Welcome to Race on Campus. If you’ve been reading this newsletter over the past month, you know that our reporters — Sarah Brown, Katie Mangan, and me — have been following up with a few colleges that made racial-justice promises after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. This week, Sarah offers a window into that reporting process and what it says about the state of the racial-equity movement.


Tabbye Chavous, director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, attributed some of the stunted racial-justice progress to the “parallel pandemics.” Covid-19 has forced some staff who would have been working on DEI efforts to switch gears, and long-term planning has taken a backseat, Chavous said. So she’s trying to have some grace.

But some of our reporting experiences demonstrate a common pitfall, Chavous said: college leaders’ making promises without a full understanding of how to advance them. “Awareness and good intentions and affective commitments are not enough,” she said. And too often, she said, college leaders are reactive — waiting for external pressures to hit before moving forward on diversity initiatives — instead of proactive.

Chavous separated institutional actions into three categories: relief, recovery, and reconfiguration. For a college to succeed on its DEI goals, steps must be taken to immediately relieve the burdens that people are experiencing, she said, like emergency financial aid for students disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Another example would be compensation for faculty and staff members who’ve shouldered extra responsibilities in recent months, such as designing new antiracism workshops.

Relief and recovery actions lay the groundwork for reconfiguration, she said — in other words, long-term strategic priorities like making the curriculum more inclusive and diversifying the faculty.

When colleges hire new diversity staff members, like Bates College did, Chavous said, campus leaders also need to make sure that they’re clear with new hires about the vision for the position, so there’s no disconnect between expectations and reality.


Read the full article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.