Emerson College’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders joins our voice with all those calling for an end to anti-Black racism and violence, race-based injustice, and systemic racism. We stand with friends, family members, colleagues, and neighbors who are Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), and renew our commitment to social justice and racial equity across our nation and within our field. We also commit to actively engage in anti-racist efforts by identifying and challenging long-standing processes that perpetuate systemic race-based injustices and violence, as well as barriers to inclusion for people of color in our classrooms, our clinic spaces, and our lives.
Much of the work we need to do as a department and as a profession centers on how to affect change. How not to be bystanders. How to use our values of reflective, humble, and selfless listening to better understand existing needs. After all, person-to-person communication is the core of our profession and – for most of us – the fundamental motivation for what we do. So we are committed to keeping the channels of communication open, to reaching out to others and sharing our stories, our emotions, our reactions. To not allow physical or societal barriers to become barriers to human interaction. We believe in the power of conversation among open-minded individuals as a true catalyst for change and will continue to work collaboratively with stakeholders and allies to reshape our communities to be more inclusive, welcoming, and supportive.
However, conversation is not enough. Relying on our core values of reflective and evidence-based practice, we commit to continuous and collaborative learning. Some actions and strategies will take time to plan and implement. It is therefore even more important that we start now.
Below are concrete steps we have already taken, are currently working on, and are planning to pursue, and you can read about some of our efforts in this article.
We have updated these action steps in Summer 2021. You can see the previous year’s action steps here.
Diversifying the Student Population
Speech-Language Pathology was ranked by The Atlantic as the 4th whitest profession in the USA in 2013. That stands in stark contrast to the population we serve. We are committed to disrupting pipelines of access that have led to this demographic inequity within our profession. Our goal is to recruit and educate a new generation of SLPs who better reflect the population we serve in clinical practice.
- We are no longer requiring the GREs and are not considering them as part of the application process.
- We have put in place extensive training, second-passing, and alignment of admissions review processes to ensure that our admissions criteria are equitable across readers and applicants.
- In our Speech@Emerson online master’s program, 51% of currently enrolled students self-identify as white/non-Hispanic, 46.6% self-identify as BISOC (Black, Indigenous, or Student of Color) and/or Hispanic, and 2.3% did not specify. Last year’s cohort of on-campus students included 17% students who self-identify as BISOC and/or Hispanic while this year’s cohort includes 36% students who self-identify as BISOC and/or Hispanic. We hope that this represents a step in the right direction and that we can continue to grow and support diversity in our student population.
- We have finalized an articulation agreement with Roxbury Community College (RCC), which has a student population that is 62.4% Black or African American, 21.3% Hispanic or Latino, and 6.51% White. The articulation agreement (Emerson’s first with RCC) will allow students who complete the two-year degree program in Health Professions at RCC to transfer all of their credits into Emerson College’s CSD undergraduate program and continue their studies with Junior standing. We are hoping this is the beginning of a strong, mutually beneficial, and ongoing partnership that can also help bring more diversity into our programs and our profession.
- We disseminated our first comprehensive Diversity Inclusion and Equity (DEI) survey to all enrolled students in our graduate program, looking for feedback and first-person experiences across all aspects of our program, including placements, academic classes, supports, and bias incidents. We plan on analyzing the resulting data from over 200 student responses and delving deeper into the feedback via email follow-up and Town Hall conversations in the fall.
- We will work on aligning data related to admissions, retention, and graduation rates with information from student surveys and Town Hall conversations to analyze whether success rates for students vary by race, ethnicity, or other aspects of diversity. We will use these data to determine which support strategies are effective and what other support strategies we can put into place to ensure equity of student success for all students.
Diversifying Faculty and Staff
We understand the importance of increasing the presence of BIPOC faculty and staff in CSD departments to provide diverse perspectives on teaching and learning, as well as positive role models for BIPOC students. We are committed to establishing recruiting processes to increase racial, ethnic, and gender diversity across all positions in our department.
- We are excited to have hired Dr. Nydia Bou in August 2020. Dr. Bou has been applying her extensive experiences across teaching and administration to create the role of Faculty Liaison for Graduate Admissions in CSD, as well as serving as Associate Department Chair.
- We were awarded a new faculty line as part of Emerson’s Presidential Faculty Inclusive Excellence Program and are thrilled that Dr. Valerie E. Johnson has joined us in Fall 2021. She brings a wealth of administrative and research experiences with her that are focused on diversity and equity in CSD.
- We are also excited that we were awarded an additional new faculty line in the Presidential Faculty Inclusive Excellence Program and are eager to begin our search in Fall 2021.
- We are refining ways to align the language in our job ads, as well as our recruiting strategies to foreground our commitment to diversity across all roles in the department. Our goal is to work diligently to increase representation of underrepresented groups across all staff and faculty positions in our department.
- Increasing diversity in our faculty, including faculty with expertise in research and teaching related to multilingual/multicultural populations continues to support an increasing number of student theses related to racial, ethnic, or linguistic diversity in our field.
Anti-racism Training and Support
We have created a working group on diversity and inclusion that brings together a diverse set of voices and viewpoints from our department and across the college and our academic partners. We are using the combined expertise of this working group to establish policies, processes, and behaviors for students, staff, and faculty that are informed by anti-racism training.
Faculty Resources and Supports
- We are continuing to provide and require additional training on inclusive pedagogy from an anti-racism perspective for all faculty and staff, including those who teach part-time in our on-campus or online modalities.
- We are planning a curricular review of our programs in Spring 2022 to identify systematic ways to ground our students’ learning experiences within a framework of cultural humility, open communication, and awareness of historical and ongoing inequities in access for medical and allied health services across the US.
- We will continue to integrate culturally relevant resources identified by students, staff, and faculty into our curriculum as appropriate. This resource list includes children’s books featuring protagonists of color in stories that are not primarily focused on the race or ethnicity aspect of their identity.
- We will continue to make space for following up on these conversations in our regular department meetings at least once every semester to ensure that our conversations and actions on the topic of racial equity become part of our everyday practice.
Student Resources and Supports
- We are continuing to build orientation programs that focus on open communication, equity, and social justice and are working on of our online orientation to align it with what is offered to our on-campus students.
- We plan on creating ongoing fora for graduate students to follow up on the information of these orientations. Establishing a system of regular meetings is intended to keep the channels of communication open and provide organic opportunities for students to connect with each other and with department faculty/staff in order to foster an inclusive learning community.
- We have launched a CSD-specific mentorship and networking group for Emerson students and alumni via Emerson Emerge. The CSD group includes a list of resources via ASHA, SLPs of Color, and other organizations that can help provide mentorship, community building, and support for BIPOC students, alumni, and clinicians.
- We have established an Emerson chapter of the Bilingual Language and Literacy Investigative and Networking Group (BLLING) that supports extensive programming at Emerson, as well as collaboratively with other institutions.
These are not goals, but action steps. The word “goal” implies that there is a way to “arrive” at a final destination. “Steps” imply an ongoing journey. We commit to taking step after step after step toward a more just and racially equitable future. We commit to changing culture, starting with ourselves. We also commit to updating these goals annually to remain accountable for our progress.