CODE Responds to the administration’s Access is Just the Beginning – An Action Plan for Oxy

We appreciate the Dean’s Message to the Community (Dec. 5, 2013) addressing CODE’s Actions to Achieve Equity and Excellence signed by over 250 faculty, students, and alumni. This effort on the part of senior administration is a welcome step forward. However, we are disappointed that the tepid document ignores accountability, action, vision, and surprisingly doesn’t even mention equity, a cornerstone of Occidental’s Mission.

Moreover, the Dean’s document understates the amount of time and coordination necessary to substantively move forward. We know from experience that critical work must be coordinated by individuals with expertise and accountability. While we agree that the pursuit of racial diversity and equity must be a collective endeavor, this should not bar us from finding an expert who is mandated with the responsibility to ensure the success of a comprehensive plan. Why is this any different from Title IX and Assessment; in these areas, the College understands that a person must head an office whose sole responsibility is to manage the heavy and complex workload, to ensure that the collective project is coordinated, that capacity is developed, and resources are used to innovate. Likewise, this is crucial to the College’s Mission of equity and excellence.

Where is the visionary leadership?

Of the administration’s 17 items, 14 involve gathering information, discussing, or developing plans. We see this as a repetition of the administration’s classic tactic to assess, discuss, and bury issues of import to the College Mission. In contrast, CODE’s plan, the dedication of faculty and students who have years of experience working on these issues and have committed hours to researching solutions, provides visionary and specific actions. Why does the administration’s document ignore this work? Why does the Dean’s document largely ignore CODE’s action items specifically addressing students?

There’s a paucity of innovation. Simply put, there’s little new here and our own past successes are buried even more deeply. Nothing in the administration’s plan offers anything that would enable Oxy to join the ranks of those institutions that are doing the most exciting work in these areas.

Where is the accountability?

In the administration’s document, Dean Gonzalez is assigned to 11 of the items, Dean Avery is assigned to 6 (this ignoring the overwhelming vote of no confidence in Dean Avery on May 8, 2013), Amos Himmelstein 3, Shelby Radcliffe 2, and Vince Cuseo and Brett Schraeder 1 each. If these items fall under their purview, why haven’t they already done this work of researching, discussing, planning, and then implementing creative new approaches? How will they carve out time to focus on these new responsibilities in innovative ways? What expertise do all of these administrators bring?

When asked about accountability in his presentation at the faculty meeting on Dec. 5, 2013, Dean Gonzalez stated that since he does not have authority over the other vice presidents, he would simply be responsible to report which of the items have been accomplished and which have not. In fact, he stated that we should wait until fall to “see how things go.”

We find this unacceptable. Reporting on whether discussions have happened, plans have been made, and data has been gathered does not constitute accountability for moving the institution forward on diversity and equity. Accountability is tied to goals and outcomes for the realization of the College’s Mission. Unlike the administration’s document, CODE’s Actions to Achieve Equity and Excellence offers a more comprehensive, researched, and detailed institutional plan.

The miner’s canary

The administration’s document lacks urgency. Its failure to provide visionary leadership and accountability means that Occidental will again treat its students and faculty of color as canaries in the mine. Gas masks are not a sufficient solution to address a toxic environment that impacts us all. At best, the Dean’s document offers to study the possibility of providing gas masks.

We, CODE, stand by our Actions to Achieve Equity and Excellence and call for their adoption.

 

Respectfully,

CODE

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