By: Sebastian Sola-Sole ’21 (he/him) and Julia Knoerr ’21 (she/her), Editors-in-Chief
With a long history of discussions surrounding diversity on campus, what is the role of a publication like The Davidsonian in this moment? How can we both acknowledge the work that has been done and expand on existing conversations to further motivate future change?
For our November print issue of The Davidsonian, we have decided to initiate a long-term, journalistic investigation into the state of diversity and inclusion within the academic departments at Davidson. With the publishing of statements in recent months by a collection of faculty members, campus organizations, and the Commission on Race and Slavery, we began to consider how we, as student-journalists, might review and assess the extent to which these statements have been met with tangible action. As a predominantly white organization, we reflected upon our own positionality in this conversation and our goals of continuing the internal interrogations we initiated during the summer through this project.
Nonetheless, we grew increasingly aware of our staff’s limitations upon launching this this process, maybe naively, with one question in mind: How might we devise a measure by which to rank the academic departments around their commitments to diversity, inclusion, and justice? In posing that question, we aimed to stir controversy, stoke accountability, and create another touchstone by which to assess our college’s character year after year. After a few conversations with relevant professors, administrators, and students, however, it became clear that we had taken on far more than we could handle in this semester alone.
Through these conversations, we realized that the project (as we imagined it) would require in-depth qualitative and quantitative data collection, storytelling to contextualize the numbers we planned to present, appropriate trainings for staff members to approach these questions effectively, and ultimately more conversations, more research, more writing, and more time than could fit into a month. So we shifted course.
Under the assumption that we’d be able to access the college’s demographic data and report on the stories behind other metrics, we tightened the scope of the project only to soon run into another barrier. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prevents the college from releasing demographic information without consent because readers could reasonably identify individuals through the data. While those numbers exist, we were not qualified to access them. So again, the nature of the project changed, and we arrived at a new goal: to reinforce all of the work already taking place in support of academic diversity and to provide a grounding framework for our own contributions to come.
What follows are a couple of articles and a series of Q&As aimed at elevating, unabated, the voices of those working toward greater justice at Davidson. Kate Muntzner ‘24 opens with a return to the 2017 Justice, Equality, and Community (JEC) Initiative to gauge student, staff, and faculty opinions on its effectiveness over a three-year timeline. Andrea Liu ‘23 follows her with a Q&A with the Student Initiative for Academic Diversity (SIAD) about student involvement in the hiring process of tenure-track professors. Charlotte Spears ‘24 owns the feature spread, reporting on inclusivity in Davidson’s hiring processes at large. In our final collection of Q&As, Julia Knoerr ‘21 looks at Fostering Inclusivity and Respect in Science Together (FIRST)’s work to promote inclusive pedagogy and accessibility in STEM, and Sohan Gade ‘23 sits down with the Asian American Initiative (AAI) to discuss ongoing advocacy work and current courses in Asian American Studies. Hope Anderson ‘22 and Kaizad Irani ‘22 conclude with Dr. Rose Stremalu’s perspective as a member of the Commission on Race and Slavery and a faculty member at Davidson.
What you see in the eight pages before you is, essentially, our statement of intent and the first step toward something bigger. We reined in our initial ambitions for this issue at a loss for time and resources, but the data we seek does exist, the conversations are waiting to be had, and our commitment to pushing this forward is unwavering. With the right training, research, surveys, and support from staff, we hope to eventually present a comprehensive online platform where individuals can assess information about the criteria they personally value in an academic department and interact with a historical timeline.
As a widely distributed journalistic publication at Davidson, we believe we can move our community towards greater inclusivity by providing fuller transparency of academic departments. We hope to fill informational gaps that students face when determining courses for WebTree or selecting a major. We aim to spark discourse among readers outside of our campus’s physical bounds. And finally, we seek to reframe our role in the conversation around academic diversity as an active driver of accountability to ensure action follows claims.
With that, we invite you to engage in this initiative, beginning with the following eight pages, and continuing into the spring and the years to come
— Sebi Sola-Sole ‘21 and Julia Knoerr ‘21. Editors-in-Chief