12. Consciousness Raising for Twenty-First-Century Faculty: Using Lessons from Diversity Flashpoints
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209 12 Consciousness Raising for Twenty-FirstCentury Faculty: Using Lessons from Diversity Flashpoints Alejandro Leguizamo and Jennifer Campbell Given the increased diversification of student communities across college campuses , it is imperative to raise faculty consciousness about potential diversity flashpoints in their classrooms. This chapter presents a case study of Roger Williams University (RWU), a midsize New England private comprehensive university that is striving to increase diversity in its student body and to convey the importance of diversity issues to the entire faculty community. With support from the Office of the Provost, the Faculty Senate Diversity Committee used the mandatory fall faculty conference to increase faculty awareness of diversity issues by framing the conversation financially, pedagogically, and ethically in order to facilitate learning and build community. Founded in the nation’s smallest state as a junior college in 1956, RWU began granting undergraduate degrees in the 1960s and graduate degrees in 1992. The university moved from Providence to Bristol, Rhode Island, in 1969. The beautiful campus is built on land acquired by the Wampanoag people in a historical town once home to the largest slave port on the Eastern Seaboard. Despite being located at the intersections of white privilege , immigrant history, and native and slave cultures, the university did not fully begin to explore and embrace its own position in those connected histories until very recently. The University’s Efforts with Respect to Diversity Like most change, the transformations that have led to the latest and most progressive institutional mission and core values have been too slow for some and too rapid for others. And when the subject at hand is the topic of diversity (difference, inclusion, 210 | Leguizamo and Campbell integration) that touches all facets of the institution (admissions, curriculum, students, staff, faculty, finance, scholarship, residential life) dissonance is readily amplified. It is rare if not impossible to find all members of a complicated institution on the same page at the same moment. But in order to thrive in an increasingly competitive educational environment where fewer students have more choices, Roger Williams University is a prime example of the way “New England colleges and universities need to focus their recruitment strategies on increasing college participation among New England Hispanics and African-Americans. . . . And they need to increase their market share of students from outside the Northeast” (Brodigan, 2005, p. 13). Statistics show that Rhode Island, like four of the six Northeast states, suffers from both a decline of K–12 students in the pipeline and an additional loss due to out-migration (Handy, 2008). Alejandro Leguizamo was instrumental in establishing the diversity committee within the institution’s faculty senate in 2009 in response to discrete incidents of bias and a long history of inaction. Initially founded to serve the local population, Roger Williams University had often struggled to shed its reputation as a school for “rich white underachievers.” Herculean efforts to improve campus climate were lost to public view, letters against affirmative hiring were distributed on the day new faculty arrived, a whites-only scholarship was sponsored by a student club, and a former president of the board of trustees became embroiled in his use of the “n-word” at a board meeting. Graduation rates for students of color were woeful. The creation of the standing committee was intended to ensure longevity of faculty input and perspective. The charge of the faculty senate diversity committee has been to monitor issues of diversity on campus by ensuring that efforts are neither isolated nor forgotten. The committee, along with the university’s administration, has been working on increasing the institution’s awareness, understanding, and sensitivity to diversity issues. The committee created and maintained an archive of past efforts, sought to index courses offered with an emphasis on diversity, supported Sexual Advocacy for Everyone (SAFE) trainings, and sponsored National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) workshops . Jennifer Campbell became the chair of that committee in 2014. Members of the diversity committee continue to implement a number of events with the intent of highlighting diversity issues in the university. The committee sponsors a multicultural film series/festival, in which foreign, diversity-related, and LGBTQ-specific films are showcased during each semester. A number of faculty have supported this endeavor and either require or encourage their students to attend and write essays about the films. Furthermore, the diversity committee established a subcommittee specific to LGBTQ issues. A faculty member from that subcommittee eventually became the advisor to the SAFE student group, a role that had previously been...


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