GSEAP’s Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

GSEAP’s Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

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The brutal slaying of George Floyd at the hands of police last spring, and the protests that followed over the summer, galvanized faculty into action.

Rather than merely talking about issues, we felt strongly that we needed to take action steps.

— Stephanie Burrell Storms, EdD, associate dean and chair of the EDI Committee

Over a year ago, in recognition of the need to ensure racial justice and equity within the School, GSEAP faculty launched the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee. Its focus is to examine current policies and practices surrounding curricula, hiring, programming, and tenure, and to make recommendations that create a more inclusive climate in all dimensions of diversity. The Committee is a first-of-its-kind school committee at Fairfield and was unanimously voted by GSEAP faculty to be included in GSEAP’s governance document.

In response to the ongoing protests surrounding the murders of Black people in 2020, the Committee kicked into high gear.

“Rather than merely talking about issues, we felt strongly that we needed to take action steps,” recalls Stephanie Burrell Storms, EdD, associate dean and chair of the EDI Committee.

The first of those action steps was the statement the Committee made in response to the killing of George Floyd. The Committee then established a book club for GSEAP faculty with the goal of serving as an outlet to examine topics in EDI. The first book selected was White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin D’Angelo. Faculty met online during the summer to examine issues D’Angelo addresses – specifically, why White people become angry or defensive when confronted with the idea that they are complicit in systemic racism.

The opportunity to discuss the book honestly in a safe environment was important, one participant noted. Another added “It was helpful to have an open forum for us, as White people, to start talking to each other and unpacking our racism and privilege without burdening people of color.”

Following the book club with support from the Committee, Jay Taylor, LCSW, Master of Social Work clinical director, developed another opportunity for faculty to address topics in EDI by partnering with A Call to Men to host a three-day workshop. A Call to Men is an organization created to shine a light on issues of male dominance and gender-based violence, and to foster healthy manhood. Recently, their workshops have pivoted to include trainings on issues of White supremacy with the aim of fostering equitable relationships between people. Committee member Taylor is a trainer for A Call to Men, and brought the organization in to work with GSEAP faculty.

During the workshop faculty discussed power constructs in the U.S. and also examined their own internal biases. One day of the workshop focused on White supremacist culture, another on the way White people operate with implicit bias and how faculty can counteract that in their lives and academic work. All participants were charged with examining their syllabi and rooting out ways readings and coursework uphold notions of White supremacy.

The EDI Committee continued its work by hosting a three-hour retreat at the beginning of the semester during which two GSEAP alumni returned to discuss ideas around how GSEAP could support current students to examine the constructs of power, privilege, and oppression in their chosen profession. “They gave specific examples of how we can improve our policies, practices, and programs to support equity,” Dr. Burrell Storms says. “Do we need to revise our Advisory Boards to make them more diverse? Does our admission process favor certain candidates over others? Do our course objectives reflect EDI goals? Those are the types of questions colleagues raised during the retreat.”

In response to the retreat, the Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation Department approved the Culturally Responsive Teacher course as a core component of the Education Minor. Counselor Education had a retreat and invited alumni to participate on a panel to discuss what the program did well toward their EDI goals and ways they can improve. In addition the Family Therapy and Social Work Department integrated more content on racial and systemic privilege and oppression into their coursework. Members of the Psychological and Educational Consultation Department will partner with the Connecticut Association of School Psychologists to create a social justice and anti-racism speaker series to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion practices in public schools.



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