Emerson College’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders joins our voice with all those calling for an end to anti-Black racism and violence, race-based injustice, and systemic racism. We stand with friends, family members, colleagues, and neighbors who are Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), and renew our commitment to social justice and racial equity across our nation and within our field. We also commit to actively engage in anti-racist efforts by identifying and challenging long-standing processes that perpetuate systemic race-based injustices and violence, as well as barriers to inclusion for people of color in our classrooms, our clinic spaces, and our lives.
Much of the work we need to do as a department and as a profession centers on how to affect change. How not to be bystanders. How to use our values of reflective, humble, and selfless listening to better understand existing needs. After all, person-to-person communication is the core of our profession and – for most of us – the fundamental motivation for what we do. So we are committed to keeping the channels of communication open, to reaching out to others and sharing our stories, our emotions, our reactions. To not allow physical or societal barriers to become barriers to human interaction. We believe in the power of conversation among open-minded individuals as a true catalyst for change and will continue to work collaboratively with stakeholders and allies to reshape our communities to be more inclusive, welcoming, and supportive.
However, conversation is not enough. Relying on our core values of reflective and evidence-based practice, we commit to continuous and collaborative learning. Some actions and strategies will take time to plan and implement. It is therefore even more important that we start now. Below are concrete steps we have already taken, are currently working on, and are planning to pursue.
Diversifying the Student Population
Speech-Language Pathology was ranked as the 4th whitest profession in the USA in 2013. That stands in stark contrast to the population we serve. We are committed to disrupting pipelines of access that have led to this demographic inequity within our profession. Our goal is to recruit and educate a new generation of SLPs who better reflect the population we serve in clinical practice.
- We have reviewed departmental retention data for BIPOC students and are actively revising our admissions processes.
- We will not require the GREs in the upcoming application cycle.
- We hired a faculty liaison for admissions who will work with the department to apply anti-bias approaches in the review of the next round of applications.
- Approximately half of the students in our Speech@Emerson online master’s program are BIPOC, which is a step in the right direction. We are fully dedicated to also increasing the diversity of our on-campus student population.
- We created a curricular pathway to completing our undergraduate degree in two years, after transferring from community college, that has been successful for several current and former students.
- We plan to visit classes at regional community colleges and high schools with higher representation of BIPOC students this coming fall to educate students about our field, including this alternate curricular pathway, and to develop recruiting pipelines for students from underrepresented groups.
- We are working on creating processes for mentorship, community building, and access to institutional and financial resources for BIPOC students who are admitted to the program, so that we can support them more effectively through graduation.
Diversifying Faculty and Staff
We understand the importance of increasing the presence of BIPOC faculty and staff in CSD departments to provide diverse perspectives on teaching and learning, as well as positive role models for BIPOC students. We are committed to establishing recruiting processes to increase racial, ethnic, and gender diversity across all positions in our department.
- Last year we applied for and were awarded a new faculty line as part of Emerson’s Presidential Faculty Inclusive Excellence Program. We were unfortunately unsuccessful in hiring, but will have the opportunity to continue our search this coming year.
- We revised our job ad last year based on extensive interactions with leaders in ASHA’s Multicultural Constituency Groups. This new recruiting model places our and the candidate’s commitment to diversity as a priority, with the specific area of clinical, research, and/or teaching expertise second. We will use this model for all upcoming faculty and staff positions within our department.
- We are building a resource network of leaders in the field of diversity and inclusion within CSD, including ASHA’s Multicultural Constituency Groups, to help us reach out to and recruit more racially and ethnically diverse applicants for our positions.
Anti-racism Training and Support
We have created a working group on diversity and inclusion that brings together a diverse set of voices and viewpoints from our department and across the college and our academic partners. We will use the combined expertise of this working group to establish policies, processes, and behaviors for students, staff, and faculty that are informed by anti-racism training.
Faculty Resources and Supports
- Most of our full-time faculty have participated in training on inclusive pedagogy at Emerson and beyond. We will provide and require additional training on inclusive pedagogy from an anti-racism perspective for all faculty and staff, including those who teach part-time.
- We will organize a fall faculty retreat centered on anti-racism resources and collectively work on reviewing our syllabi, assignments, assessments, and clinical supervision practices using those tools and a framework of cultural humility.
- We will make space for following up on these conversations and curricular review in our regular department meetings at least once every semester to ensure that our conversations and actions on the topic of racial equity become part of our everyday practice.
- We have hired two faculty members in the past year with expertise in research and teaching related to multilingual/multicultural populations and are supporting several student theses related to racial, ethnic, or linguistic diversity in our field.
Student Resources and Supports
- We are in the process of creating an orientation program for students joining our program this fall that will provide anti-racism resources and activities, as well as a better introduction to existing support services at Emerson.
- We are using our existing student forums, exit interviews, and alumni surveys to give students the opportunity to provide feedback throughout their time at Emerson College. Information from those feedback sessions is shared with the department and becomes a guideline for revising academic, clinical, and institutional processes.
- We are working on developing a new mentorship program for students that will draw on departmental, college-wide, and community resources to establish a network of mentors students can draw on to support their individual needs.
These are not goals, but action steps. The word “goal” implies that there is a way to “arrive” at a final destination. “Steps” imply an ongoing journey. We commit to taking step after step after step toward a more just and racially equitable future. We commit to changing culture, starting with ourselves.