The Academic Affairs Team – Enabling Critical Inquiry

Across the country, multiple public colleges and universities are engaging in dialogue and self-examination of problematic histories related to the inclusion and full participation of African American students, faculty and staff. Media coverage on these institutions is reaching a fever pitch. In addition to conversations being ever-present in television programs and periodicals, the academic discourse in journals and conferences is increasingly engaging the conversations initiated by student, faculty and staff activists.

Inspired by the consciousness-raising work taking place, a group of unit leaders, including academic deans and administrative heads, recognizes the need for historical reconciliation on their own campus. The group assembles to discuss how they may engage their own problematic institutional history related to the inclusion and full participation of African American students, faculty, and staff. The team further expands the conversation to examine opportunities for inquiry, learning, and deliberation related to the experiences of multiple marginalized communities with respect to race, indigeneity and national origin.

The conversations are fruitful and quickly expand to include a much larger contingent of Academic and Student Affairs administrators. As a first step, the team invites the larger institution into the conversations through co-curricular programming. From the energy developed through their outreach education, the group arranges funding for inquiry projects that reveal the explicit histories of their institution and translate the findings of their inquiry projects into an online orientation module for all incoming students, faculty and staff.

Key Take-Aways
  • The Issue: A team of administrators is aware that their institution’s problematic history of inclusion and full participation of black students, faculty and staff has gone unexamined.
  • The Deliberation: Academic and Student Affairs leaders coalesce to educate themselves and determine next steps for learning and dialogue. The team decides to fund institutional inquiry projects that materialize into online orientation modules to educate all incoming students, faculty and staff on their institutional histories related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • The Growth: Academic and Student Affairs leaders leverage the energy of the national discourse to examine their own institution and establish a process that cultivates larger institutional buy-in and results in an educational initiative that confronts a culture of ignorance that has impeded progress towards the institution's diversity, equity and inclusion goals.