Leadership with Equity Lens

Somehow, I managed to double-book myself and schedule two webinar presentations at the same time. Since I will be on the CUNA DEI webinar with credit union communication practitioners, I will miss the 2020 PRSA Educators Leadership Panel with Dr. Bey-Ling Sha (California State, Fullerton), Dr. Maria Elena Villar (Florida International University), and Dr. Vanessa Bravo (Elon University). (Can I just say that I work with some amazing people in academia? #academicfangirlmoment)

Here is the focus of the panel:

“Racism permeates the academy. Full stop. From that one “old-school” professor who always says the wrong thing, to the classroom policies that favor the traditionally privileged student, to the “merit-based” criteria for faculty tenure and promotion, to the unspoken expectations by which leaders are judged — all of us involved in the mission of higher education have the opportunity to fight for racial justice. This war has only intensified in 2020, with mainstreamed public consciousness of violence perpetrated by police against Black Americans, COVID-19 fears casting Asian Americans again as “the yellow peril,” and unrelenting stereotypes of Latinx Americans as “illegals.” Panel members will share their experiences in higher education leadership, suggest concrete tools for this fight, and offer specific strategies for deploying these tools. Panelists represent public and private universities, large and small, geographically dispersed, with different compositions of students.”

I am sending remarks. Some of the remarks and my citations are here:

About finding allies: Yosso (2006) in her very important work on community cultural capital calls this navigational capital or the skills needed to maneuver through social institutions. If you are working on issues of DEI or JEDI, you must have a method of resilience to operate int he organization. I draw on my social networks to get inspiration, help, and collaboration. You never know who has your back until you start speaking out and speaking up. Cultivate your relationships across campus. Find people at all levels of the organization who understand the issues and can champion the work you are doing.

About self-care for DEI campus activists: “Self-care, whether through mindfulness practices or another approach, is critical to the sustainability of educational justice movements” (Gorski, 2015). This isn’t about bubble baths and spa days. You have to rest. I follow The Nap Ministry on Instagram and Twitter. [Its tag line is “Rest as Resistance.” Those three words are a sermonette.] It is a daily reminder to practice rest and restoring one’s self to balance. You cannot go to battle these issues everyday if you don’t have the mental, ethical, and moral strength. It is easy to become a martyr. I have done that. It’s not worth the burn out. Take your time to acknowledge your feelings, seek out support, step back and allow others to do some of the work. Harming myself isn’t going to help the cause.

Thinking beyond the equity lens: You cannot think about equity without thinking about justice and accessibility as well as thinking about the institutionalized racism that exists. Jones (2000) in a beautifully written essay on the levels of racism wrote, that “institutionalized racism is the most fundamental of the 3 levels and must be addressed for important change to occur.” Using the metaphor of a garden, Jones notes that the “gardener is the one with the power to decide, the power to act, and the control over the resources.” If you aren’t looking at the gardners in your research and are instead focusing on feel-good measures like award programs and adding people of color to the website, then you are missing the point.

Enjoy the panel discussion. Tag me on Twitter so I can follow the conversation after the fact!

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