Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Year in review: Cultural competency, college-wide

Year+in+review%3A+Cultural+competency%2C+college-wide

After students flooded a monthly faculty assembly meeting last spring with demands for cultural competency, President M. Lee Pelton promised change would be made. 

In the past year, the college has begun to address these issues. Administration and faculty are receiving required cultural competency training, and departments will soon evaluate their curricula for inclusivity. 

Changes began over the summer when Jabari Asim, an associate professor in the writing, literature, and publishing department, and Nancy Allen, executive-in-residence in communication studies, created the faculty assembly’s Ad Hoc Cultural Competency Committee, which they co-chair. 

Leaders from last year’s demonstration—junior Nathaniel Charles and senior Taylor Jett, both visual and media arts majors—worked with the ad hoc committee to ensure the voices of students of color were being heard. These students formed Protesting Oppression With Education Reform (POWER), a justice group with senators from each academic department.

In September, the college launched the Bias Response Program—an online system that allows students, faculty, and staff to report instances in which they feel they experienced prejudice. Sylvia Spears, vice president for diversity and inclusion, said there had been 18 reported incidents this academic year. Of these, 17 took place at the Boston campus, and one at the Well, Netherlands, campus.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Pelton sent an email to the Emerson community outlining the college’s continued diversity efforts. In our Diversity in Departments series, the Beacon asked each to elaborate on their plans to promote inclusivity—including the encouragement of fair casting practices in performing arts and visual and media arts, and the establishment of writing, literature, and publishing’s African American and Africana studies minor. 

In March, Faculty Assembly Chair Robert Colby invited POWER to lead the meeting. To a crowd of about 400 students, faculty, and staff in the Bill Bordy Theater, these representatives spoke about the changes made in their departments so far, and goals for the future. 

Following the presentation, a three-part motion—calling for continued mandatory faculty inclusivity training, curricula audits for diversity, and a plan for those who have been continually identified in bias issues—passed.

Since that assembly, Spears said her office has led introductory sessions at the department meetings for writing, literature, and publishing; communication studies; visual and media arts; performing arts; and also for the adjunct faculty in the School of the Arts.

POWER leaders said at the faculty meeting that they will next look to other aspects of Emerson they say are institutionally biased—including the Board of Trustees (which is predominately white and male) and admissions. Spears said that it would show extraordinary leadership if the board were willing to engage more deeply in these conversations. 

Spears said that while Diversity and Inclusion hosts many general workshops throughout the year, departments and offices have to bring forward their goals so her team can create more tailored and efficient training sessions.

“My hope is that we move with deliberate speed,” Spears said. “The time frame for faculty and administration is thoughtful and paced, but the timeframe for students who are experiencing bad things in their classrooms compels us to have a sense of urgency. It will never happen fast enough for students, and it will never happen fast enough for me.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Berkeley Beacon

Your donation will support the student journalists of Emerson College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The Berkeley Beacon

Comments (0)

The Berkeley Beacon intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. We welcome strong opinions and criticism that are respectful and constructive. All users are expected to adhere to our comment section policy laid out below: (A) THE FOLLOWING IS NOT PERMITTED: 1- Name-calling, personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity, impersonations, SHOUTING and incoherence. 2- Personal attacks against our staff. 3- language that might be interpreted as libelous (defamatory). 4- Any form of personal and/or commercial promotion. (B) HOW WE MODERATE COMMENTS: Most comments will be posted if they are on-topic, article related and not abusive. Comment moderation decisions are subjective and completely at the discretion of the current website editor and Berkeley Beacon Staff. (C) USER VERIFICATION: All comments on our site must be approved by Berkeley Beacon staff to ensure that they meet the Comment Section Policies. The Berkeley Beacon also requires a valid email address from anyone who wishes to comment. Once you have submitted your comment for review you will immediately receive an automated email to confirm your email address (Comments will NOT be approved if you have not confirmed your email address). Your email address will not be displayed or available to the public and will only be used to confirm your comments. Comments will typically be reviewed within 24-48 hours.
All Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *