From Words to Action Transcript

From Words to Action: An ArtCenter Community Update

ArtCenter College of Design

June 9, 2020

Aaron Bruce

Hello and welcome. Thanks for joining us today. Before we begin I’d like to acknowledge our ancestors and the guidance and energy and peace that they have given me during these very challenging times. I acknowledge them for holding me and keeping me safe, and understand that we stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. And the work we do is incredibly important but is connected to a thread of history. Please join me in one minute of silence to reflect on more than four hundred years of racial injustice and the murder of Black bodies in the United States and around the world.

[One minute passes in silence]

I am Dr. Aaron Bruce, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at ArtCenter. Today’s conversations are being convened to address many of the issues of injustice that we have experienced at our College and throughout our nation and throughout the world. I’m joined today by our Provost, Karen Hoffman, and our Director of Title IX Compliance and Programs, Kristen Entringer. And now, to get started, I’d like to introduce our President of ArtCenter, Lorne Buchman, and I think it’s important to thank him for his professional and personal commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Lorne.

Lorne Buchman
Thank you, Aaron. I want to begin with the words “Black Lives Matter” and to hold this gathering today in the spirit of those words. We stand with the Floyd family and offer the deepest condolences for their unbearable pain at the murder of Mr. Floyd by the police. We recognize as well, with broken hearts, that today would have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday. We honor her memory. We stand with the Black community all across this nation and need them to know they are deeply seen and heard. We stand with the protesters throughout the country demanding change, and hold gratitude for their fight, for the hope they offer.

We stand with our Black student body, alumni, faculty, staff, trustees, and state unequivocally our alliance with them. And we stand with all members of the ArtCenter community, calling out for profound transformation. This is a time for fundamental, systemic change and, we need to be clear, it begins with looking deep into ourselves, our institution, recognizing and acknowledging that the scourge of racism, unacceptably, exists within higher education in the United States and ArtCenter is no exception. We start there.

Let me also reflect that change is complex and requires a lot of hard work. We need to cultivate a culture of honesty and the courage to uncover the truth. We need to listen with open hearts and minds. And if we’re serious about change, we need to commit to the long term. The power of this moment will be lost if it is just weathering another storm. We face complex, detailed work that can only be realized fully over the next several months and years. If we want real change, we need to make it sustainable and systemic, and not all solutions can or will be established right now. And as we begin this next chapter I want to call out two particular commitments about our process.

One, we commit to safe spaces for every member of this community to vent and to open up about the expression of their pain, concerns, perspectives, experiences, if they desire to do so. Aaron and the Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) as well as the Provost; chairs; faculty; Council for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Staff Council; and so on, are working to set up the conditions for that to happen. This is not the work of today’s session. It’s far too serious for a mass Zoom meeting. We need to go deep and we need to dignify the experience. Two, we commit to supporting any and all working groups at the College to help build the strategies for change that we need and for the structure that will sustain it.

Before I conclude, I want to outline some key financial commitments the College is prepared to make today. I do so recognizing that the strategies we adopt around money are designed to support the deeper work. These financial plans are not ends in themselves but they are statements of seriousness about change and they are actionable. Aaron and Karen and Kristen will follow me with some details of our evolving plan. We have a lot of work to do and a lot of thinking and soul searching.

Some financial measures we will take:

Number one, in the coming academic year, we will allocate a total of $7 million dollars strictly for diversity scholarships, $5.5 million to continuing students, and an additional $1.5 million to recruit a diverse incoming class. This has been a fund we have been building for a few years now, but the amount for next year is particularly aggressive and unprecedented for ArtCenter.

Two, in the coming academic year we will allocate $1 million dollars dedicated exclusively to the recruitment of a more diverse faculty, also an unprecedented amount.

Three, with our development team we will commit to a philanthropic campaign dedicated entirely, and also exclusively, to scholarships for students of color and for diverse faculty recruitment, all in addition to what I just listed. And pertinent to the current pandemic moment, because inequity is clearly evident through that reality as well, we offer the following. We will continue to increase our technology fund for any students requiring equipment for remote learning, including the cost of access to broadband internet and any other additional expenses that arise as a result of the pandemic that have affected students in need.

And we will commit to continuing the [Emergency Response Team (ERT)] fund dedicated to all students who are food and housing insecure, and we have added significantly to that fund for students and their families facing economic hardship as a result of the pandemic.

And finally, on a personal note, I vow to you that I will do everything I can to influence real change at our College, in our local community, and in our country. I will listen, I will learn, I will take action, and I will do so in solidarity with you, this amazing community. Thank you. Aaron, back to you.

Aaron Bruce
Thanks, Lorne. You know, we’ve been experiencing this, well, I’ve been experiencing this pain my entire life. And before that, my father and his father have been experiencing this pain. And many of you know that same pain as well. I want you to know I see you, I hear you, I’ll even give you that universal nod because we’re all part of that same thread of history. I just want you to know you’re not alone, I’m here for you. If there’s anything I can do I will definitely do it. I share your anger, I share your pain, I share your sadness.

For those of you who know me you know I love children and I always want to be hopeful for the future. But when your 8-year-old daughter comes up to you and asks you, “Why do you have a white cellphone case?” and my response is simply, “So I can make it home.” We do this work every day. This is not something that is new for us. But what do you say to a child when she asks you, “What is the KKK?” and you know that there’s no easy way to explain the challenges that the world has to offer. There is no easy way to explain the challenges she will face in her life.

I know many of you are looking for answers, trying to find ways you can help. That’s the big question: What can I do? What can I do, Dr. Bruce? What can I do? It’s going to take a while to answer that question. And what you can do is not the same for everyone. So it is going to require some reflection on your part. But you are not exempt from this work. Young people are our most precious resource and it is our collective responsibility to provide them with the tools to be successful and make the world better.

And those tools are based in education. They’re based in K-12 education, they’re based in college education, they’re based in professional development. Centers for education are supposed to be the moral compass for society. They continue to fail. I know the history of African Americans has always been uncomfortable for America to talk about. That’s why it’s so limited in our learning experience. Because it makes people uncomfortable. We have to move beyond that. Because as you can see, what we’re finding in the media is that everyone is uncomfortable.

We need to think about how the African American experience can be woven into the curriculum. Into our learning. Even when we talk about slavery, most K-12 history books give it one page and don’t even really mention lynchings or how White people have burned Black communities. Funny enough, in June, it must have been June 1st of 1921, was when the Tulsa Massacre took place and over three hundred Black people were killed. A Black community, over thirty-five blocks of businesses, was burnt to the ground. This is not new, this is not new, this is not new.

We have to move forward. Yes, the discussion of Black humanity is often controversial and the depth of how we are dehumanized as African Americans is rooted in the American educational experience. We have to reflect on that as a campus community. What we’re seeing in the news, what we’re seeing in the media, what we’ve seen throughout history is based in implicit dehumanization. Implicit dehumanization. If you do not see me as a human being it becomes rather easy not to care about my identity, my culture, my community, or even my life.

So what can we do? We can share our resources. We can share our knowledge. We can share our time. We can share our network. We can support existing organizations who’ve been doing this work extensively, including design organizations that are dedicated to creating more equitable design and deconstructing some of the designs that reinforce the oppression of people.

We are creative problem solvers. That’s what we do. This is a very big problem. Do I think we can do it? Do I think we can put a dent in it? That’s one of the reasons why I came to ArtCenter, because I really believe in this community. The ability to create change is one thing, but what kind of change do you want to create? Is it more equitable? Is it more just? Is it more inclusive? That’s the question we need to ask ourselves. Not just today, but every day.

So what do we do? We create pathways for the change we want to see in the world, with the understanding that one size is not going to fit all. There are some people who totally understand these topics and intricacies of the Black experience and the intricacies of oppression, and there are other people who still don’t get it.

Well, if you don’t get it, you have to take the time to learn. You have to spend the time. If you ask any faculty member at ArtCenter, “How do you become better?” they’re going to say, “You need to practice. You need to put in the time.” This is no different. If you really want to create the change that is more just and equitable in society, then you need to put in the time. You need to learn the skills, you need to learn the language. You need to be in those networks and those spaces where you can develop, personally and professionally.

I want to be able to provide just a brief update on some of the great things that we’ve been doing at ArtCenter because sometimes we just don’t see these things. Some of them are new, some of them are on the horizon. I want to be able to give a special shout out to everyone on the DEI team, Liz Lanphear, director of our DEI events. Steven Butler, thank you so much for the amazing media work that you do. Without Steven, we would not be launching a new website, we would not be populating our Instagram, we would not be able to communicate effectively with all of you. I’m looking forward to more of that on the horizon. I really appreciate that. Myra Whittington, our coordinator of DEI, thank you so much.

It is so important that you realize that it’s not just DEI that does this work, it’s everyone. So one of the things I’m excited about launching, and we’ve already put together a group of people, a working group, to launch something called The Collective. You’ve noticed from the media that they have a particular story to tell, but there are many stories to tell right now. And there are many young Black people who want to tell their stories. So we’re launching something called The Collective, where young Black filmmakers, young Black storytellers, will have an opportunity to share their truth, their reality, their story from their perspective, unapologetically.

And they’re not just going to have access to a cellphone. They’re going to have access to outstanding Black filmmakers from Hollywood and around the world. We’re going to be able to provide them with the resources, the scholarship opportunities, the workshops, the mentoring, the internships, and the spaces to vibe off of each other’s creative, collective energy and to share those stories. Because media is one of the most powerful tools that can create change. So why not give those powerful tools to the people who need it the most? In addition to that, we will be partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). We have already got approval from the film department to launch an exchange program with Black colleges and universities so that those students will have access to the rich network that ArtCenter has established.

They will be able to vibe off of the energy of The Collective. They will be able to create material and work on projects and have additional resources and support for their projects, because as you realize, with this economy struggling the way it is, some students at HBCUs are not going to have access to the resources necessary to realize their dreams. So we’re building a network. We’ll be connecting to the continent as well. We look forward to hopefully launching in the fall. There are already a list of filmmakers, directors, writers, producers who have stepped up and said, Yes, I want to be part of this journey. If you’d like to be part of these types of activities, please let us know. I want to emphasize again, this is just one step on a very long journey that we’re going to take together.

We are launching the opportunity for people to meet in small groups to have conversations about a variety of topics, and it could be a topic related to how White people weaponize their identity. It could be a topic related to how do you heal through social media. We’re open to your suggestions, I know we’re going to do this together. Those of you who remember 90/300, the amazing exhibit that acknowledged the 300 African Americans who graduated from ArtCenter. That was not a one and done. We are digitizing the exhibit, we are digitizing the voices and the narratives of those individuals to create a learning tool that can be shared with high schools around the country so that young children who need role models that reflect their identity will be able to easily find them.

The Booker T. Washington School of Creative Arts in Dallas, Texas is exploring that partnership right now as being one of the pilot schools that will be able to expose students to those things. We have also recently launched a series with Brotherhood Crusade, which is a national African American community-based organization. We are working with the Los Angeles chapter as well as with the CEO of the organization to make sure that young children in the Los Angeles area have access to art and design opportunities. We are launching a free course for them. For middle schoolers, it will be on the 15th of June, and for high school students it will be on the 18th. It is an opportunity for them to learn about career pathways related to art and design.

It will lead to other initiatives and other subject matter. The first one is The Science of Sneakers. But we realize that young people may not have access to summer camps this summer, and it is our responsibility to make sure they have access to other opportunities to grow and thrive. Special shout out to Roosevelt Brown for being the facilitator of that initiative. Any of you are welcome to help facilitate these opportunities. They are free, not just for young people in the community, but their families are welcome to participate.

As you can tell, I’m very passionate about these initiatives, but I also think it’s important to understand that we should all be passionate about these initiatives. Building community, now more than ever, is important to us. Some of us are alone in our homes. I have the fortune of having my family around me, but for those who of you who don’t, I want you to know that I’m sending you a virtual hug right now. Because this is not an easy time for anyone. We don’t even get to pass by each other in the hallway right now, and that is incredibly challenging.

One of the solutions we have devised, we are launching next week, is Employee Resource Groups. Many professional organizations have affinity groups, or employee resource groups, or professional development groups that are set up to create a sense of community and a sense of belonging based on your identity. You’re welcome to join those groups. There will be an interest form on Inside ArtCenter that will be available to you. We are partnering with Human Resources on this initiative, but we realize the importance of having community, especially during these difficult times, and those communities can help you.

When I say “those communities,” I mean all different types of community, not just based on race or ethnicity. I also mean sexual orientation. I also mean parents or caregivers or young children. How does a parent or caregiver of young children function effectively in this time? How does a parent or caregiver of young children have a good conversation around what racism is, or how do you discuss race as a topic? It’s important that we as a community provide materials for students.

There’s a long list of  things that we’re doing, not only related to economic empowerment, supplier diversity, professional development for faculty and staff. I want to give Karen Hoffman, our Provost, an opportunity to chime in on some of the things we’re doing related to creating new pathways in employment opportunities, particularly for Black faculty and staff, but also, in general, the commitment that Academic Affairs has to making ArtCenter a more inclusive environment. Karen.

Karen Hofmann

Aaron, thank you. First of all, I want to reemphasize Lorne’s message, Aaron’s message. Black lives matter, and we support our students and faculty, staff, during this time. I’ve sent emails out very recently to our faculty, to our students, our staff, this morning, to emphasize the support that is needed. And it is very difficult not being able to gather in person, not having this conversation eye-to-eye. But I really want to encourage everyone to continue to reach out to me, to the department chairs, to your faculty, to staff. These conversations are critical, they are complex, we have a lot to learn, I have a lot to learn. I’m listening and committed to doing right by what is needed to happen for this next chapter at ArtCenter.

I’m going to spend a little time going over some specific commitments that the Provost’s office, the chairs, and our Academic Affairs team is committing to during this time.  And while the audience here is broad—it’s students, it’s faculty, it’s staff—I particularly want to address the students in these initiatives, in these commitments that we’re making. Because we’ve spent a lot of time with you, we’ve spent a lot of time listening, but we’ve spent a lot of time asking you, having you contribute through DesignStorms, through forums, and we no longer can put that work on you, on the students.

I want to thank Lorne for the commitment he made today to put real commitment behind these initiatives with budget. This is how change is really going to happen. I’m incredibly grateful for the additional scholarship and the fundraising efforts that we will take as an institution to make those kinds of changes happen.

I do want to go through several—it’s not complete—but several commitments that are coming from your academic leadership. First, we’ve already mentioned it, it’s this commitment to hiring diverse faculty. This work has already started, it needs to be accelerated. We are moving in the right direction, it’s moving the needle. Just this past year, we have close to 40% of our new hires identify as non-White. But we have a long way to go. And this reallocation and committing $1 million dollars in the next fiscal year is really dedicated to that effort wholeheartedly. It’s not just about posting positions. It’s about real recruitment, real expertise that we need to bring into the College. This requires deep thought, it requires strategy, it requires a systemic approach. It requires reflection upon what is absolutely needed at this time to be meaningful. And we welcome your insights, your thoughts. We have such amazing faculty onboard that have a network. We have staff, we have other institutions that we know we can draw from, and we are going to make this work. The specific strategy will come. I have asked my chairs to begin to plan what that could look like. We have a lot of work to do to define what that structure is, but the commitment is there.

And we know, and we’ve heard you, diversity only will begin in the classroom. The commitment has to start with your faculty. With our faculty. Secondly, we are forming an Academic Advisory Team. This will serve as an advisory for the Chair’s Council, specifically on curriculum, pedagogy, and academic programing. This will be a group of diverse external and internal, artists, designers, industry leaders, thought leaders—experts in diversity, equity and inclusion, to provide that expertise that we don’t have at the moment. I mentioned outreach to other institutions, there’s some amazing best practices that are happening in our sister Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) schools and other institutions that we want to draw upon, and we’re going to make those connections happen.

We are hiring expertise in critical social topics of our time and starting new curriculum as they alter the future of art and design and our practices. We know we cannot stay in the same status quo. We know we have great classes that we’ve started, but we know we need to bring new practices, new faculty, new classes online. We’ve begun to offer a range of classes, but we need more. A range of classes around diversity, both required and electives, embedded into the curriculum for all disciplines, and really prepare our students to be the conscious citizens that we know we all need to be. These classes will include courses on civil rights, histories of social injustice, policy, ethics, critical thought.

These are absolutely essential that we build these courses in the year ahead. So we need to create a timeline. The goals for this will be through 2021 to see exactly what kind of required classes and elective classes will be part of our new approach at ArtCenter. We have embraced our student lead projects. We want those to continue to happen. We want to listen to our students and faculty, make this transparent, and also communicate out what we are doing. It is our responsibility to prepare dynamic, future oriented artists and designers, and this will require new models, new modes of learning at ArtCenter. A lot of that work is beginning, but again, we have a lot more to do to get there.

Next, we are integrating diverse alumni and industry leaders into the classroom. This work has already begun through lecture series, workshops. Chairs are inviting Black and other diverse guest faculty into existing classes and discussing new workshops, new classes, in the future. We are committing to ongoing and frequent academic department meetings. I know many of you have had your own townhalls this week. I’m grateful for the chairs holding these conversations with all of you, students and faculty, to truly listen, to have a voice, and open up these lines of communication on a regular basis. This will not stop.

It’s important that these conversations are student and faculty centric. That it’s not just top down operational department meetings, but these are really meetings to listen and to exchange ideas and to convey needs. These meetings will influence specific diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives within each department that will include action items and accountability. We’re asking each department to designate one faculty or staff member that will serve as a diversity ambassador or an ombudsman for students, to take questions around diversity or issues that they’re having, to be the front line go-to for our students.

We’ve begun this, but we are going to continue to schedule joint meetings between ArtCenter Student Government (ACSG), Faculty Council, and Chairs Council. That the academic shared governance and leadership working together on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives can do this and hold each other accountable so we’re not thinking disjointedly, but we are thinking through this together. That we are increasing our communications, that we have comprehensive representation when we are doing our planning, when we are making decisions, and holding each other accountable through projects and initiatives, and reporting back to our shared governance bodies.

We recognize issues of systemic and institutional racism and social injustice require policy, not just projects. We know that design is not the only mechanism to find solutions in such complex social challenges. Our creative process can facilitate these conversations and define solutions, but it has to be connected to implementation and policy. We’re looking for ways to understand the complexity that we need to define new creative solutions which address how we explore meaningful solutions. It’s not design alone. We have much work to do as an institution. I mentioned this earlier, that it’s not up to the students to do this work, to make these necessary changes, but we always welcome input.

We welcome your collaboration along the way. We count on this. And finally, we will do outreach to underrepresented communities in recruitment and collaboration. And many of you have made great suggestions, not just this week but over time, about our connection with the local community, with communities that have underrepresented young creatives that should be part of us. That we have a network around us that can help us with the work. That we can have impact and taking our skills and our talents and our creative force to help our communities. And that we are beginning these conversations, we have a lot of work to do, but that it’s a different approach than where we’ve been in the past.

I again welcome all of you to continue your outreach directly to me. I also, along with what Aaron had mentioned earlier about convening in small groups and forums, please know that that is something that the chairs, myself included, we will continue to do by department. But I’m also welcoming any kind of conversation that I need to be part of, I will be there. I really appreciate you listening to what we’re saying today, and I in turn, promise to listen to you as we move through this. And to continue to partner with our Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Diversity Council, and all of our shared governance as we define our next chapter. Thank you, and Aaron, I’m going to hand it back over to you.

Aaron Bruce
Thanks, Karen. Some of you haven’t had a chance to meet with Kristen, but she’s an amazing person. She has a great track record related to Title 9 work, and I like the fact that she’s highly organized and able to look into some of the more policy related nuances related to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. So I’m really proud to be a partner with her on this work. Give her a virtual round of applause. Title IX Director of Compliance and Programs, Kristen Entringer. Kristen.

Kristen Entringer
Thank you, Aaron. And thank you for the invitation to be here today. And for those of you who I haven’t met, I am looking forward to hopefully meeting you, if not virtually, then when we get back on campus at some point. Again, my name is Kristen Entringer, I’m the Director of Title IX Compliance and Programs. I just started working at ArtCenter last term, working on Title 9 compliance and educational outreach. Before I introduce myself, I want to acknowledge that we are all in various states of anger and fear and sadness, immense sadness, and exhaustion. And to our Black community members, my Black colleagues and students, I may be new here, but I have already seen the immense work that you all are doing and the emotional labor that you are putting into this and investing, and your lives matter. I stand with you.

And for others who are in our community who are organizing and educating, your work also is not unnoticed. Even someone new to the College can see what is being done here, and I hope to stand along with you and work aside you to be accountable to this moment. To introduce myself, I come to ArtCenter with a BFA in Graphic Design and a Master’s in Post-Secondary Administration of Student Affairs. I have been working in Title IX for several years now. I bring to ArtCenter my passion for social justice and for advocating for change. Aaron’s right, I’m a little bit of a policy person as well. And he’s also right that none of us are exempt from this work. I’m committing to enhancing and amplifying the great work already being done here at ArtCenter, and I’m working to build a new Title IX infrastructure and related educational opportunities for our community.

Specifically, my role is to develop and deliver and manage our Title IX compliance and to build a more robust educational and prevention program to stop, prevent and remedy any effects of sex discrimination on our campus. I’m currently an office of one reporting to the President, but I’ll be an office of two soon as we welcome a fulltime investigator to my team. And while our work in my office is related specifically to concerns of sex and gender, I want to stay focused today on the intersection of my work in Title IX and how it connects with the goals of addressing racial injustice, and serving and supporting our Black community.

So, just a little bit of background and some future programming ideas that I’ve been working on in my short time here. When I arrived to ArtCenter, I connected with my colleagues in DEI and other areas of the College to talk about how I can support programming and initiatives, and help forge new avenues that maybe haven’t existed before, for collaboration between my office and theirs. One thing that I hope to bring to our community, I’m a certified trainer in a handful of areas, one of which is that I’m a certified Stop the Hate trainer. Stop the Hate is an educational initiative by a nationally renowned organization called Campus Pride. And it focusses on prevention response to hate, specifically on campuses.

And it takes a comprehensive perspective on hate crimes, bias incidents, First Amendment issues, and it’s really about skill building to address bias incidents on campuses as well as building capacity for allyship across all levels of the College. So I’ve talked to Liz and Aaron and DEI, I’ve talked to my colleagues in [the Center for the Student Experience (CSE)] and Human Resources, not only about that, also about Title IX and my excitement to partner with them and cohost some sort of workshops moving forward. I’m having regular conversations with these colleagues.

Some other training that my office is working on, we’re working on some educational outreach for our larger community. Some of these will be required. We are going to be rolling out some new online training opportunities, some Zoom-facilitated trainings while we are still remote, and then some in-person trainings that we’ll arrange, again, from required to open invitation opportunities to have conversations about gender equity and racial equity and perhaps, working with my colleagues in DEI, how they connect. I’m planning faculty and staff workshops about Title IX with specific attention to inclusive practices in and outside the classroom, required reporting opportunities, and appropriate boundary setting. I’m also planning a foundational annual prevention programming curriculum for students. So that will cover topics such as consent, biased intervention, gender equity, LGBTQIA inclusion, and campus resources.

When we do educational programming in my field in particular, we take a public health perspective. And public health is something that’s been on all of our minds and we’ve all been talking about it with COVID-19. We wear masks for everyone’s benefit and we all consider how we can be part of the solution. And similarly, when we focus on sexual violence prevention efforts, we use a public health approach. One framework for addressing this is what’s called a socioecological model, and I want to speak to how, not only do I see that really applying to the work I do in Title IX, but I see a parallel with my work in sex and gender and our collective work on racial equity.

So as the Title IX Office develops prevention and outreach programming, we’ll be focusing on: promoting behaviors that support equality and non-violence at the individual level, which is the first level of the socioecological model; promoting healthy communication and bias intervention at the relationship level; promoting healthy social norms at the macro level, that societal level. And my biggest focus is actually at the community level, completely redesigning processes and policies at our community level. Like I say, I see parallels in those various four levels and how we can address racism as a public health problem.

The pandemic has exacerbated and further illuminated stark inequalities in college campuses across the country. We must end the killing of Black people in our country, but there’s also a growing body of research that suggests the accumulated interpersonal microaggressions and systemic racism can affect the long term health of those who are on the receiving end of those behaviors. This is actually called weathering, there’s actually a term for it. And microaggressions can occur in my area of Title IX with sex and gender, and they can occur with race. And this is why I think partnering with my DEI colleagues is so important to me as we consider ways to educate our community on a wide scope of issues and behaviors.

So I’ve started conversations with DEI, Human Resources, ACSG, about launching a campus climate survey for fiscal year 2021 to collect more data about the lived experiences and the perceptions within our community so that we can use that information in our various departments to develop better programming and prevention efforts moving forward. You’ll hear more from my office starting next month.

Actually, due to some federal requirements for my area of work, Title IX, just four weeks ago the US Department of Education announced new regulations that will impact the way that educational institutions, like ArtCenter, are required to respond to harassment and discrimination on the basis of sex. And those regulations go into effect in August, which is obviously fairly soon. So we are currently working on procedural changes for sexual misconduct cases here at ArtCenter. I’m working with my colleagues in our interdisciplinary Title IX task force to completely rewrite our policy and procedure. And you can look at the Title IX public and Inside ArtCenter pages for a little bit of information about what these regulations are about, and you’ll be receiving a lot more information from my office in the coming weeks. The office focus here in the Title IX office for this upcoming year is transparency. In our establishing year, I want my office to help empower students and employees to understand their rights, their responsibilities and their options for preventing and addressing sexual misconduct. 

We are committed as we’re making our policy changes to anti-racist policy revisions, and training on that subject matter for all staff members who are handling our cases that come to my office. And we’ll be clarifying our outreach and our procedures in the coming weeks and months.

I just want to spend another minute or so on the intersection of race and sexual violence. It’s something that’s really been on my mind, obviously in the work that I do, but also in the conversations that are on the top of everyone’s minds today and most recently. I recently picked up the book Sexual Citizens. It’s based on years of research and interviews with students of various backgrounds. And the directors of the study found that Black men shared acutely racialized fear of false accusation. They also spoke to several Black women as they were working on this book. And every single Black woman who they interviewed spoke of unwanted sexualized touching, which was not something they saw across any other group. And that’s alarming to me. Among other several themes, the study and the book focus on the idea of racial justice being fundamentally an issue of preventing sexual assault on college communities.

So as you can see, I’m seeing a lot of interplay here and connection to the work that I am doing and the connection that everyone else has spoken about so far today. It’s incredibly important to me that everyone in my office and all staff members engaged in any investigation and resolution of any sexual misconduct complaints receive extensive training on how to fulfill their role impartially, with cultural competency, to avoid prejudgment of the issue, and be free of conflicts of interest.

And so we are committing extensive time, money, and energy this summer on ensuring that investigators, decision makers, and any person who facilitates an informal resolution process, as well as I as our Title IX coordinator, receive anywhere between 12–25 hours of training between now and August on these topics and more, including implicit bias training. And we’ll also be working on climate investigations and considering how we can continue to make further forward progress here at ArtCenter. So in closing, as I mentioned, my work is very much centered on sex and gender. But I really do see how there are clear connections to racial equity and other [intersecting guides and needs?] that we need to consider.

And framing the perspective at the college level with a public health perspective may help provide a format. Being the policy person that I said I was, I know we can all take a critical look at our policies and practices and see how we can be more actively and be anti-racist moving forward. The one thing I understand about the work that I do, about actualizing racial justice, accountability, and gender equity, is that this is the type of work that is never done. And so I continue to collaborate and I’m looking forward to meeting more of you to serve and support our community. Thank you. And Aaron, I’ll give that back to you.

Aaron Bruce
Thank you, Kristen. I appreciate having you as a colleague. You know, I don’t want anyone out there to misinterpret the absence of messaging related to other historically underrepresented or underserved communities. We are primarily focusing right now on the Black community, but DEI has a portfolio of programs and opportunities that engage a wide spectrum of identities and audiences all year long. For example, Pride. We’re celebrating that. We have a professional development workshop coming up related to disability support and inclusion.

So please stay tuned for our Instagram Live experiences related to that. We’re hosting a workshop with ACSG on pronouns on Monday. So I don’t want you to think that we’re not thinking about you as well. It’s just that right now, this particular community has an incredible need for our support and energy, but we will continue to provide a holistic menu of opportunities and addressing intersections as well that really help connect our community in a variety of different ways throughout the curriculum and in the community.

Future opportunities for constructive dialogue, I want to get back to that. Please stay tuned to what we’re doing related to that. You’ll see more. I’ll be hosting open office hours on Wednesday to meet with people one on one all day. So if you want to check in with me on Wednesday for a quick Zoom conversation, I want to be available to you. You know, if I was at Hillside you would just walk in and have that conversation. I want you to know I’m still doing that, it’s just more digital right now. But our team is working to flesh out some of the topics. Any suggestions related to those topics or the format of those conversations, or if you want to co-facilitate any of those conversations, or you have recommendations for who you’d like to see facilitating those important dialogues, please let me know. It’s not exclusive, this is completely open to our community. That obviously goes to our faculty and our alumni as well who are great thought leaders in many of these spaces.

I want to give a special shoutout to Sam Holtzman because on Monday we’re doing a workshop related to wellness in the classroom. We know that students are experiencing a variety of different challenges and we want to make sure that our faculty are up to speed on how to create spaces where students can heal, what type of support they can provide, what type of language we should use in those circumstances. I know you might think that every student wants to talk with you about some of this stuff, but some may not want to talk with you. So it is important that we have some of the tools that are going to be necessary to give them the space they need.

As you know, Karen sent out an email asking for empathy and asking you to understand as faculty that, yes, students need a little bit more room to address some of the more immediate concerns they have in addition to the coursework that you’re assigning. So please be understanding of that again.

This is tough work, it’s a tough conversation, but it needs to be done. And I appreciate your commitment to this work and understand we can take this journey together. Please make sure that you engage with us in this work and understand that it’s not just our responsibility.

I want to send a special shoutout to all the chairs because you have been great. You have been connecting with me individually. For those of you who haven’t, please lets connect soon. I’ve been making my rounds, but they’ve been sharing what their equity, diversity and inclusion goals are for the upcoming year, and so far I’m really impressed with the type of stuff they’ve been coming up with and stuff they’ve done already.

I’ve actually had a chance to connect with some of our newer faculty who are African American who are going to be joining us very shortly. Just really exciting stuff that’s in progress.

I know this is going to be a long journey. It’s been a long journey. But I think if every one of us plays our part and we take a good look at ourselves, then we can begin to see that, yeah, there’s a lot more we can do individually and even more, collectively. So thank you for being part of this quick update conversation and just know that it’s the beginning. I’m committed to this work and I know ArtCenter is as well. Thank you.