The Task Force on Anti-Racism has been charged by President Parham to examine all aspects of the university in order to determine if the campus is in alignment with social justice values. Illustration by Nova Blanco-Rico.
By Brenda Fernanda Verano, News Editor
The task force formed this summer to examine any overt and covert racism at CSUDH celebrated its four-month anniversary in November with a new name and an increased focus on its mission.
The newly named Task Force on Anti-Racism in the Academy has the same purpose as the Task Force on Racial Reconciliation created by CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham this summer, but four months into its work it has discovered specific areas to examine.
These include the relative scarcity of Black faculty on campus as well as the need to integrate student voices of this highly diverse campus into its exploration of any institutionalized racism or other inequities.
The task force originated in July, a time of worldwide political uprising and mass protest. It was one of the campus’ responses to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many other Black people in this country.
As the name suggests, the task force was tasked to intentionally examine and analyze the university’s explicit and underlying racial attitudes and sentiments that could indicate if CSUDH might be inflicted with anti-Blackness and/or discrimination.
According to a campus-wide July 20 email distributed by Parham, it was important in a time of global demands for justice reform, that CSUDH “enhance our own profile as a university committed to the ideals of social justice.”
He also said in his email that the task force was formed because 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,” Parham continued. “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.”
In an interview in July with the Bulletin, Dr. Anthony Samad, executive director of the Mervyn Dymally African American Political & Economic Institute and co-chair of the task force said its mission was extensive.
“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.
Last week, Samad said the task force’s name change came after realizing that it had to represent something more than merely talking about achieving racial equity.
“There could not be any racial reconciliation without the examinations of the problem, all of the problems (in the university),” he said.
But the work of the task of helping transform the campus into an anti-racist institution has not been easy and will take more time, Samad said.
Part of the task force’s fact-finding is looking at data and records that have been compiled and collected over decades. Analyzing that data can yield valuable insights into any past patterns that still manifest today.
However, because the data is “disaggregated,“ Samad said, or not in one central location, it is very time-consuming to collect and difficult to analyze.
“This is a process, you are not going to unpack 400 years or racism, of which much of it has spilled onto our campus, in not so subtle ways, in weeks or months,” Samad said.
Samad said that although he is aware that some may expect quick results from the task force, the process of looking at the university as a whole will take time. The task force committee will examine each of the university’s six colleges, six administrative divisions, affinity groups, academic departments and other organizations on campus.
According to the CSU, in 2019, 37% of CSUDH tenured and non-tenured professors were non-white, while at least 83% of students are non-white.
“We will look at unconscious bias and exclusions, in many of the departments, hiring committees hire people that look like them,” Samad said.
According to Samad, in order to collect additional information and data the task force is planning to send out a campus-wide survey very soon, followed by focus groups.
As far as the task force, the members include co-chairs Dr. Samad and Dr. Donna Nicol, chair of the university’s Africana Studies department, representatives of the Chicano/a and Asian Pacific Studies, the Dymally Institute, Slice and the American Indian Institute, Psychological Services, and Teacher Education.
Everybody currently on the task force represents some aspect of the university, including administration, faculty and staff, enabling it to reflect the wide diversity of this university.
“We tried to cover every aspect of the university’s social, ethnic, racial, gender and ideological representations,” Samad said.
Another addition to the task force has been student voices. Blake Anger, a senior and vice president of Academic Affairs for Associated Student Inc., has also been part of these meetings.
The task force will present its initial report to President Parham with recommendations on what areas of the campus can be improved over the next three to five years to assist in its evolution to becoming a truly anti-racist institution.
“The intent is to turn in an initial recommendation, which will follow a conversation (about) what the president actually wants to proceed with versus what the task force thinks is priority,” Samad said.
Samad said the task force expects to have its initial report completed by the end of the year.
Regardless of its findings, Samad said the task force has already confronted a substantial issue: having conversations about race can be very difficult for some.
“I’ve been in the race conversation for 40 years, however, many other folks are not used to talking about race,” he said.
However, he said that it must be talked about and acted upon.
“One of the things that we had to do with having a multi-racial multi-ethnic,gender-balanced task force [was] to bring everyone up to speed on what it’s like to be black in America. Some folks know, some folks think they know.”