May 13, 2020
“We’re seeing social distancing being used as a pretext to arrest the very communities that have been hit hardest by the virus.” —Kristen Clarke, on Black people being disproportionally arrested for social distancing violations.
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As the spring semester closes amidst a global pandemic, professors face the challenge of administering final exams remotely. According to instructional specialists Pamela Chui Kadakia and Allan A. Bradshaw, the challenge lies in “creat[ing], administer[ing], and scor[ing] final exams that are fair and equitable,” since students may face limited Internet access, caregiving responsibilities, and other distractions while at home.
Kadakia and Bradshaw offer extensive strategies to tackle finals-related concerns like time limits and deadlines, tech accessibility, and rubrics. They point out that doing so with equity in mind provides “a space for flexibility, understanding and, ultimately, student achievement.”
The shift to at-home learning and working has forced many of us to notice the hidden inequities in our school and work environments. In the COVID-free future, we hope that professors and employers continue to consider equity and accessibility when developing assignments. DiversityEdu offers a free downloadable checklist for doing so here.
One way to begin considering equity during COVID-19 is to ask yourself what elements of your school or work environment you took for granted before the crisis. Some examples could be access to the Internet, the ability to work quietly and without interruptions, or even being able to seek support from colleagues or classmates.
How have those things changed or stayed the same during COVID-19? How might those things have changed for students and colleagues in situations different from yours? And lastly, how can policies and procedures shift to accommodate those changes with equity in mind?
A new study finds that when Black first-year college students engage in a one-time belonging intervention, positive outcomes can be observed years later. The intervention consisted of students of diverse backgrounds sharing stories of the challenges they faced when transitioning to college. It was meant to convey that such challenges are common and often lessen as time goes on, especially when students seek out support.
Seven to ten years later, Black students in the experimental group had developed mentoring relationships and reported greater life satisfaction, more community involvement and leadership experience, and greater success in their careers.
At first glance, these findings may seem to imply that all we need to build a lasting sense of belongingness is a single instance of engagement. But after a closer read, we learn that the one-time intervention was successful because it set a foundation for ongoing engagement and inclusion in the form of mentoring relationships, which in turn contributed to career and life satisfaction as the years went on.
The study demonstrates how life-changing it can be to foster a sense of belonging early in life, as well as through mentoring relationships. Take a look at how mentoring is developed and supported on your campus or in your workplace. Is mentoring available to mentees of all or most backgrounds? Are there any barriers that keep mentees from finding mentors? Do potential mentors have the time to build robust mentoring relationships? Many of the items in our equity considerations checklist for remote learning are useful for reviewing mentoring programs as well.
Sung Yeon Choimorrow identifies as an Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) woman. She says that when she speaks out, people often say things like, “It’s so refreshing to see an AAPI woman who speaks her mind!” Choimorrow explains that these “compliments” only serve to reinforce stereotypes about the demeanor of AAPI women.
She says she speaks out to challenge both what’s being said, and the assumption that she won’t have the nerve to do so. For instance, when an airport agent saw her name and said, “I’m not even going to try and pronounce that!” Choimorrow pronounced her name for her and made her say it three times. She cites actress Uzo Aduba’s mother as inspiration, who said that “if white people can learn to pronounce Dostoyevsky, they can learn to pronounce Uzoamaka.” As Choimorrow writes, Asian and Pacific Islander women are “worth the extra effort.”
Choimorrow’s words speak to the intersectional nature of identity and how myths about women and Asian people overlap and compound. For example, Asian women are subjected to myths about subservience on account of their gender and race. That’s what makes it particularly powerful when she points out that Asian and Pacific Islander women “are stepping up to take back this power and stand in the spotlight.”
If you want to compliment someone in a way that relates to their identity group membership, take a moment to reflect on whether any stereotypes could be hidden within the compliment. When you encounter a name you’re not confident pronouncing, either ask how it’s pronounced or look it up. And if someone directs these types of microaggressions at you, consider responding like Choimorrow does, if you feel comfortable doing so. Not only might it feel empowering, but it may challenge any stereotypes at hand.