At James Madison University, equity is king. And they’re royally inserting it everywhere.
The Virginia public research school has commissioned a Task Force on Racial Equity, and its mission is stated thusly:
(To) build upon previous JMU efforts related to access, diversity, equity and inclusion with new research and dialogue to create meaningful, structural, and noticeable racial equity transformation at JMU and in our world.
Not that it’s myopic:
The university is…acutely aware of the many intersecting forms of identity, diversity and inclusivity that make up our JMU community and of the need to think broadly about all of these issues… This broad range of issues will continue to be a central focus of the institution through the ongoing work of our diversity councils, as well as committees and other entities that focus on particular areas such as disabilities accommodations/access, gender equity, the needs of the LGBTQ+ community, etc.
As of October, the Task Force had made 53 recommendations for a superior educational experience. Among them:
- Black Student Experience
- Creating a mobile app targeted for JMU student communities of color…to connect them more efficiently to resources and spaces on campus
- Creation of PreK-12 Youth Program Directory — Ongoing work of…continuing to…share the variety of programs especially with the BIPOC community.
- Data as a Tool to Enhance the Success of Minoritized Students
- Glossary of Racial Equity Terms
- Inclusive Language
- Increase Participation of BIPOC Youth in Existing Programming
- Recruiting and Retaining Indigenous and Native American (I/NA) Students
- Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Center
The college is also performing a “Student Handbook Audit for Racial Profiling and Bias.” Here’s why:
According to the American Bar Association, “Racial profiling did not end with the Bush administration; in fact, it intensified, even while it changed shape and took on new targets. But the tactic remained the same: using racial or ethnic appearance as an indicator of suspicion, followed by law enforcement engagement. … Due to the incidents of Racial Profiling by law enforcement officers in the United States, the JMU Student handbook should be revised to address how racial profiling by law enforcement and implicit bias may affect BIPOC students.
One might imagine athletic students to be tougher than most. Not so at JMU; ones with certain skin shades need a safe space:
Safe Space for Student Athletes — Create spaces for student athletes from a racial group to feel welcomed and have the freedom to be successful at JMU. Student-athletes spend a lot of time with their advisors and often confide in them when they are experiencing racial bias, stress related to mental health, and/or issues related to academic success. JMU Athletic Academic advisors noted they need additional help working with students who present education impacting disabilities, who struggle academically and/or mentally to help them be successful in and out of the classroom.
Nonwhites need special help; hence, JMU will do the following:
- Provide additional training for academic advisors regarding diversity, inclusion and mental health.
- Support students of color.
- Hire a learning specialist in Athletics who is trained in how to assist students who present education impacting disabilities or who struggle academically.
Concerning the Glossary of Racial Equity Terms, one “[measure] of success for this recommendation” is as follows:
JMU employees will no longer…ask, “What does this word mean, and am I using it correctly?” “What’s the difference between diversity and inclusion?” “When do I use the term people of color?” “How do I discern between white fragility and white privilege?”
As noted by Campus Reform, a “document associated with [the Glossary]…defines “Privilege” as “[u]nearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to ALL members of a dominant group (e.g. white privilege, male privilege, etc.). … Privilege is usually invisible to those who have it because we’re taught not to see it, but nevertheless it puts them at an advantage over those who do not have it.”
Another term demystified: “Racial Capitalism”…
If capitalism is intended to maximize profit, its operation inherently divides workers and extracts labor from communities of color, including enslaved people, Indigenous people, and immigrants.
What’s the opposite of capitalism? No matter the answer, across America, equity appears to be education’s new aim:
JMU’s Task Force on Racial Equity isn’t the only organization that’s been created to solve societal woes. The Force’s webpage also references the previous Diversity Task Force and Task Force on Inclusion. How much will be enough, and when? That remains to be seen — as does the impact of teaching an entire generation to be judged by their amount of melanin. Once upon a time, America decided that was dastardly. But institutions have recently realized on our behalf that such a revelation was wrong.
Of the dozens of JMU’s recommendations, all are active but six, which are currently marked “completed.”
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