As university leaders prepare for the fall semester, I would like to provide 10 concrete policies and practices that could positively impact the institutional climate for their Black populations.
1. Pay athletes: The NCAA should implement policy changes that allow students to receive profits from the revenue their institutions gain from television contracts and ticket sales.
2. Establish and fund Black cultural centers: These centers are repositories of Black history and provide a safe haven and support for Black students, faculty and staff. In a time of financial strain, some institutions may think it would be best to not establish such centers, merge them with other cultural centers if they exist or dissolve them. That would be a mistake. This is the time to increase our investment in these centers and provide them with the financial and human resources they need.
3. Support and promote Black faculty: Predominantly white institutions should require that all individuals serving on faculty search committees and tenure and promotion committees participate in implicit bias training. If they do not, they forfeit their opportunity to serve. Provosts and deans also should be willing to “fail” searches if there is no ethnic or racial diversity among the qualified final candidates for searches.
4. Fund research on Black issues: Given the limited funding opportunities for research in some social science and humanities fields for studying issues impacting the Black community, competitive internal grants should be developed to help faculty and students investigate solutions to advance the Black community.
5. Raise profile of Black scholarship and opportunities: Faculty lines should be created to attract Black faculty through cluster and “target of opportunity” hire opportunities. Tenure and promotion processes should appropriately assess research on Black issues as it can be devalued, along with academic journals that exclusively publish Black scholarship.
6. Strengthen Black studies programs: These academic programs have been notoriously under-funded and under-resourced at many predominantly white institutions. Most faculty within these programs have a primary appointment in another discipline or field within their institution rather than a primary appointment within these programs. Predominantly white institutions should establish endowed chair or distinguished professor positions specifically assigned to Black studies programs.
7. Shift focus to equity and justice: Predominantly white institutions should shift the language they use to describe work seeking to advance and liberate Black people within their institutions from nomenclature that appeases, such as the terms diversity and inclusion, to more transformative terminology such as equity and social justice. In practice, that would look like altering the names of offices, divisions and position titles to include “equity and social justice.”
8. Educate alumni, donors and funding agencies: It is important for the president and other senior leaders to be capable and willing to speak forthrightly about challenges impacting Black people and their opportunities for advancement and progress. This includes the importance of funding initiatives and supporting policies that specifically impact Black students, staff and faculty.
9. Establish commissions on institutional history: This type of initiative not only helps to provide healing to an academic community through acknowledgement of the tragedies and triumphs of Black people on these campuses, it also enables the campus community to appreciate the ongoing contributions of Blacks at their institution.
10. Create reparations commission: Presidents of predominantly white institutions should establish and chair a commission on studying reparations at their institutions seeking restorative justice for the American descendants of slaves. Institutions should not only view the need to acknowledge and provide recompense for possible slave labor but should seek to address financial disparities in pay to Black employees and lack of access to employment and education from reconstruction, Jim and Jane Crow, until now.
Sydney Freeman Jr. is an associate professor of higher education leadership and qualitative research at the University of Idaho in Moscow. This article was first published in Diverse Issues in Higher Education (https://diverseeducation.com/).