COSAM News Articles 2021 March Message from the Deans: Monday’s DEI Challenge

Message from the Deans: Monday’s DEI Challenge

Published: 03/15/2021

By: Dean Giordano

On Monday, February 22, COSAM began a program called the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Challenge. Each day an email was sent out to all COSAM employees containing a link to an article or video, along with a few discussion questions, that were intended to promote a conversation about some aspect of DEI. The Challenges were developed by an external consultant, with some input from Assistant Dean Kim Mulligan-Guy and from me.

For the first two weeks, the DEI Challenges have motivated many thoughtful and important conversations among members of the COSAM community during separate discussion sessions held via Zoom. One goal of each challenge was to make everyone in COSAM think hard about and discuss difficult topics to help enact change towards inclusion, equity, and diversity in COSAM. 

The first two weeks of this initiative seemed to be very successful. Unfortunately, the Challenge sent out on March 15 that was not well thought out. There are ways to have conversations about difficult topics that do not require utilizing examples from groups focused on hatred and racial violence. The result was a very strong negative response by many folks in COSAM and by others who have learned of all or parts of the Challenge. The following message was sent to all of the original recipients of the Challenge email yesterday.

To all COSAM Employees from Dean Giordano and Assistant Dean Mulligan-Guy,

The 30-day challenge for COSAM has been developed by BestGurl with Nick and I included in the planning process. This is something that has been adopted by organizations across the country for multiple constituencies. While the goal of the activities are to challenge our thinking and sometimes make us uncomfortable as we reflect on our own DEI journey, we realize that the framing of today’s topic was upsetting because it was conveyed in a manner that felt tone deaf and did not acknowledge the role the KKK has played in the history of racism and violence in this country.   

In creating this activity, BestGurl’s intention was to push people to consider the potential lessons to be learned from organizations. This includes evaluating their purpose, mission, and methods of operation and thinking about how they can be used to effectively promote a just and equitable society or organization. In terms of the KKK, they hoped people would connect their visible and pervasive presence to the creation of organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center for Social Justice, the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee, or the establishment of the Third Force Act.  Because they have been extremely effective in identifying and recruiting potential members, BestGurl believes they are worth studying by those seeking to establish organizations for justice.

However, in spite of their well-intentions we realize that we should have done a better job ensuring the activities chosen are addressing these challenging topics in a way that aligns with the ultimate goals we are trying to achieve in COSAM. For that we apologize and are committed to doing better moving forward.   

Kimberly X. Mulligan, Ph.D. (She/Her/Hers)                    Nick Giordano, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean of Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity            Dean                                         



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