Hobart and William Smith Colleges - HWS Joins Racial Equity Leadership Alliance
The HWS Update
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HWS Joins Racial Equity Leadership Alliance

Hobart and William Smith Colleges is an inaugural member of a new partnership of more than 50 liberal arts institutions committed to improving and advancing racial equity.

Launched this month by the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center, the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance will offer resources and opportunities throughout the year, enabling administrators, faculty and staff to foster a more inclusive campus community.

“This Alliance expands our capacity to resource our faculty, staff and students with tools to advance racially inclusive policies and practices. Furthermore, by committing to a three-year process, HWS has introduced a dynamic, accessible, and sustainable way to support key elements of our Strategic Diversity Plan. Ultimately, our commitment to inclusion will be measured by the degree to which our systems, policies, and practices supported full participation in the intellectual and social life of HWS. I believe LACRELA can accelerate our movement towards that goal,” says Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Khuram Hussain.

“HWS is committed to work alongside our friends and colleagues to right the historical inequities that have persisted in academia,” says Provost Mary L. Coffey. “Now more than ever, it is our duty to face these challenges head on and, with support systems like the Leadership Alliance, take meaningful action to affirm our commitment to an equitable educational environment.”

Presidents United for Racial Equity

Presidents of Alliance member colleges will meet quarterly to share strategies, seek advice, and identify ways to leverage the Alliance for collective impact on racial equity in higher education. In addition, presidents will occasionally come together to craft rapid responses to urgent racial issues confronting the nation. Alliance presidents will collaboratively determine what to do, how best to inform their respective campus communities, and what they can communicate in a unified voice to policymakers, journalists, and other audiences.

Online Racial Equity Series

Beginning in January 2021, the Center will host a dozen eConvenings, each on a particular aspect of racial equity. These live, synchronous professional learning experiences will be held virtually throughout the year, one per month. Three-hour learning sessions, each on a different topic, will be delivered by highly-respected leaders of national higher education associations, tenured professors who study race relations and people of color, chief diversity officers and other experienced administrators, and specialists from the Center.

These sessions will focus mostly on strategies and practical approaches. While credible research will undergird them, sessions will not be too theoretical, uselessly abstract, or inaccessibly academic. During these three-hour synchronous learning experiences, instructors will use contemporary cases of equity dilemmas and racial crises on liberal arts college campuses. Emphasis will be placed on learning from sagas that have recently occurred elsewhere; learning how to get ahead of situations and reducing risk of crisis; and learning actionable equity leadership strategies. Attendees will return to work that same day with shareable tools and resources.

Virtual Equity Resource Portal

The Center is also developing an online repository of resources and tools for member institutions, including downloadable equity-related rubrics, readings, case studies, videos, slide decks, and conversation scripts. Every HWS employee across campus will have 24/7 full access to the virtual resource portal. The portal will launch in late-spring 2021.

Campus Climate Surveys

The Center’s National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates (NACCC) has been administered to more than 500,000 students at colleges and universities in every geographic region of the United States. The NACCC is a rigorous, expert-validated quantitative survey that measures belonging and inclusion, the frequency and depth of cross-racial interactions, students’ appraisals of institutional commitment to diversity and inclusion, and other related topics.

Using the NACCC, the Center is developing a pair of workplace climate surveys for Alliance member colleges: one for staff at all levels, and another for faculty (including full-time, adjunct, and part-time instructors). These two surveys will focus on topics like employees’ perceptions of equitable opportunities for promotion and advancement; mattering and sense of belonging; how different groups of employees differently experience the workplace environment; employees’ encounters with racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other -isms at work; employee satisfaction with the College’s responses to reports of abuse, unfair treatment, and climate problems; and appraisals of the institution’s commitment to equity.

Alliance member colleges will benefit from this trio of campus climate surveys on a three-year rotational basis: the student survey in year one, the faculty survey in year two, and the staff survey in the third membership year. The Center will manage data collection and analysis.

HWS is among 51 Alliance members, including other New York peer institutions such as Colgate University, Hamilton College, Skidmore College and Union College.