The purpose of this report is threefold:

  1. to provide historical background about the Oversight Panel on Race, including a discussion of its mandate,
  2. to highlight specific instances of positive change as well as areas of continuing concern,
  3. to discuss our principal foci for the current academic year.

The Oversight Panel on Race (OPR) was established in 1998 to monitor university progress in implementing the recommendations from the Final Report of the Task Force on Race (December 1997). After three years of reporting, the OPR was reconstituted at the initiative of Deans Ernst and Miaoulis, in the spring of 2002. The current panel is comprised of four members of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering, two undergraduates from LA&J and a representative from the Office for Diversity Education and Development. The new panel will issue the OPR report for the academic year 2001-2002. In the coming year, we plan to review the panel’s mandate and report our recommendations to the faculty and deans.

Positive changes

The OPR recognizes several areas of accomplishment over the past year. Progress has been made first of all on a symbolic level, important for raising the comfort level of students of color at Tufts in addition to reflecting the real diversity of the institution. Public addresses by members of the administration increasingly reflect an awareness of the importance of diversity and make mention of the University’s commitment to tolerance. Furthermore, there have been successful efforts to include a diverse range of student performing groups at official Tufts ceremonies and functions.

The Bias Intervention Team, which consists of the six center directors along with members of the Office for Residential Life, is another positive change. We hope it will continue providing an immediate response to alleged acts of bias in the university community.

At the curricular level, we note the current search for an Asian-Americanist for English and American Studies as well as several hires recently in Latin American and Latina/Latino studies (Anthropology, Art, Literature). Our hope is for progress in hiring a specialist in Latina/Latino Literature. In any event, accomplishment so far in this critical area for academic diversity is due to the emphatic lobbying of the Equal Educational Opportunity Committee. Perhaps the Panel will be able to engage a broader base of support for more diversity hires. A further bright spot on the map of curricular diversity is the emergence of Asian American and Latina/Latino Curricular Transformation Projects.

Areas of continuing concern

One of our areas of greatest concern involves faculty training and development on issues of diversity. For several years now, the Office of Diversity Education and Development has held workshops for faculty that have been highly recommended by those who participated in them. Despite the availability of these workshops, however, there is only a modest financial incentive for individuals to take part and nothing at all to entice departments to coordinate their faculty’s participation on a systematic basis. On a related note, a 1992 vote by the AS&E Faculty mandated that all departments devote at least one departmental meeting per year to issues of diversity, yet compliance with this recommendation is rare. Likewise, at the level of upper administration, there was this summer a half-day workshop on issues of diversity, yet such efforts need to be ongoing. We also note the lack of systematic training on diversity issues for graduate teaching assistants.

Though there has been some progress incorporating issues of race and ethnicity into the existing curriculum, the need continues, especially in the areas of Asian American and Latina/Latino studies. The Panel looks to see more faculty positions opened up in these areas in the near future. We also hope for greater success at the Office of Development in securing funding for endowed chairs for minority faculty.

Some recent advances on issues of race appear to have been poorly communicated to students, or perhaps they simply fall short of student expectations. For example, although the administration reports commitment to timely action in cases of misrepresentation of diversity issues in Tufts media, student perception is that these actions are neither quick nor frequent enough. Similarly, despite ongoing efforts to reform the curriculum, student perception is that the pace of change is unacceptably slow.

Finally, we continue to voice our concern that the Office of Equal Opportunity has not been assigned to report directly to the Office of the President.

Goals of OPR for coming year

During the remainder of this academic year, the OPR will focus on involving the faculty more fully in promoting a positive racial climate in the classroom and in advising. Our first step will be to consult with the faculty about ways to proceed. We are coordinating plans with the AS&E Executive Committee for an AS&E faculty meeting early in the spring semester devoted to discussing the classroom and race at Tufts. Working from that discussion, we hope to lay out a program of recommended actions for faculty consideration and vote. Our intention is to return to the faculty with a plan before the final AS&E meeting in May 2003.