To: Members of the MICA Community
From: Samuel Hoi, President, and Gwen Davidson, Chair of the Board of Trustees
Dear MICA community,
On behalf of the President’s Council and the Board of Trustees, we write to express our commitment to fundamental change that addresses the institutional critique and demands over the past several weeks. This is an action plan for a safer campus that is driven by Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Globalization (DEIG). The actions that can be undertaken by the administration will commence as indicated without delay.
Thank you to everyone who has spoken up individually or collectively via formal communications, in forums, and through social media. We recognize your courage to come forth, the anger that drives that courage, and the hurt in reliving painful experiences in order to share your stories and accounts. Not feeling listened to, you are using all means in order to be heard.
We apologize for the suffering and harm sustained by MICA community members due to racism, sexism, harassment, and other forms of experienced inequities.
You have been heard. Your assertions, testimonials, and demands are leading to change.
We are grateful for the comprehensive SVA Open Letter for DEIG that has actively considered other voices and needs. As clearly understood, the expression of student interests intersects with those of alumni, faculty, and staff. Both SVA and the letter provide a collaborative and productive path forward.
Impetus for Change
Among the institutional critiques received, there is a pervasive expression of broken trust and skepticism about the nature and pace of institutional change due to the longevity of decades-long issues that have continued to persist.
In addition to listening deeply to what our community is saying, we hope two factors can support your belief in the possibility of a better future.
First, MICA has a set of powerful institutional mandates that will serve as benchmarks against which the change actions will be measured. Our 2017 re-articulated Mission/Vision/Tenets, the DEIG commitment, and the themes of the upcoming Strategic Plan 2021-2026 have often been cited by the critiques as standards that MICA needs to uphold and achieve. It is the gap between our reality and our aspirations that has been consistently called out.
Second, this is a pivotal moment in national and global history where individuals and institutions can choose between ushering the new or retreating into the old. The new means a fundamental confrontation with structural racism, especially anti-Black racism. It also means safety and equity for marginalized groups and a rethinking of the dominant cultures and systems. Given MICA’s mission and the creative nature of our community, there is only one path for us – forward towards the new.
A Tangible & Accountable Action Plan for Change
The following commits MICA to concrete and immediate actions that will produce meaningful change for current students, staff, and faculty—as well as near-term and mid-term high-impact initiatives that strengthen and transform the College.
The actions are organized under two related goals for the College: 1) A safe, responsive, and supportive campus; and 2) A DEIG-Driven MICA.
Actions for a Safe, Responsive, and Supportive Campus
The overall goal of this set of actions is to establish a safe and accountable campus environment for students, staff, and faculty. This work focuses on systems and on classroom and workplace culture, with attention to healing and the restoration of trust.
- Third-Party Reviews (July & August): An outside expert will be engaged to conduct three types of objective reviews: 1) Investigations in campus areas where specific complaints have come forth; 2) An overall environmental examination of campus practice and culture; and 3) An effectiveness review of campus process and procedures in receiving, reviewing, and following up with complaints and grievances. Step 1 has to proceed expeditiously. The RFP process for Step 2 and 3, as well as the implementation of recommendations, will involve the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC), Staff Empowerment Council (SEC), and Student Voice Association (SVA). The findings and recommendations will be publicly shared as permitted by legality and confidentiality.
- Improved Reporting and Complaint Process (Fall 2020): Guided by the above expert input, MICA will put in place a clearer process for campus members to register complaints and grievances without fear, as well as protocols to ensure follow-ups, due process for those complained against, and accountability. To the extent allowed by law, MICA will share data about the types, volume, and status of complaints being reported and investigated.
- Strengthening Human Resources (By Spring 2021): Human Resources, currently a part of Operation and Finance, will become an independent unit to report directly to the President by Spring 2021. This shift will position Human Resources as a more central function and help build its capacity as a core driver of institutional improvement and change. In light of the challenging fiscal year, this important reorganization will be accomplished in a budget-neutral manner.
- Expanding Mandatory Training for Employees, and Enhanced Training for Students (Ongoing): All MICA employees—including faculty, staff and administration—are required to participate in annual SafeColleges online training as well as anti-racism training. This is the foundation of a more comprehensive approach to employee training in relation to Title VII and Title IX matters. Beginning this Fall, the anti-racism training will be complemented by additional thematic and peer-based professional development opportunities for faculty through the Center for Teaching Innovation and Exchange and for staff and administration through Human Resources. Baltimore-based anti-racism training organizations will be engaged as a part of this effort. In addition, required implicit bias training will be continued for all faculty searches and will be extended to staff searches. Student trainings, including but not limited to orientation, will include enhanced focus on the recognition of inappropriate behaviors from micro-aggressions to sexual harassment, and the trusted, safe, and effective channels to report complaints.
- New Ombud System for Students and Staff (By Spring 2021): MICA will work with student and staff leaders to implement an ombud system for students and staff, in addition to the system already in place for faculty. The purpose is to provide a trusted avenue for campus members who wish to discuss concerns before deciding if they want to escalate the matter into a formal complaint or grievance that needs to processed through official channels. Ombuds will be trained for their roles, and will provide an independent, confidential, and neutral resource for members of the MICA community.
- Healing & Trust Restorative Program through Community of Care (Starting Academic Year 2020-2021): MICA will work with campus constituency groups and through its Community of Care efforts to support community and individual healing through formal and informal convenings for airing and dialogues, plus workshops to share thoughts, compare perspectives, and explore common grounds.
Actions for a DEIG-Driven MICA
The overall goal of this set of actions is to fulfill the promise of the original DEIG commitment in the following ways:
- MICA will transform through DEIG to provide an education and campus environment that authentically reflects its Mission, Vision, and Tenets.
- MICA will transcend its racist past and present primarily White culture to be a worthy destination for BI+POC* students, staff, and faculty.
*BI+POC: BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. SVA, with BIPOC faculty input, has developed the modified term of BI+POC to emphasize the inclusion of domestic and international people of color. MICA will follow the SVA usage of BI+POC.
The following actions are being initiated to move MICA on a strong course to meet the above goals:
Mapping the SVA Open Letter for DEIG Demands with SVA Leaders for Feasibility and Implementation (Starting Now, With Immediate Actions): To determine and put in place concrete and immediate actions that produce meaningful change for current students, the administrative leadership will begin meeting with SVA leaders on July 17 to examine how the demands in the Open Letter can lead to improvements for student experiences starting in Fall 2020.
This mapping effort will follow the structure of the Open Letter:
- Release of Institutional Information
- Diversifying Staff & Student Life Support
- Diversifying Academics
- International BI+POC Student Support
- Diversifying Student Labor On/Off Campus
Each section of the Open Letter, as well as their specific items will be discussed with care for mutual understanding, a time-based course of action for those items that can move forward (which should be many), and an explanation for those that either need to be modified for implementation or cannot be considered at this time
- Hiring MICA’s First Director of DEI (This Summer): MICA is concluding the search for its first Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI), which will be located in the area of Strategic Initiatives. The search called for a “strategic and collaborative innovator…(who) leads the development and implementation of an effective strategy to build a vibrant culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion for all members of the MICA community…” We expect to announce the appointment in the near future.
- Appointing a BI+POC Advisory Council (To be Appointed this month): The President has met with a group of BI+POC alum, faculty, staff leaders to shape an advisory council that they feel would be of substance and impact. This BI+POC Advisory Council (BAC) of around 15 members will be announced in the second half of July. The Council will serve as a brain trust and concrete action builder for the President and the College leadership in advancing MICA’s DEIG work and initiatives that empower our BI+POC members.
- High-Impact Collegewide BI+POC Support Initiatives (Fall 2020): Exciting proposals have come forth from BI+POC leaders for innovative approaches to deepen DEIG and BI+POC teaching and learning, making, research, and scholarship at MICA that will benefit all campus members. MICA will fast-track their development for campus impact. The leading concepts are as follows:
- The Center for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Globalization: This center will combine and expand upon the current Center for Identity & Inclusion and Center for Creative Citizenship to provide multi-faceted DEIG-driven programs and services that are inclusive, culturally responsive, and explicit about racism and justice. It will broaden and strengthen the integration of DEIG-rich substances in academics, in student life and support, and in campus life for all. Please stay tuned for further details.
- The Space for Creative Black Imagination: This making and research institute expands the theory and practice of culture, race, social justice, and imagination into interdisciplinary and interactive social projects in visual, design, and media studies. Its projected activities include making, research, teaching, mentoring, and public projects. Please stay tuned for further details.
- Creating an Endowed Fund to Support DEIG Efforts (Academic Year 2020-2021): Work with the Board of Trustees and the Office of Advancement, I will prioritize the creation of an endowed fund at MICA support its DEIG work. The commitment is to start the endowed fund at a minimum level of $2 million, which will yield annual support of $100,000. This is in addition to other existing resources that can be marshalled to reinforce DEIG efforts.
Accountability & Collaboration
Accountability for reform and change needs to be in place with a coordinated and rigorous system of check and balance. The schematic description below serves as a basis for design and implementation with the involvement of relevant parties.
Accountability for administration
The incorporation of the goals, initiatives, and their projected outcomes into the MICA Strategic Plan 2021-2026 (Plan) is the most effective way to hold the administration accountable. Using the Plan to measure the president’s performance in an annual evaluation, the Board of Trustees holds the president accountable. In turn, the president holds the vice presidents accountable for their performances.
In addition, the new BI+POC Advisory Council and the existing Accountability Monitoring Group (AMG) will be asked to collaborate on an annual assessment of MICA’s DEIG progress and BI+POC support, to be shared with the campus community.
Accountability for faculty, staff, and students
Coordinated efforts on faculty and staff handbook revisions, policies revisions, and course evaluation reform are needed for accountability on the parts of faculty, staff, and students. This work, to begin this academic year, will require collective resolve and trust in one another to work collaboratively, in dialogue regarding shared goals.
Collaboration through Shared Governance
A series of governance reforms will include broader representation of students, faculty, and staff in decision-making processes across the College. Systemic reviews of committee structures and key governance documents will be undertaken in the context of the R5 planning framework.
These actions provide the foundation for wider sharing of responsibility and dispersion of power across the institution. They are central to our ability to work more collaboratively and equitably as a critical creative community.
This action plan has the College’s absolute commitment and focus. We must not–-and will not–-be distracted from this essential course of action to drive much needed change in our classrooms, working spaces, and campus environment.
We hope that all members of this community will participate in this critical work to make MICA a place where our creativity and imagination can soar, unimpeded by the barriers of racism, discrimination, and harassment. We can only achieve this together.
We look forward to undertaking this important journey with you.
Chair of the Board of Trustees