dean of FCLC Rev. Robert R. Grimes, S.J., addressed upcoming events and the faculty holiday party, honoring Professor Roger Panetta, who is leaving at the end of the semester after involvement in the Fordham community since 1965. He also read aloud the email which University President Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J. sent to the school community that morning, which contained a letter and links to three statements he had signed in solidarity with undocumented students on behalf of the university.

In addition, Grimes brought up the issue that faculty are not carrying out their duties of academic advising. “This is not just piecemeal,” he said. “I have emails in my office that advisors sent out to students saying ‘I’m too busy to meet with you.’ And some of these were mass emails. This is highly problematic.” He pointed out Chapter 3, Section 4:03 of the University Statutes, in which is the requirement of academic counseling and guidance through office hours or appointments, and asked the department heads in attendance to speak with their departments.

Assistant Dean for Seniors Josiane Gregoire, J.D. introduced the room to the Undergraduate Awards program in which Fordham has just joined 244 universities that award work submissions in 25 undergraduate academic disciplines. She said that she was working toward attracting students from honors classes, former summer grant recipients and through the Prestigious Fellowships office. She also urged department heads to work toward getting their students interested.

The majority of the meeting was devoted to proposing a recommendation for diversity training postponed in a previous College Council meeting to wait for the Task Force on Diversity results. Council members debated the merits of training in long sessions or online, made mandatory or voluntary, and whether the focus would be on intersectional diversity or focusing specifically on race.

Dean of Students Keith Eldredge shed light on the required diversity training and civility core program which Resident Assistants and Commuter Freshman Mentors complete annually. He also described the Residential Life staff annual training programs as the strongest and also mentioned the semesterly training in Student Affairs which is not always on diversity.

The council also discussed the Graduate School of Education’s in-house diversity training program for faculty, which is being looked into by Arts and Sciences. Department Chair of Modern Languages and Literatures Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé suggested that a faculty committee be formed with qualified individuals who are already involved in diversity studies to ensure that the training would be appropriate to the needs of the university community.

A debate took place between groups who thought that the training should be mandatory and those who thought that it was an overstep to simply notify faculty members that they must attend. A general consensus was formed around the idea of a multi-pronged approach which would address pedagogy and not only be informative but also conversation-based, in order to personalize the training to the Fordham faculty’s needs.

Some professors like Chair of Department of Communications and Media Studies Gwenyth Jackaway thought that there was a pressing need for methods for faculty to deal with current events’ impact on the classroom, citing the example of distress some students experienced as a result of the presidential election. Others thought that focus was needed on the existing presence of race relations in the classroom, and wanted training on how to make lesson plans tie into students’ real-life racial dynamics.

The final debate was between those who believed that “diversity” training should include all intersectional meanings of the word, including gender, sexuality, race, religious and other social and cultural categories, or whether it should focus primarily on race. Ultimately, Eldredge told the group, the Diversity Task Force completed their study with the explicit charge from McShane to make race the first priority.

Finally, the group voted unanimously to recommend to the Arts and Sciences Council of FCLC for a compulsory pedagogical faculty diversity training program which would deal with diversity, especially race. “It would be a multipronged approach… with the first step, even before a Diversity Officer is named, of a discussion of the two [Diversity Task Force] documents in the classroom and on campus,” Grimes said.

To close the meeting with Continuous University Strategic Planning (CUSP), Grimes announced the formation of a six-person steering committee, which includes individuals both within and outside of the College Council. He then gave a shortened version of his light hearted speech normally delivered to prospective students in order to celebrate recent “remarkable” campus growth.