4 things to know to promote racial justice on campus

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4 things to know to promote racial justice on campus

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The ongoing national conversation about the deadly impact of racism following the senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others has created an urgency around the need for dramatic change at all levels of society.

As a result, many education leaders are facing growing pressure from students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni to recognize their complicity in systemic oppression and commit to groundbreaking, intersectional, and dynamic change.

As part of our commitment to racial and social justice, EAB is exploring how K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions must reimagine their systems, policies, and culture to address the impact of racism in our society. Our research uncovers the loci of transformative institution-wide change necessary to address our collective history of racial segregation and oppression to truly serve our students, staff, faculty, and communities.

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More on this topic

This resource is part of our larger research initiative, focusing on DEIJ initiatives. 

Becoming an anti-racist institution is about transforming the institution through “active and conscious efforts to work against the multidimensional aspects of racism.” This requires interrogating and rebuilding the policies, procedures, beliefs, and systems that are built into the very fabric and nature of a college. Ultimately, institutions that commit to doing this work will be undertaking a comprehensive institution-wide effort.

Review the Key Takeaways

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Institution-wide transformation is required, not an option

George Floyd’s murder prompted the biggest Civil Rights movement in US history with between 15 to 26 million Americans participating in demonstrations and protests. Alongside public demands for racial justice, three forces drive urgent calls for institution-wide transformation in K-12 schools and higher education:

Mission-Critical

Failing to make progress on racial justice harms students, faculty, staff, and communities.  
  

Financial Sustainability

Addressing racial inequity is a differentiator amid changing demographics and enrollment decisions.

Current Climate

Failing to commit to racial justice progress now puts institutions at risk of being left behind.
   

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Four barriers impede long-term progress on anti-racism work for most institutions

EAB’s analysis of public antiracism statements across K-12 and higher education revealed four barriers that impede long-term progress on antiracism work.

Insufficient Understanding of Systemic Racism

Hyper-focus on individual interventions overshadows attention on long-term structural changes needed to sustain progress.

Unclear Strategy and Priorities
 

Most of the antiracism efforts uncovered in the analysis centered on incremental, low-resource commitments. 75% of statements that included action items did not connect efforts to the institution’s strategic plan.

Inadequate Accountability Mechanisms

Central institutional antiracism goals often exclude timelines and measures of progress.

Lack of Coordination and Collaboration

Lack of connectivity limits impact and scale and risks regression back to the status quo.

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Of statements with action items did not include an implementation timeline

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Of statements with action items did not include measures of success
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Address systemic racism with EAB’s Hallmarks of an Antiracist Institution framework

To tackle systemic racism, higher education and K-12 leaders need a broad, comprehensive, and interdisciplinary framework to guide antiracism efforts. EAB has identified the continuous behaviors and actions that promote racial justice in education and developed a framework for transformation across seven hallmarks:

  1. Strategy and operations
  2. Faculty and staff
  3. Campus climate
  4. Student enrollment (this applies only to higher ed institutions and K-12 independent schools)
  5. Curricular & co-curricular experiences
  6. Community partnerships
  7. Institutional culture

Coordinated work across these seven hallmarks allows for wide-spread transformation and maximum impact across antiracism commitments.

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Use systems thinking to support strategy and intention in DEIJ efforts

Education leaders traditionally understand and solve problems through analysis and reductionism, but this approach does not account for the web-like nature of higher education institutions and K-12 districts.

Systems thinking centers around synthesis rather than analysis to better understand complex systems and how they operate. It considers the processes, inputs, and feedback loops happening congruously across interconnected parts of a system. Within a hallmark, using systems thinking supports strategy and intention because it:

  • Keeps strategic goals at the center of decision making

  • Accounts for interdependencies within the system

  • Helps to anticipate change management risks

Take the Next Steps

Over the past 15 years, the challenges faced by senior leaders have increased in complexity and scope. Learn how EAB Strategic Advisory Services can help you make better decisions, accelerate the implementation of your most critical initiatives, and lead through change with research, expert advice, and data.

Shift from crisis response to strategic thinking

As the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis begins to dissipate, we risk being overcome by the understandable desire to return to “normal.” But this is a crucial moment to pull up and see the big picture.

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