DEAI Working Group May Meeting

Bard Graduate Center’s diversity, equity, access, and inclusion working group (DEAI WG) met on May 13 to share the work of its subgroups and to discuss recommendations for the larger group’s next iteration, including its composition, leadership, and how to encourage participation.

Hiring Subgroup

The hiring subgroup (Samantha Baron, Minna Lee, Emily Reilly, Hellyn Teng, and Heather Topcik) reported that the hiring toolkit they created was presented to BGC’s Management Committee (Susan Weber, founder and director; Peter Miller, dean; Tim Ettenheim, chief operating officer; Deborah Krohn, faculty chair; and Benjamin Krevolin, chief advancement officer) and was well received. Ettenheim made a few suggestions and the group will update the toolkit to address those suggestions.

The toolkit is intended to be a working document that should be regularly reviewed and updated, perhaps annually. It is currently being used to guide two hiring searches at BGC, and the hiring subgroup is already receiving helpful feedback from BGC staff members leading those searches. The group also asked that members of the DEAI WG review the toolkit and provide additional feedback. They hope to add the toolkit to BGC’s institution-wide resources on Basecamp and to share the document at an all-staff meeting in the near future.

Faculty Subgroup

The faculty subgroup (Meredith Linn, Caspar Meyer, and Carla Repice) reported that they organized trainings and workshops for faculty over the last semester: one in February on creating an inclusive syllabus with a follow-up workshop planned for the fall, and another workshop on institutional transformation that had to be rescheduled for the fall semester because of scheduling problems.

Aaron Glass and Meredith Linn launched a new course this semester, Unsettling Things, with the goal of bringing new perspectives and voices into the study of material culture. Other BGC faculty members and outside experts played central roles in the course’s structure. Ten students took the course: seven for credit, and three PhD candidates who did not need the credit but wanted to participate audited the course. As a final assignment, each student created a digital module on a specific topic of their choosing that could be part of the course in the future. Linn reported that the students were energized by this, and many diverse topics were explored. She and Glass hope to make these modules accessible within BGC. The feedback about the course from the students has been very positive. They indicated that the ideas, theories, and conceptual frameworks it presented will be useful to their future work. In addition, students felt very positive about presentations from outside experts.. Linn reported that the small class size and the voluntary (not required) status of the course, which meant students really wanted to be there, were instrumental to this success. The course will be offered annually and will be taught next year by Aaron Glass and Caspar Meyer.

Meyer reported that the selection of scholars such as Beeta Baghoolizadeh, Elizabeth Guffey, and Charmaine Nelson as 2020–21 Fields of the Future Research Fellows and the appointment of Annissa Malvoisin to a new three-year BGC/Brooklyn Museum Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Arts of Africa that starts in September, are bringing more diverse voices and topics to BGC. In addition, a BGC student/faculty/staff-generated calendar of DEAI events, exhibitions, and readings will be launched in the fall, managed and updated by a student worker.

Recruiting Subgroup

The recruiting subgroup (Amy Estes, Earl Martin, Laura Minsky) explained that their report of observations and recommendations has been compiled. An abridged version of the report has already been shared with the Management Committee and the full report will be shared with Keith Condon, director of admissions, and the Management Committee very soon, with the hope that its recommendations can be implemented in the fall recruiting cycle.

Recommendations for DEAI Working Group 2.0

The DEAI WG then discussed its recommendations for the next iteration of the DEAI WG that will begin meeting in the fall.
  • There was consensus that students and alumni should be part of the group.
  • There were many ideas about how to determine membership in the next WG, but there was consensus that there should be a new iteration of the group every year to two years, to share the labor and encourage wider ownership of the work across the institution, and ultimately that there should be a self-selecting open call for members.
  • There was consensus that there should be more formal note-taking at DEAI WG meetings going forward to help future members understand actions taken or considered in the past, and to help track progress on various initiatives.
  • Repice will create and circulate a document of these recommendations for feedback, and then Estes and Reilly will share these recommendations with the Management Committee.

Finally, the members of the DEAI WG reflected on the experience of being in the group and how to keep “the work” going at BGC. Members of the group generally agreed that this group has helped to foster change at BGC and within the members’ various departments; that connecting with colleagues from other parts of the institution in a way that is not necessarily related to our work duties—learning more about them and from them—has been an important positive outcome. Several members noted specific DEAI work they have begun and will continue in their departments.

Open Call for DEAI Working Group 2.0

BGC’s Management Committee accepted the recommendations of the DEAI WG regarding its next iteration with a few changes. The decision about how the Working Group should be formed and maintained going forward are attached to the bottom of this report. Carla Repice, the DEAI WG’s current facilitator, sent out an open call to BGC faculty and staff to solicit interest in participating in the next iteration of the group on May 21, and Ama Codjoe, consulting director of diversity and inclusion, will send a call to BGC students and alumni this week.

Inclusive BGC Trainings and Discussions

In addition to the work by the DEAI Working Group and its subgroups, other DEAI work continued at BGC throughout the spring and will continue into the summer. Nadia Rivers, coordinator of public programs, education, and engagement at BGC, organized “Opening BGC Through Access,” a discussion with experts on access in museum, gallery, and education settings that was attended by BGC faculty, staff, and students. Amy Estes, director of marketing and communications, and Samantha Baron, director of administration and employee relations, arranged for Hollaback and Asian Americans Advancing Justice to provide training on bystander intervention and on responding to AAPI harassment when it happens to you.

Retreat, Action Plan, Departmental Residencies

Ama Codjoe, consulting director of diversity and inclusion, facilitated a retreat with members of BGC’s Management Committee on May 18 to create its first action plan on diversity, equity, access, and inclusion. In addition, Codjoe held a series of meetings with BGC directors and managers to learn about DEAI efforts in their areas and what support she can provide them, and she began a “residency” in the department of marketing, communications, and design that will focus on department culture and DEAI-related concerns; work on the DEAI Action Plan; department meeting(s); and plans for another Alumni-Student Dialogue on June 24.

Plans for DEAI Working Group 2.0 Adopted by BGC Management Committee June 15, 2021

BGC Student and Alumni Representation in the DEAI WG
  • Students and alumni should be involved in the next iteration of the working group
  • Recommend two current students and two alumni
Composition of the Working Group
  • Membership rotates every one to two years.
  • Encourage wider ownership of the work across the institution.
  • Current members do not need to stay on from a previous composition.
  • Those who have not yet served are encouraged to join.
  • Members self-select through a yearly open call.
  • Each working group will determine what areas they would like to focus on and how a chair or steering committee is selected.
Sharing and Documentation
  • Formal minutes of working group meetings are documented and shared.
  • These documents should be saved so that future members can go back and refer to what has been done, discussed, and explored in the past.
  • At the end of each working group term a transition document is prepared to give the next group a sense of context.
Role of Ama Codjoe, Consulting Director of Diversity and Inclusion
  • The chair or steering committee of the future working group are supported by Ama Codjoe and receive training from her to both facilitate the group and add to their skills
  • Codjoe should be involved with the next iteration of the working group as someone trained in DEAI matters and as a point of continuity.