A quick look at Ithaca College’s timeline for action on racism and cultural bias would reveal a seemingly comprehensive list of steps planned out to achieve a common goal set.
Based on the structure of this timeline and the blasé way administrators refer to it, the same cannot be said for how it is actually being carried out.
Despite promises to reflect on and update each of the action items on the list, the vast majority of these items remain in the future tense — “will include” and “will be” being popular verbs — and give no indication of progress or completion. According to the website, any updates or changes will be posted on the timeline next to each action item, which means either they have not been completed, or the administration has not bothered to update the portions of the timeline that have passed. For an administration that has insisted on transparent practices, this does not count as one of them.
To be certain, some points of the timeline have been accomplished. The Office of Residential Life and the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management work group published a draft policy for a community review board, after nine one-hour meetings of work. There are new guidelines for staff and administrative searches that match the search process for faculty. Rankin & Associates Consulting visited campus to gather some feedback on its campus-climate survey, which it will conduct during Fall 2016.
But Chief Diversity Officer Roger Richardson openly admits the college will not meet many of the action items, citing logistics and processes that get in the way. Other action items are being approached with less fervor than that with which they were introduced. An example of this is the baseline cross-cultural awareness program that, according to the January section, was to be established for all faculty, staff and administration to participate in. But now the Office of Human Resources does not want to require employees to attend these events.
This timeline was published two days after students took the stage with chants of “no confidence” during the college’s “Addressing Community Action on Racism and Cultural Bias” event. A large fanfare accompanied its formation, but little to no noise has followed up on updates or accomplishments. It would appear that making the plan was a tactical move to save face.
It is easy for the administration to look at what the college is doing in terms of a framework and pat itself on the back. It would be more difficult, and telling, to match its accomplishments up to a solid list of expectations and action steps, which is the way it originally advertised this comprehensive action plan.