By Erica Quinones
Former Co-Chair of the Diversity Committee, Director of the Black Studies Program, and Associate Professor of Spanish Dr. Elena Deanda-Camacho announced in a Sept. 11 email the launch of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website as well as the names of the new Diversity Committee co-chairs.
Senior Director of Strategic Communications and Editor of the “Washington College Magazine” Marcia Landskroener designed the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website.
The website has four sections: the homepage, “Who We Are,” “Resources,” and “Diversity Updates.” These pages offer information about the state of diversity, equity, and inclusion at WC; points community members towards resources, such as student clubs and local organizations, for people of different minority identities; and keeps an updated timeline of issues the Committee is addressing.
According to Dr. Deanda, creating this website as her last action as co-chair was important because it serves as an archive of what the Diversity Committee has achieved, who they are, and what they are working towards.
The website creates a sense of community by making the Committee’s work visible, and by including resources which address identities beyond race, encompassing all identity markers, according to Dr. Deanda.
But creating a community includes more than just external groups, it also includes creating an internal community in the Committee itself.
Committee members have a three-year term, according to Dr. Deanda. She served as faculty co-chair of the Committee for the past two years, so the 2020-2021 academic year will be her last on the committee.
While she could have stayed co-chair for that final year, Dr. Deanda said she wanted to model how power should work through her own actions.
The Committee strives for a horizontal power structure, according to Dr. Deanda, meaning it has few middle-level power structures as opposed to a top-down hierarchical structure. And to make that structure horizontal, every faculty colleague must be able to chair the Committee.
Stepping down from her position of leadership while remaining on the Committee also gives Dr. Deanda the opportunity to mentor her successor, creating a community of leadership. When the mentor passes on knowledge to their successor, the successor can do the same consequently; so, when someone leaves, the committee is not “left blank” of leadership, according to Dr. Deanda.
With the website’s creation as her final act as co-chair, Dr. Deanda also introduced the campus to the new co-chairs of the Committee, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Emerald Stacy and Director of Intercultural Affairs Carese Bates.
According to Dr. Deanda, Bates “just makes sense.” As director of Intercultural Affairs, she is making WC a safe space for every student, it is her job and her passion.
“Carese is amazing and a rockstar, and has so much energy, and is so knowledgeable, and is so willing to ‘call me in,’” Dr. Stacy said. “I use the language of calling in instead of calling out, because it is not about cancelling someone, it is about education.”
Dr. Stacy for her part not only has experience as a woman in a male-dominated field, but she also has a gender studies minor which facilitates a feminist agenda that sustains her knowledge about diversity, equity, and inclusion, according to Dr. Deanda.
Dr. Deanda also said that Dr. Stacy showed an enthusiasm for getting involved with initiatives on-campus when she “took the reins” of the new Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity Trainings last year as a guest member.
Dr. Stacy said that the trainings came from a Diversity Committee discussion about needing ongoing intersectional trainings on-campus. She mapped out how the ongoing trainings could function, and her fellow Committee members supported her idea.
Thus, Dr. Stacy’s training program idea developed into the JEDI, a group of around 25 faculty, staff, and students who will lead sustainable, ongoing, collaborative diversity training and workshops.
Currently there are five training modules: Racial Trauma/Epigenetics, Intersectionality, Intervening with Microaggressions, Anti-Racism, and Courageous Conversations. They plan on launching the modules to the campus community in Jan. 2021.
Dr. Stacy says the Diversity Committee wants to make the training responsive and sustainable, meaning that the program is not dependent on the same people running it annually.
Establishing a sustainable training program creates momentum, making it harder to stop progress. The program becomes dependent on everyone, not an individual.
The idea of interconnectivity affects more than her training program.
As co-chair, Dr. Stacy said she functions similarly to a project manager. She and Bates not only lead meetings but look towards a clear goal of what they want to accomplish over the year, how they consistently make progress, and reflect on that progress.
“Our job is to make campus more accessible and more inclusive,” Dr. Stacy said. “Simply increasing our diversity, whatever that means, is not enough.”
As we have more students of diverse backgrounds and identities, Dr. Stacy said she wants “these students to be able to thrive and struggle here, but have the struggle be their education — the content — and growing up, and becoming an adult. Not fighting buriers of systemic oppression.”
Featured Photo caption: The Diversity Committee, in addition to launching its website, is looking to address the demands of students from the 2019-2020 academic year, when students protested racism and other forms of discrimination in the Washington College community, presenting a letter of grievances and demands in the spring. Photo by Mark Cooley.