BSOS Anti-Black Racism Initiative Offers Findings, Guidance in Report

BSOS Anti-Black Racism Initiative Offers Findings, Guidance in Report

Examining both the sociopolitical landscapes of the United States and our own, internal community and operations, the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences launched the BSOS Anti-Black Racism Initiative (ABRI) in 2020.

Directed by Professor Rashawn Ray of the Department of Sociology, the 40-plus faculty members, staff and students affiliated with ABRI are asking important questions and are seeking key information. As educators, administrators and researchers, what can we do to address anti-Black racism? How can we improve society? How can we ensure that our classrooms and our campus are safe, fair and accessible to all?

ABRI promotes long-term change in the college and on the campus, and beyond. Grounded in the behavioral and social sciences, its mission is to elevate the status and experience of African Americans. To do so, ABRI engages in supporting scholarship, teaching, and dialogues of all types, and at all levels, to fight against anti-Black racism in our society—individual, structural, and cultural.

In the fall of 2021, Professor Ray and the members of ABRI presented a final report of findings and recommendations across a broad range of key metrics and priorities to Dean Gregory F. Ball and to senior BSOS leadership.

“Our work has really been to build pipelines in many ways—pipelines for recruiting and retaining and supporting faculty members, staff members, and students who focus their efforts to address inequalities and to improve society,” Ray said. “The university and BSOS have made a series of investments over time toward this direction, but we’re eager to see more concrete efforts on every level of campus operations and community engagement.”

ABRI includes four subcommittees, each of which contributed key findings and recommendations in the report.

Led by Associate Professor Dawn Dow of the Department of Sociology and by Professor Hoda Mahmoudi, the incumbent of the Baha’i Chair for World Peace, the Research and Events Subcommittee called for increased attention to racial justice among departments that have not yet focused on this topic, thus engaging a broader audience, and more interdisciplinary lenses. This subcommittee also noted that existing events and efforts related to racial injustice are often led by faculty members of color, who often use their research funds and time to organize and promote ABRI-related initiatives; there could be greater support and shared efforts in this work.

The Community Engagement and Policy Subcommittee—led by Professor Isabella Alcañiz of the Department of Government and Politics, and by Joel and Kim Feller Endowed Professor Joseph Richardson of the Departments of African American Studies and of Anthropology—is discussing restorative justice possibilities for the Lakeland community within College Park, which was disrupted by campus expansions. The subcommittee engaged in efforts to address the disenfranchisement of Black residents of historic Lakeland, and surveyed community engagement opportunities, with a focus on racial justice in which BSOS staff, students, and faculty participated.

The Professional Development subcommittee is led by Professor Antoine Banks in the Department of Government and Politics and Dr. Nazish Salahuddin in the Department of Psychology. This committee conducted research on race and gender patterns of both tenure-track faculty and professional-track faculty, and also conducted an assessment of BSOS and UMD in these regards as related to peer institutions.

In 2009, members of underrepresented minority groups comprised just over 11 percent of BSOS tenure-track faculty members. As of the fall of 2021, members of underrepresented minority groups comprise just over 15 percent of BSOS tenure-track faculty members.

“We’ve identified some demographic and topical gaps and some needs. Those are important to reflect on as we make future hires. Members of ABRI were encouraged to see that the most recent group of BSOS faculty hires better reflects our values of recruiting diverse people who engage in important research on topics related to inequality and to improving society,” Ray said. “That being said, we must and will continue to call attention to the need for more efforts in recruiting, supporting and retaining faculty members and students from underrepresented minority groups. This is not just a BSOS priority or a UMD priority—it’s a priority in academia.”

Dr. Kim Nickerson, assistant dean for Diversity Equity and Inclusion, and Associate Professor Jessica Goldberg of the Department of Economics lead the Pedagogy Subcommittee. Among their efforts were exploring a partnership for an ABRI minor within BSOS and the College of Arts and Humanities. This effort especially has underscored the multidisciplinary, cross-campus potential of ABRI’s work and priorities.

“Through the ABRI report, faculty, staff, and students across the college have provided valuable insights into how to advance racial equity and social justice concerns within BSOS and our campus. I take their recommendations to heart,” Dean Ball said.

November 30, 2021


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