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Trustees, Commissioner Address Equity in Higher Education

January 12, 2021
By: Maureen Stokes

At the Board of Trustees’ Tuesday, Nov. 17, meeting, the topic of equity, inclusion, and diversity was discussed by a Board subcommittee, which formed out of last spring’s Unity March.

Charged with reviewing the University’s practices from an equity lens in order to recommend areas for improvements, Trustee William Mosley—who has experience in the area—led the team which included Trustees Maryanne Hammond and Anna Johnson ’22. University members included Stacey Luster, Julie Kazarian, and Patrick Hare.

“Equity should be reported at every Board meeting,” said William Mosely, the Board’s newest member. Mosley, a firefighter in Worcester, is also its chief diversity and inclusion officer. Mosely’s presentation to the Board included the committees and policies reviewed, and discussion with committee chair about outcomes. “As part of each Board’s subcommittee work, they should address equity therein. Equity, diversity, and inclusion: This allows for all voices.”

Trustee Johnson, a junior and commuter student, was appreciative of the work and serving on the Board’s equity subcommittee. “It [equity] is part of our everyday lives and how our University is run.”

Trustee Craig Blais echoed Johnson’s sentiments. “We have very talented students with very strong voices about this. We need to find a way to institutionalize the intent of the [unity] rally. It was a very moving event. So proud to keep this in the forefront and keep this going.”

The Board’s equity conversation followed a presentation Carlos Santiago, commissioner of the Board of Higher Education, at the Board’s Tuesday, Oct. 20, meeting. He presented to the Board the Commission’s Equity Agenda and its establishment as a priority.

In 2013 when Santiago started with the BHE, a report projected and confirmed that a decline in college going students would take place, albeit not uniform among all groups—the white student population would decline, Latinx and the African American student populations would increase. For labor markets, that translates into a $60,000 per person gap between groups. Growth in gateway cities not traditionally supported by funding was also noted.

However, data in Santiago’s presentation suggested students of color, when financial needs were met, still were not performing as well as others. The model and priority was not necessarily to move away from simply funding and offering resources, but to consider more systematic issue that need to be addressed. “Cultural wealth is to be prized,” Santiago stated.

Santiago stated the BHE adopted equity as a priority in 2018, which was ahead of any other higher education system throughout the nation. “It is a complex issue that the Department of Higher Education needs to address,” Santiago stated. With close to 50 percent of students in K-12 being students of color, but less the 4 percent are teachers of color, he said, “The question is ‘are we serving our students well?’”

The Lumia Foundation invited the BHE to apply for a Talent, Innovation and Equity (TIE) grant, which will certainly support the Equity Initiative at the state level. “Massachusetts is the only state committed to and focusing the racial equity,” Santiago stated, adding it is also supported by Governor Baker and the legislature.

President Maloney thanked Commissioner Santiago for his presentation and others for their work on the Board’s equity subcommittee. “How we implement other efforts on campus will be important,” stated President Maloney.

The Board will address and vote on an equity statement at its Jan. 19 meeting.

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