Fairfield University is opening a new office of Diversity, Belonging and Inclusion as part of the final recommendations of the President’s Working Group on Diversity and Inclusive Excellence. In the meantime, many offices and programs across the university have been working on implementing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives addressing Fairfield’s systemic challenges to underrepresented students.
One of the places that has been working with DEI programs is the College of Arts and Sciences, which since 2020 has been working on finding ways to create a more diverse and inclusive community of students and faculty. As part of these initiatives, the College implemented a DEI Standing Committee composed of CAS professors, staff and students.
As one of the two student representatives, it is important for me to share with the student community a brief report of the progress that we have made over the past two semesters in the CAS DEI Committee.
During last semester, the Committee took its time to understand and reflect on the mission and the objectives that were granted to us by the Academic Faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences while also adding some of our own objectives into the discussion. For us, it was important that all the actions, initiatives and proposals were realistic and permanent; not just a crisis reaction.
As part of the assessment we did, the Committee examined previous statistics and the lack of them to recognize the scope of the work needed to do. We also examined how our Committee could be of help in the expansion of the Social Justice classes in the College of Arts and Sciences and serve as a support to both faculty members and the SJ Committee. As a student member, I made sure to highlight the need to clarify what made a class qualify as a Social Justice credit.
Social Justice as part of the Magis Core Curriculum is something that will stay in our curriculum. It is ill-conceived to think that the SJ element of the Core will be removed just because of the numerous roadblocks it has experienced. Professors and the SJ Committee are working on expanding the number of SJ2 and SJ2-R classes available to students. It’s up to the administration to allocate more funds and resources to incentivize and facilitate the promotion of these attributes.
During the spring semester, the Committee met with members of the SJ Committee to understand the current situation and explore alternatives to achieve the attribute’s fullest potential at Fairfield.
While my term as a student representative is over, the work of the committee continues once the fall semester starts.
As students of Fairfield University, we should recognize the work that needs to be done to achieve an environment that actually foments student belonging and racial diversity. As we move to welcome Don C. Sawyer III, Ph.D. over the summer to work as Vice President of Diversity, Belonging and Inclusion, I’m sure that the CAS DEI Committee will continue to work behind the scenes to ensure the College of Arts and Sciences becomes a more diverse and inclusive body.