About Symposium

Since the 1960s, colleges and universities in the US have had to confront their pasts as student organizing and protests have brought to light the ways institutions of higher education re/produce inequity. Many of their demands have centered on hiring and retaining faculty and staff of color, creating protocols and procedures to address hate and bias, and embedding more subjugated knowledges and methodologies in the curriculum. More broadly, what students were/are demanding is that colleges and universities transform themselves to better educate, serve, and prepare the students of today and tomorrow. These students, many of whom are from underserved and underrepresented backgrounds, want to see themselves and their experiences reflected in the curriculum, culture, and operations of the university.  They continue to question the commitment of institutions of higher education, and the capacities of some who work within them, to create the inclusive culture and climate needed to enable them to thrive. This represents a critical paradigm shift from the belief that students come with deficits that need to be addressed so that they can be successful in the academy to institutions needing to transform structurally.

These students, many of whom are from underserved and underrepresented backgrounds, want to see themselves and their experiences reflected in the curriculum, culture, and operations of the university.

In response, many institutions have launched diversity initiatives that focus on recruiting more faculty and students from non-majority racial/ethnic populations. Yet, these compositional diversity approaches tend to focus more on numbers and percentages rather than reducing or eliminating structural barriers in meaningful, lasting ways. These approaches also often ignore or neglect the retention of more “diverse” hires within Predominantly and Historically White Institutions (PHWIs), and the place of staff, administrators, and faculty of color within these conversations. Far too often those who have engaged in the institutional work to create space and voice for diverse faculty and staff - work that is not recognized or rewarded - eventually chose to either disengage from this work or move on given the taxing nature of invisible or less visible labor. The question then becomes, how do we build transformative and sustainable new futures that live beyond particular moments and/or people?

This symposium seeks to tackle this question by bringing together students, staff, faculty, and administrators of color to discuss what transformative change can and should look like in these spaces. How do we use moments of disruption (like student protests and their aftermaths) as spaces and places of possibility making? What does transformative change actually look like? How do we retain staff and faculty of color within the academy? How do we thrive, and not just survive, in these predominantly and historically white institutional spaces?

We ask participants to think about how we create transformative change that outlives ourselves and the moment that we find ourselves in. Sessions will focus on the following themes:

  • Imagining new futures within higher education.
  • Abolitionist and decolonizing projects in the university
  • Transforming institutional structures for equity and justice
  • Transformative and restorative justice practices
  • Building capacity of all faculty and staff to support structural change and support students
  • Equity Asset Based approaches to working with students at the margins
  • Possibility making in times of conflict