University Efforts on Diversity and Anti-Bias Education
The president, the Board of Trustees, the faculty and the administration of Fordham University condemn discrimination and hate speech regardless of the source and intended victim or victims.
One challenge we face is that the entire student population turns over every four to six years, roughly, requiring that anti-bias education and programming be an ongoing effort, which is a priority for Fordham.
A Jesuit education attracts students, faculty, and staff who value diversity and who are cosmopolitan in their attitudes toward race, gender, sexual identity, and disabilities, but because of the constantly changing population, and the geographical range of recruitment, there will always be members of the community who take some time to learn and adopt the Jesuit ethic.
Outlined below, in three sections, are the University’s standing practices on diversity, its recent efforts in response to the bias incidents this spring, and proposed changes and improvements to our practices and programs.
The University and its Office of Undergraduate Admission make significant efforts to recruit and retain students of color and diversity, including scholarships and fee waivers.
At both the Fall and Spring preview events the Office of Undergraduate Admission hosts a multicultural reception with the help of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Each year the office forms a multicultural recruitment team of student volunteers to assist with recruitment and outreach to students of color.
Fordham has hosted the regional Latino College Fair for the last four years, in conjunction with the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU). The daylong program brings more than 900 students from underrepresented populations to campus and provides education and resources on all aspects of the college enrollment and completion process.
Fordham continues to increase its Presidential Scholarships—Fordham’s highest level of scholarship, which includes full tuition and housing—to students, with special attention given to underrepresented students. The University also increased the number of National Achievement and National Hispanic Scholarships and Deans Awards to underrepresented students.
A large majority of Undergraduate Admission’s recruitment and outreach efforts to underrepresented students of color is conducted through the group tour program. Since the Summer of 2011, Fordham has hosted 92 different groups on campus and provided tours and information sessions to more than 3307 students.
Undergraduate Admission also works closely with the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and the Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice, on recruiting underrepresented students of color. In addition, Undergraduate Admission works annually with many local and national organizations, the mission of which is to help under-represented students gain access to higher education.
Current University Anti-Bias Efforts
The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) has historically offered a wide range of programs to increase dialogue and educate the University community on issues of race, gender, and sexual identity.
The Sustained Dialogue Series is a monthly gathering of community members to engage in thoughtful and authentic exchange on a variety of topics that provides the space for reflection and the enhancement of self-awareness, knowledge, critical thinking and communication skills.
The Deeper Dialogues Program is a more intimate dialogue program open to only ten student participants per section, focused on a variety of diversity topics, including affirmative action, colorism, education achievement gap, gender, spirituality, identity and whiteness.
The Diversity Peer Leader Program is a leadership opportunity for students designed to enhance and increase their knowledge and awareness on diversity and social justice and train them to engage the Fordham community in dialogue around a variety of topics intended to encourage intercultural communication and exchange.
The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) & Ally Network of Support is a trained network of University community members committed to creating a campus environment that is open and welcoming to LGBT students and their allies, in keeping with the Jesuit tenet of cura personalis and the explicit Catholic teaching that all persons should be treated with dignity and respect.
The Multicultural Action Council holds monthly meetings with student leaders from Fordham’s cultural and social justice focused clubs and organizations to foster community building and collaboration.
Through Student Leader and Staff Diversity Training, OMA collaborates with various Student Affairs departments to develop programs and training sessions for student leaders and staff, designed to enhance learning opportunities, cross-cultural communication and increase multicultural competence.
The OMA Newsletter, published twice each semester, highlights multicultural events on campus and raises awareness about a wide variety of cultures and traditions.
Complementing OMA activities is a range of other Student Affairs initiatives and procedures that constantly evolve to incorporate best practices and address current concerns.
Training for new resident assistants includes an address from the dean of students on bias response standard assertiveness expectations. The Office of Multicultural Affairs and resident directors give standard diversity and multicultural affairs training for new and returning resident assistants each fall. Refresher training sessions in January, conducted by resident directors, help prepare resident assistants for sensitive conversations on race, religion and sexual identity. Student Affairs also conducts year-round, in-service training programs on diversity.
Resident directors receive diversity and inclusion training and “train the trainers” sessions to prepare for resident assistant training. The resident directors also receive “train the trainers” refreshers training with outside facilitators on preparing resident assistants to handle sensitive conversations on race, religion, and sexual identity.
Student Affairs holds new student orientation at both campuses. “Real World Fordham” dramatizes sensitive student experiences related to diversity and inclusion and orientation leaders are trained to lead small group discussions. Nationally-recognized diversity speaker Mohammed Bilal presents “12 Steps Towards Appreciating Diversity” for all new students and the Office of Safety and Security holds sessions for students and parents, including instructions on how to get help and report incidents.
Orientation leaders participate in standard diversity and inclusion training by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and an LGBT and Ally reception is held during new student orientation, hosted by the Fordham Pride Alliance and the Office of the Dean of Students. Fordham also offers a diversity module in the First Year Formation course.
Freshman core programming offers extended Office of Safety and Security sessions, including instructions on how to get help and report incidents, for all new resident and commuter students. Annual floor meetings are held in each residence hall in the fall semester, including detailed information on reporting incidents.
Annually, the University holds a Fordham Advocates Cultural Enrichment (FACE) Series, a weeklong series of programs that focus on diversity and multiculturalism, at the Lincoln Center campus.
The Counseling Center hosts a support group for students of color interested in discussing and exploring their experiences as racial and ethnic minorities on campus and in their communities, and the Spectrum/LGBT support group for students interested in exploring issues around sexual identity.
The Department of Safety and Security aggressively investigates all incidents, including suspected bias incidents and hate crimes. The usual protocol in any incident is for Security to immediately begin an investigation, which includes interviewing potential witnesses, examining the physical evidence, and employing various other resources within the University. Security administrators work closely with the local police precinct, and with the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force as appropriate.
In cases of vandalism, bias-related or otherwise, Custodial and Facilities Services respond immediately to remove the offensive material and repair or restore the vandalized areas after evidence has been preserved.
Security notifies the University community via e-mail alerts of any violent crimes committed on or near campus, as required by a Federal law known as the Jeanne Clery Act.
Recent Anti-Bias Efforts
In response to several incidents of bias-related vandalism in February and March 2012, Student Affairs, student groups and student government, the Office of University Mission and Ministry, academic departments, and the Office of the President, sponsored a variety of events and initiatives at the Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses.
In February and March 2012, the Office of Student Affairs staff presided over six town hall meetings in Walsh Hall, McMahon Hall, Goupil Hall, and Martyrs’ Court, to discuss the incidents.
Also during February and March 2012, the president and vice presidents met to discuss the University’s response to the incidents, and the Office of Student Affairs conducted 26 separate residence hall response programs among all the residence halls at both campuses in response to the bias incidents.
The Student Life Council at Rose Hill met twice in February and March 2012 to discuss the bias incidents, as did its executive board. The Student Life Council meetings were open to the entire student body, and included student leaders, the dean of students and the Office of Student Affairs department heads.
In February 2012, the Office of Multicultural Affairs held a Sustained Dialogue on “post-racial society” and met with students to discuss their feelings and concerns about the recent incidents.
Student Affairs held resident assistant in-service training at the end of February and in the first week of April which included refresher training sessions to prepare resident assistants for sensitive conversations on race, religion and sexual identity.
United Student Government held a Rally for Solidarity at Lincoln Center, and a Healing Vigil at Rose Hill in March.
The Office of University Mission and Ministry held “Call to Unity” Vigils at the Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses in March.
The Fordham Center for Ethics Education held “Faculty Voices Against Hate Speech” in March 2012 which Student Affairs staff supported and advertised.
Student Affairs sponsored two public events with TJ Leyden, an anti-racism speaker, at Rose Hill and Lincoln Center in April 2012.
The student-led group Activating Consciousness Together (ACT) met with Rose Hill Student Affairs department heads, the dean of students, and the OMA assistant dean in March 2012. United Student Government facilitated an “Activating Consciousness Together” gathering to lend support to community response efforts. The Student Affairs department heads, the dean of students, and the OMA assistant dean participated in seven separate subcommittees with students, student leaders, faculty, and staff to gather ideas and plan future initiatives. These subcommittees are ongoing, and will continue to meet informally during the summer, 2012. They will resume formal meetings on September 12, 2012.
In response to the incidents of bias-related vandalism in February and March 2012, the senior vice president for student affairs issued University-wide statements in each case. The president issued two University-wide statements in March and April 2012, and held a meeting with the student press.
The president also met privately with several small groups of students, and attended several public meetings at which he listened to students’ concerns and took questions.
The University adhered to its standard procedure following these incidents, with Security beginning immediate investigations, speaking with officials from the local precinct, and working with NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force. Those investigations are ongoing. Residential life and office for multicultural affairs staff provided support to affected students and the community while the investigation proceeded.
Likewise in each case, the offensive material was photographed for evidence and removed.
Forthcoming Diversity/Anti-Bias Initiatives
In March, the University opened a search for a director of institutional equity and compliance. The director, an expanded position, will continue to update policies and procedures on preventing discrimination and enforcing nondiscrimination policies; develop educational materials in print and electronic media appropriate to the University community; develop and implement regular training programs on discrimination issues, policies, and procedures, and monitor the effectiveness of those programs across the University; and, investigate discrimination complaints involving employees and pursue informal or formal remedies, as appropriate.
Student Affairs has been pursuing several initiatives in conversation with student leaders and other members of the University community as part of the student-led Activating Consciousness Together (ACT) group. ACT’s goal is to organize a working coalition of students, faculty members, administrators, and staff committed to developing systemic and enduring University practices that promote standards of dignity, respect, and understanding.
Working with ACT, the University will have new or enhanced initiatives in place in several areas no later than the start of the fall semester. Among the ACT initiatives are:
- A review of University protocols and procedures regarding response to incidents;
- Confidential online reporting of non-emergency incidents by members of the University community;
- The creation of a bias response team to develop and spearhead programming and community education in response to future incidents;
- Development of curricular suggestions for presentation to the appropriate faculty bodies;
- Workshops for administrators and staff;
- Greater outreach (by ACT and the University) to commuter and graduate students on issues of diversity;
- Availability of anti-bias materials (including event information) at faculty orientation.
Other efforts include the continuation and expansion of ongoing programs, including assessment, renewal and continuous improvement of relevant topics in training for undergraduate student and administrative staff; improvement of relevant topics in new student orientation, First Year Formation, and Core Programming; and greater community-wide education and awareness via speakers, publicity campaigns, and community building, and through educational programs on relevant topics.
The Office of University Mission and Ministry will be using the entire 2012-2013 academic year as an opportunity to engage in an exercise intended to stir a broader awareness of the University’s formal mission and a deeper commitment to its relevancy, vibrancy, and renewal.
Given the painful bias incidents of this past semester, University Mission and Ministry plans to enhance as many of next year’s existing programs, events, and initiatives as possible with mission-related practices. University Mission and Ministry will be offering a new creativity and energy to all liturgical and service programs, underscoring the need for every member of the community to act ever more intentionally and compassionately with enlightened consciences that inform their daily decisions and interactions.
These yearlong efforts will be primarily, but not exclusively, coordinated through the offices of Campus Ministry, the Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice, and Global Outreach. To mark the start of the year ahead, University Mission and Ministry will be releasing a new Fordham Prayer Book intended to aid people of all faiths and no faith at all to be ever more reflective in the ongoing discernment of their life’s journey.