As the social climate around us shifts, so must the School of Communication. One of the most important issues in the United States before and since the 2020 killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, involves equity, diversity, inclusion, and access. As people see problems in the systems in place in society, we need and want to identify, challenge, and change it for the better. The School of Communication’s Antiracism, Social Justice and Coalition-building Committee (ASC) aims to do just that. 

Founded in 2015 under the name of the School of Communication Faculty & Student Diversity & Inclusion Committee, the ASC was originally intended to devise ways to increase diversity and cultural sensitivity in the classrooms of Fell Hall. Following the national and local social, political, and economic fallout during 2020, the Faculty & Student Diversity & Inclusion Committee became more necessary than ever. Its members came together in the summer of 2020 and renamed the committee to what it is today.  

Following the name change, the committee’s focus also shifted. “Our goal is to work on challenging systems of oppression and providing an atmosphere conducive to productive dialogue and learning for individuals from all backgrounds,” said Dr. Megan Hopper, an associate professor of communication and member and founder of the ASC. 

The ASC views the world from an antiracist equity lens, which its members believe will help people in the School of Communication to understand different perspectives necessary to creating an accessible and equitable academic environment. “Equity work is for the betterment of everyone, and we believe that this work moves the School of Communication forward and aligns us with the movement of the University going forward,” said Hopper. 

While being a relatively new committee, the ASC does have big plans for the future, which include a five-year plan that offers suggestions to faculty about reaching EDIA (equity diversity, inclusion, and access) goals as well as recommendations for how the School of Communication can tackle systemic racism as a whole. The ASC is part of a larger network of groups on campus that are working toward EDIA initiatives. Recently, the President’s Office charged the ASC, as well as other EDIA groups on campus, to work toward achieving several Pillars of Progress: Tools to Assess EDIA Readiness and Change. One of the pillars in particular that the ASC is urging the School to work on is a commitment to EDIA growth and change including imbedding EDIA values in the School’s mission statement, vision, and strategic plan. 

Another big aspect of their work is their development of an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Learning Community Undergraduate Certificate Program, a program that would give students opportunities to build their cultural competency locally. 

Students, faculty, and staff are all welcomed and encouraged to become involved in the ASC. The committee is working hard to move forward and have even developed a book club for School of Communication faculty. The books discussed are EDIA related, an attempt to bring to light certain issues for faculty. 

ASC meetings are open to students, faculty, and staff as a way to connect the committee to members of the Illinois State University family. A website is not currently available, but questions can be directed to Dr. Megan Hopper

“Furthermore,” said Hopper, “we believe that all of our students benefit from being exposed to antiracist curriculum in order to effectively participate in democracy and be adequately prepared for and competitive in intellectual, civic, and professional endeavors.”