Office of Equity and Inclusion details initiatives for Spring 2021

Several virtual talks, discussion and podcast initiatives highlighted

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McKenna Premus/Daily Collegian

By Chris McLaughlin, Assistant News Editor

In an email to the campus community on Tuesday, the Office of Equity and Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts provided an update about a number of initiatives it is supporting despite a reduced on-campus population and many students using completely remote learning models.

“The Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) has wholeheartedly continued to work on programs geared towards enriching UMass culture and progressing in our goals of creating a more inclusive and equitable campus,” Nefertiti Walker wrote, interim vice chancellor for the OEI, chief diversity officer and an associate professor in the Isenberg School of Management.

The email detailed several events occurring throughout the semester and recapped successful initiatives from the previous semester as well.

“Last semester, we successfully launched several new initiatives and adapted our programs to work within our new remote learning and working environments,” Walker said. “Some of these successes include: a webinar series, which included three separate sessions on racism, antiracism and COVID-19; the formation of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Student Advisory Board; the formation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Council; expanding our Learning Communities; and launching our Dignity and Respect in Action podcast and newsletter.”

Among the initiatives planned for this semester so far include a presentation of the documentary ‘bias’ on March 18 with a discussion from filmmaker Robin Hauser. The documentary “follows Hauser on a journey to uncover her hidden biases and explore how unconscious bias defines relationships, workplaces, our justice system and technology,” according to the email.

Also included is a virtual talk and Q & A on March 25 by Harvard University professor Anthony Jack on his book “The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students.” The event will be free of charge for Five College students.

Other initiatives include the opening of Campus Climate Grants which awards projects proposed by UMass students between $250 to $2,500 to create a more inclusive campus and build community, as well as Learning Communities offering book groups to read and discuss books such as “How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X Kendi, “What If I Say the Wrong Thing? 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People” by Verna Myers and “Braving the Wilderness” by Brené Brown.

The email also announced the premiere of season two of the Dignity and Respect in Action podcast beginning the first week of February.

“This podcast features interviews with student leaders, social justice and DEI-related subject matter experts, and highlights the work and accomplishments of historically underrepresented community members,” according to the email.

With February being Black History Month, OEI is also hosting a special podcast series throughout the month titled “The Black Experience Series” meant to focus on “Celebrating the Black Experience, the launch of the Black Presence initiative, racial justice advocacy and more.”

Additionally, OEI will highlight the histories of women and nonbinary community members in March and will provide more details in the future.

Walker noted additional speakers and events are currently in the works and encouraged the campus community to sign up for the OEI newsletter for regular updates.

She also noted that this upcoming summer OEI will provide “a detailed public report of our work and outcomes for the 2020-21 academic year.”

Chris McLaughlin can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMcLJournal.