The summer of 2020 was a flashpoint in many places around the world as the realities of racism could no longer be ignored. In response, Meredith College announced a plan to address the racism that is affecting the BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) members of our community.
This effort, in collaboration with Meredith’s Black Student Union, Latinx students, alumnae/i, employees, and many more, is being conducted with transparency to reflect the College’s commitment to strength, integrity, and effecting change through education.
President Jo Allen wrote in the announcement that this long term effort is “rooted in cultural humility and intended to be thoughtful, inclusive, thorough, and action-oriented.”
The purpose of the anti-racism initiative is “to attack and dismantle racism and its impact at every source in ways that create a more welcoming environment and more progressive future for all at Meredith,” Allen said.
Campus Climate Survey
An essential step in this process is the completion of a Campus Climate Survey to better understand the realities and experiences of people of color at Meredith. Current students, employees, and recent graduates all participated in the survey, which was conducted during the month of October in order to allow participation by incoming freshmen and transfer students.
“The Campus Climate Survey is designed to elicit the voices of all members of the Meredith College community regarding their experiences with racism,” said Allen. “This point of data collection will help us further refine our inquiry to ensure we are addressing all aspects of racism, not just those that are most obvious or easy to solve. Asking hard questions, after all, is what education requires of us.”
The survey, conducted through the Higher Education Data Sharing (HEDS) Consortium, provides an anonymous platform for feedback and a means for action.
Education and Accountability
Other efforts that are underway include workshops for faculty and staff on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The anti-racism initiative guided the focus for many of the sessions held during Faculty/Staff Planning Week. This year, hundreds of faculty and staff participated in a keynote session titled “Cultural Humility: The Ultimate Selfie” presented by Stephanie Helms Pickett, Ed.D., associate vice provost for inclusive excellence and strategic practice at NC State. In addition, six breakout sessions were offered that addressed different aspects of structural racism, white privilege, and racial equity. More than 130 employees participated in the sessions that were facilitated by teams of faculty and staff.
As part of the initiative, College policies including those for students and employees will be reviewed. Sustained training and clearer information on accountability will be established.
“We will take a magnifying glass to every segment of Meredith College,” said Allen. “This process, including learning hard lessons about how the foundation of higher education was set against people of color, is not easy and it is not fast. We have to make sure we are doing the hard work necessary to determine what is needed to make sure Meredith is welcoming to all.”
Meredith also intends to hire a permanent Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) officer to help teach and enhance the principles and practices of anti-racism.
Meredith, like many other institutions throughout the country, is weighing what should be done about individuals who have made positive contributions to their university but also may have a history of racism. The Board of Trustees has created a Task Force on Historical Context and Naming at Meredith to recommend a series of principles that will lead the board through these conversations and decisions. The Task Force began its work on August 12. Chair of the Board Carolyn Leith, ’85, and Vice Chair Yvette Brown, ’90, are coordinating this collaborative work with a diverse and inclusive group of trustees, current and former students, and employees.
The College has committed to providing regular email updates to the campus community, including alumnae, as the initiative moves forward. Feedback is welcome to be shared by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The College-Wide Initiative on Anti-Racism includes four overarching actions:
We must explore racism at Meredith through the lens of our history and our current students. That feedback will inform the development of an action plan to provide root solutions to the findings.
We must review our policies to ensure that our College is not unconsciously contributing to systemic racism. Changes will be made to policies that promote or enhance systemic racism.
We must work to understand the realities of our history and any linkage to systemic racism.
Drawing on the knowledge and expertise of our diverse community, we must develop a set of principles that will guide the Board’s decision-making when it comes to historical contexts and considerations for naming or renaming buildings.
For the most current information on Meredith’s College-Wide Initiative on Racism, visit meredith.edu/anti-racism-initiative.