Task Force to Examine Anti-Blackness Primarily, but Not Exclusivelycsudhbulletin July 29, 2020 2 Comments
Dr. Donna J. Nicole (left) and Dr. Anthony Samad (far right in second photo) are co-chairs of the Task Force on Racial reconciliation announced last week by Dr. Thomas A. Parham (far left, second photo), who stands beside Dr. Michael Eric Dyson , a noted professor and author who spoke on campus in 2019. Photos courtesy of CSUDH News and the Dymally Institute.
By Taylor Helmes, Managing Editor
The Task Force on Racial Reconciliation announced last week by California State University, Dominguez Hills President Thomas A. Parham, will focus primarily on examining whether there is any racial imbalance or underlying discrimination experienced by Black students, staff, and faculty. However, Parham said he, “would not be surprised,” if racial discrimination were to be found among other groups on campus.
In an interview last week with the Bulletin, Parham said that the committee would examine whether anti-Black bias exists in any policies or practices on campus, whether manifesting in the classroom, administrative entities such as academic affairs and admission and records, or other campus departments and organizations.
“The task force will look at race, conscious and unconscious biases on our campus within the systems and departments of the university and address historical deficiencies and under-resourcing based on race,” Dr. Anthony Samad, a co-chair of the task force said.
Black students, staff, faculty, are in the spotlight now because their group is the one, “catching the hell,” as Parham described.
The Task Force on Racial Reconciliation will be co-chaired by Dr. Donna Nicol, chair of the university’s Africana Studies department and Dr. Samad executive director of the Mervyn Dymally African American Political & Economic Institute, a think tank located on campus that studies the effects of public policy on African Americans and their communities. The remaining members of the task force have not been named yet, however, Parham said the campus’ diverse demographics would be represented, including Black, LatinX, Native American, Asian American and white committee members.
“We want to keep [the task force] small and nimble,” Parham said, adding that will help ensure that the committee can quickly navigate and assess the reality of racial equality across the campus community.
Co-chair Samad said the task force will, “uproot and confront (any) race issues,” identified at the university.
“Anti-Black racism is a primary focus,” Samad said, “but if the task force discovers other ethnic segments of the university have incurred discrimination or bias, we intend to address it and make the president aware of it.”
“The system is broken as it relates to the Anti-black racism that has (and continues) to exist on the campus – some overt, some covert, towards black students and staff, the absence of black faculty, the lack of promotion and micro-aggressions that impact collegial environments,” Samad continued. “There are also issues of resourcing (or the absence of resources) distributing based on overt and covert biases.”
Some examples Parham gave of areas the task force will examine are potential conscious or unconscious racial bias in classrooms, university departments such as Student Affairs, Human Resources, and Administration and Finance, as well as any discrimination in enrollment.
Enrollment to be considered
Parham told the Bulletin that Black student enrollment is one area the task force may look into. That was further underscored by Dr. Nicol, the other co-chair. Her Department of Africana Studies wrote a letter in early June expressing its solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and listed 10 demands in the “interest of supporting Black students, faculty and staff,” on campus. The first demand was calling for a recruitment plan to attract more Black students to campus.
(The percentage of Black students at CSUDH, according to the CSU enrollment dashboard on its Institutional and Research Analyses page on its website, has decreased from 27 percent in 2000 to around 12 percent in 2020. As recent as 2009, Black students comprised 25 percent of the general student body, with 3,586 identifying as Black, nearly 1,000 more than any other CSU. But the numbers plummeted during the Great Recession, and not until 2016 did they begin to stabilize. In fall, 2019, the number of Black students was 1,799, putting CSU slightly behind CSU Sacramento and Northridge.
But, those schools are far larger than CSUDH, and our campus still has three times the number of Black students than the CSU average of 4 percent. California State University, East Bay, at 10 percent in 2019, is the only other CSU in double digits in terms of Black students.)
But even though, as Parham told The Bulletin, CSUDH has the highest percentage of Black students of any university in the state, around 12 to 14 percent, in his July 20 email announcing the task force’s formation he said that this campus cannot be, “insulated from any analysis that addresses,” its policies and practices regarding race.
“We are an institution of higher learning founded on the values of social justice,” he wrote in the announcement. “We as a campus community cannot become dispassionate spectators to our own history, but must be active participants in our institutional growth and development, to fulfill our vision to be a model urban university.”
As far as the other nine demands listed by the Africana Studies department, which included increasing Black tenure and tenure-track faculty, hiring more psychologists trained in culturally relevant counseling, and establishing Asian American and Latinx resource centers “without delay,” Parham said it is a “possibility” that the task force will address some of the demands, but he explained that he doesn’t want to, “be prescriptive about what I expect to see.”
Remaining members of task force to be named shortly
The task force will make recommendations in its final report, which will be submitted to the president and his executive cabinet, and any implementations of those recommendations would, “be on that department to be able to look at directives from me about how that ought to go,” Parham said.
Also in his July 20 announcement, Parham said the rest of the members of the task force will be named “shortly,” and he stressed the importance of the campus community working together to “move the needle in this complex yet critical work.” In the “spirit of transparency and communication,” he said a web page will be created that will list the task force’s purpose and its members, as well as provide ongoing updates and to solicit feedback. That web page will be published after the task force has reported its findings.