FSU recognized with sixth HEED award: New diversity initiatives created during summer

Courtesy of Insight into Diversity

Framingham State was awarded a Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award, according to a Sept. 1 University press release.

The award is presented by “Insight into Diversity,” the oldest and largest diversity magazine in higher education. FSU is among 90 other colleges in the U.S. and Canada to receive this recognition.

This is the sixth time FSU earned a HEED award since 2014, according to the press release. And, for the second year in a row, Framingham State is the only public college in Massachusetts to receive this distinction.

Many new diversity initiatives and programs launched during the last year. These actions were undertaken by the office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement (DICE), the Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE), the Center for Excellence in Learning, Teaching, Scholarship, and Service (CELTSS), human resources, and other administrators and faculty.

According to the Insight into Diversity website, the award measures a college’s “achievement and intensity of commitment” to diversity and inclusion initiatives and programs. Institutions that display an “outstanding commitment” to diversity and inclusion receive the award.

Constanza Cabello, vice president of DICE, said she is often conflicted by diversity awards.

“It’s an amazing accomplishment – it means we are on the right path,” she said. But “social justice is really a process and a goal. The award isn’t a stamp or marker that we’ve arrived at, or that we’re done doing the work.”

Cabello’s work includes overseeing the new Institutional Inclusive Excellence Committee.

President F. Javier Cevallos announced the committee’s creation in an email to the FSU community June 17. He said the committee’s purpose is to “identify and advance FSU’s strategic inclusive excellence objectives.”

Cabello said faculty, staff, and students on the committee will analyze data and metrics, work with institutional-level policies, and have the authority to implement systemic change.

Another new initiative is the Anti-racist Pedagogy Academy hosted by CELTSS and DICE.

Lina Rincon, assistant director of CELTSS, said the academy’s goals are to “engage faculty in understanding what it looks like to become anti-racist in the context of teaching and advising.”

She added, “The academy will offer resources and conversations on how faculty can reflect on their own identities as they relate to living in a racist society, learn about inclusive pedagogies to use in the classroom, engage in decolonizing their curriculum, and think about how to work toward changing university policies to be anti-racist.”

Additionally, the CIE is launching a Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation initiative. The concept was first developed by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU).

According to the AACU website, the program aims to erase “structural barriers to equal treatment and opportunity on campuses.”

Cabello said, “It’s an opportunity to look at how we as communities transform through understanding one another.” She added the program is currently hiring students to be peer facilitators.

Additionally, four remote workshops focused on race are scheduled for the fall semester.

Rincon said her session with Cabello, “Engaging in Dialogue about Race in Teaching and Advising,” will include a discussion of race’s effect on work at FSU.

“We will encourage participants to reflect on how race and racism affects their experiences and invite them to think about how these experiences connect to the work that they do on a daily basis,” she said.

The session is scheduled for Sept. 25.

Another resource for faculty to hold discussions about race is an “Anti-racist Dialogues” group.

According to the FSU website, the group aims to “support and give space for FSU employees who wish to self-reflect and consider their personal role and responsibility in dismantling racism and to move this education towards effective anti-racist action at FSU.”

Other employee resources include training modules on EVERFI, including “Diversity and Inclusion EDU, Managing Bias, and Harassment Prevention,” according to the website.

Brad Medeiros, chief of Framingham State University Police, shared a statement on Facebook from the Association of Chiefs of Police for Massachusetts on June 2.

The statement was published in response to the controversial death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police officers.

The Chief’s post said police at Massachusetts state universities continue mandatory training on “fair and impartial policing and in de-escalation techniques.”

In a message to the community later in the month, Cevallos said, “University Police commit to working directly with our communities of color to break down any barriers that exist and ensure the department’s relationship with our entire community is one of trust and understanding.”

He said University Police’s use of force policy is already in line with the national #8cantwait campaign.

Sodexo, FSU’s food service provider, posted a similar message on Instagram June 16.

The message also referenced Floyd’s death. According to the statement, in order to “amplify and make space for BIPOC, trans voices and helpful information, we held off posting to Instagram.

“Sodexo has put out workshops to provide awareness, education and important conversations about inclusivity which will be made available for our team to participate in.”

According to Cabello, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color.

She said her office created a page within the COVID-19 information section of FSU’s website to “highlight our focus on equity during these times.”

“I’ve heard folks say we’re experiencing a dual pandemic right now of COVID-19 and racism,” she said.

The page includes information on inequity resulting from the pandemic, including xenophobia against Asian Americans and the relationship between racism and public health.

It also contains links to resources, including the Rams Resources Center, technology for remote learning, and emergency sources of funding for students and their families.

Cabello said systemic barriers to diversity and inclusion are amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are going to see an impact, and that makes diversity and inclusion work so much more urgent right now – more than ever.”

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