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Climate Task Force speaks with faculty of color on challenges

image of faculty members speaking at a panel for the Campus Climate Task Force.

Renee Watson speaks at the Faculty Panel for the Campus Climate Task Force. Also speaking (left to right) were Maura Toro-Morn, Shawn Hitchcock, and Nobuko Adachi.

Finding ways to support faculty members of color is key to retention and recruitment, noted a panel of faculty who addressed the Campus Climate Task Force.

The task force requested faculty of color to speak on unique challenges and pressures they face. Professor of Chemistry Shawn Hitchcock noted there is often an expectation for faculty of color to mentor all students of color. “I believe in mentoring. I grew up in Detroit, and without a mentor who believed in me, I would not be here,” said Hitchcock, who spoke to the panel at the University’s LGBT/Queer Studies and Services Institute on Main Street. “But I do not have the unlimited capacity to help every student of color who needs a mentor. Ideally, mentoring students of color needs to be the responsibility of all faculty in all departments, not just the ones who look like them.”

Professor of Sociology Maura Toro-Morn called the silent assumption that faculty of color will take on additional mentor responsibilities a “cultural taxation” that can hinder faculty from research—a key element in reviews and tenure applications. “Working on diversity issues is a great source of satisfaction for me, but my scholarship suffers. That weighs on me,” she said.

Also speaking on the panel were Associate Professor of Anthropology Nobuko Adachi and Associate Dean of Students Renee Watson, who discussed making connections during faculty and staff searches. “I’ve had people ask me about something as simple as where to get their hair done in the community, or where to buy food they are used to eating,” said Watson. “Much of what we need is to be mindful of helping people build communities at Illinois State.”

The panel discussion was part of the Climate Task Force’s work exploring recruitment and retention of faculty of color. Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access Tony Walesby spoke about federal guidelines for search committees. “There are limitations to how we can list positions to avoid violating the Civil Rights Act,” said Walesby, “but there are also a lot of things we can do to show we are a welcoming community.” He pointed to potential pages on the campus website, and promoting positions with non-traditional approaches.

The Climate Task Force is moving ahead with work on 12-month recommendations. In the meantime, Vice President of Student Affairs Levester Johnson reported to the task force that the Implementation Team is already at work on the short-term recommendations, and a progress report is being designed for the website that will be updated as recommendations are addressed.

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