A number of faculty members have encouraged the faculty to engage directly with the demands and concerns raised by the student group, Integrity for Guilford. Many faculty members are working in different areas and in different ways to address these issues, and some faculty felt strongly that the faculty should respond directly to students.
The following response was prepared by Clerk’s Committee and raised in draft form at the faculty meeting on April 27, 2016. There was a good deal of discussion on the draft, but time for the meeting ran out without consensus on the draft. The Clerk pledged to address the issues and suggested edits raised by faculty. Following the meeting, this edited version was prepared by Clerk’s Committee and distributed to faculty for further feedback.
We had initially hoped to have a statement approved by the full faculty meeting. However, because we did not have another faculty meeting this year, Clerk’s Committee decided to approve this document as coming from Clerk’s Committee, not from the full faculty. Although the document has been edited with feedback from faculty, and many faculty support the document, Clerk’s Committee does not speak for faculty or for the faculty meeting.
The Clerk’s Committee statement is below. I hope that students (including Integrity for Guilford) will continue to work with faculty and community members to make Guilford a better institution and one that always lives its values.
— Dave Dobson, Clerk of Faculty
To Concerned Students:
The Guilford College Faculty are in receipt of your demands and have begun conversations about our response to those that are most relevant to our role at the College. In this society, any college lives in a system of oppression and racism, and Guilford manifests both. We affirm a commitment to work to dismantle these systems.
We are concerned that your experiences at Guilford have led to these demands. All students at Guilford have the right to an effective education. You have the right to an environment where you are not made unsafe or unheard because of your race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability, socio-economic status, religious beliefs, place of origin, or other identity categories.
As a faculty, we are committed to taking steps that will make Guilford’s educational opportunities open to all equally. We are also committed to supporting all students in your pursuit of the excellent and multi-faceted education available at Guilford.
There are two demands that are specific to faculty responsibilities:
2. The hiring of more people of color in faculty, staff and resident advisor positions.
- Comprehensive diversity training written into job contracts.
Students of color must be able to feel as safe and comfortable as white students when talking to elders and leaders on campus.
We demand that by the academic year 2016-17, administrative divisions must present transparent plans for increasing diversity in hiring pools, so that by 2020-21, Guilford increases the percentage of faculty and staff members of color campus-wide by 10 percent in all academic and administrative divisions.
Faculty, as a whole, agree that increased diversity is an important goal. We do not know yet when we will be able to hire new tenure-track faculty, but are working toward a compensation plan that will make Guilford a more welcoming place for faculty of color. We also recognize that we have not been doing enough, and that more is needed, not only to attract but also to retain faculty of color. Faculty of color face race-based challenges to their work and disrespectful behavior from colleagues and students. This negative environment must change, and we bear a significant responsibility to create that change.
As for training, a number of faculty have taken part in Guilford’s Understanding Racism Workshop and in workshops and reading groups sponsored by Faculty Development, and more of us will be involved in the workshop being organized by Dean Beth Rushing in August, 2016. Faculty are not in unity about what sorts of training are most effective, or even about whether such training is universally necessary. We are nevertheless in ongoing conversations, supported by Beth Rushing and the Clerk’s Committee.
5. College administrators, professors, and staff must publicly acknowledge their racism, be it overt, covert, or passive.
- We suggest that every week a faculty member come forward and publicly admit their participation in racism inside the classroom via a letter to the editor in the Guilfordian.
- End of the semester course evaluations must include a clause that gives students space to anonymously speak about racism in the classroom.
A very few faculty have already written such letters. Many more are concerned about whether such letters will have adverse impacts on their classroom teaching and other relationships with students. And, some faculty do not agree that they participate in such racism. This, too, is subject to ongoing conversations.
The Dean’s Office is working with Clerk’s Committee and Campus Life to make an anonymous reporting system available to all at Guilford. In the meantime, we encourage you to report racist incidents or situations in classrooms to the Academic Dean, who has pledged to hold us accountable for such occurrences.
You should also know that a group of white staff and faculty have been meeting this year to strategize and hold each other accountable around our own racism and the way it sometimes emerges in our work.
In addition to the specific actions noted above, important institutional work is actively in process. The college’s Strategic Priorities Oversight Committee (SPOC) is setting key goals with regard to addressing student demands and related steps to make Guilford a more inclusive and just institution. Faculty members are appointed as members of this committee and are engaged in this effort along with students, staff, and administrators. Intentional work and mentoring opportunities are also newly available through the appointment of a faculty member as the Faculty Development Associate in Inclusive Pedagogy.
Thank you for your careful and courageous efforts to reach out to Guilford administrators, faculty, and staff. We hope that, in our ongoing work, we will honor the faith you have shown in us to become a more thoughtful, responsible, and anti-racist campus.
I would encourage Clerks Committee to not make statements like these in the future.
I believe this is an admirable statement that signals that at least some faculty members acknowledge, recognize and are prepared to take action on BLM demands and the rapidly changing demographics of the youthful populations from which we draw our student body. To end the year — 5 months after BLM demands — without some kind of faculty acknowledgement would have been worse.
How fast can faculty adjjust? As a body, they are not equal — some have far greater job protection than others. They have different interests and can’t be expected to easily speak in one voice. Saying diversity is important is a long way from implementing it. Demographic change may be happening faster than what faculty can do or are prepared to do — which could be bad for the institution and the larger Guilford community as a whole.
America will be tanner in another generation — something all faculty should take to heart. Their children and grandchildren will be living in an America that looks significantly different than what they experienced as undergrads and as adults. If Guilford is still around it will be because the faculty chose to take on this challenge. Please, please, take on the challenge that the next generation of Americans put before you.