LTE: Deans must step up

Letter to the Editor

We strongly believe that students of color and faculty want academic freedom. Faculty members can deliver this freedom, which comes with the responsibility to protect students’ freedom in regard to learning.

Students are demanding an action plan for mandatory training of all University faculty. They are demanding colleges and deans develop action plans to gather and release retention data for faculty and staff of color, and work to retain them.

Professors cannot facilitate conversations on racial injustice because they lack the knowledge to do so. It is the responsibility of the University to hold professors accountable.

The current diversity curriculum is not mandatory, incentivized or comprehensive.

Diversity training must teach individuals to approach difficult conversations. Trainings should focus on communication and interpersonal skills to address and engage in conversations for marginalized people.

These trainings will be college-specific in a way that is engaging and particular to the needs of various faculty. These trainings must be done in-person, not online or remotely.

The cost of these trainings will be a fixed part of the annual budget. Student evaluations and focus groups shall be established to inform the content of these trainings.

In each college, every respective office or department will be responsible for organizing similar trainings.

Offices and departments may collaborate, but each office and department will be held accountable for turnout and participation. We demand that deans incentivize faculty by creating policies and providing resources for required D1/D2 course training.

Professors teaching these courses should be aware of their own social identities. D1 and D2 classes should count for 1 1/2 courses on a professor’s course load.

With the extra time, professors must attend training on how to best facilitate diversity conversations. We demand that this happens immediately.

Our administration uses this quote to show supposed progress: “currently, UVM’s percentage of faculty of color on tenure-track equals the percentage of students of color on campus.” This is not progress. The percentage of students of color on campus is not a strength, nor is the number of faculty of color with and without tenure.

Seven faculty members of color left the University this past year. The University released a statement comparing the percentage of faculty of color and the percentage of students of color on campus.

But, they have not disclosed the rate at which faculty of color leave the University compared to the rate of white faculty members.

The administration has not examined the experiences of faculty and staff of color, or created a climate in which they can openly communicate their experiences.

Many faculty and staff of color do not feel able to communicate out of fear for their jobs.

The University must prioritize hiring faculty, staff and administrators of color and LGBTQIA+ identities. This would provide an atmosphere in which students are better able to engage.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ “Race Identity of College Faculty Assessment,” 42 percent of all full-time faculty at degree-granting postsecondary institutions were white males and 35 percent were white females in fall 2015.

This national disparity pales in comparison to the disparity at UVM.

The more faculty of color an institution maintains, more faculty of color will want to work there.

David Rosowsky, Jim Vigoreaux and the office of the provost must collaborate with Alex Yin on causes of low rates of faculty of color retention at UVM and work with deans and faculty to create effective retention programs for faculty of color.

The University must search for candidates from diverse backgrounds.