News and Updates
LIFT takes flight
In follow-up to ASU’s commitment to enhance and support the lived, teaching and learning experiences of Black students, faculty and staff, the Advisory Council on African American Affairs at Arizona State University has released The LIFT Report: Status of Black and African Americans at Arizona State University for 2021.
The report is the first in a planned series of annual reports that will document the process and progress of 25 calls to action announced by ASU President Michael Crow in fall 2020 to address embedded injustices and structural problems within our institutions and society at large.
“This is a design transformation process for ASU,” Crow said of the LIFT Initiative at the unveiling of the report during the African and African American Faculty and Staff Association (AAAFSA) meeting on Sept. 24. “Our design is not modern enough. We have an opportunity to accelerate our institution’s evolution and then subsequently impact the broader evolution of society’s aspirations of social equity and social justice. LIFT is launched, and we are holding ourselves accountable.”
A first-year overview of the implementation of the 25 launch points, the 2021 LIFT Report outlines the progress and developments being made in the effort to find solutions to issues of bias, discrimination and underrepresentation at ASU.
The work of identifying some of these issues is underway through the LIFT-inspired Faculty Inclusion Research for System Transformation (FIRST), led by Victoria Sahani, associate dean of special projects and professor in ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.
At the AAAFSA meeting, Sahani said FIRST was developing data sets to review and track initiatives and policies related to the experience of inclusion and belonging among faculty who identify as Black, Indigenous or persons of color, and other identity-disadvantaged faculty at ASU. The goal, she said, was to create a research system for the transformation of the faculty experience at ASU that includes a virtuous cycle, or feedback loop.
Sahani said the in-development data set augmented by additional data in the future will help determine the effectiveness of current policies and practices and allow for adaptation to improve the experiences of faculty at ASU.
Students elevating Black cultural awareness through LIFT initiative at ASU
George Floyd, the man whose death in police custody launched a thousand protests in 2020, has reignited a critical conversation about systemic racism and social injustice around the world. In 2021, almost one year after Floyd’s death, change is starting to happen.
From conversation to activation, constitution to evolution, ASU is among the global institutions rising to the challenge of change for the betterment of its community and society as whole. The voices of some determined and persistent members of the community underscored the urgency of this challenge and helped bring a new initiative to life.
In the days and weeks following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, advocates and allies of ASU’s Black student community joined the front lines of a global movement — in the midst of a pandemic — to speak up and speak out on long-standing inequalities reawakened by Floyd’s death.
ASU President Michael Crow listened. His response: a 25-point action plan to address issues of bias, discrimination and underrepresentation at ASU. Students at the front lines of the movement soon found themselves at the forefront of a new initiative — the LIFT initiative — and began work on the complex task of implementing the 25 actions alongside experienced members of ASU’s faculty and staff.
As members of the newly formed Advisory Council on African American Affairs (ACAAA), student members have taken part in meetings, created programming and carried full course loads all while answering the call for transformation at ASU.
ACAAA member Kiara Kennedy is a senior studying health sciences in ASU’s College of Health Solutions and a student-athlete on ASU’s softball team. She co-created the group Sun Devils United and the Black Student Athlete Association with other student athletes in response to the mass demonstrations for social justice in 2020. Kennedy says being selected to join the ACAAA and help carry out the actions of the LIFT initiative has been an empowering experience in advocacy and leadership development.
“My hopes for the 25 points are to see these points continually move in the right direction for the future and see a change within ASU,” Kennedy said. “I am truly grateful for this opportunity and so glad I've gotten the chance to work with these wonderful individuals.”
Among the LIFT action items elevated to high priority for student members of the ACAAA is the creation of a multicultural space on ASU’s campus. Cornelius Foxworth II, an ACAAA member and a senior studying psychology, business and criminology is looking forward to seeing the multicultural center come into being.
“Minority students at (predominantly) white institutions often get lost in the crowd or looked at as this token item of diversity and inclusion,” Foxworth said. “If we are going to have minority students at this campus feel comfortable and protected, it’s really important that we have those resources for them.”
The working group leading the efforts on the multicultural center are assessing design options for the proposed space and will be sharing recommendations in the months ahead.
Keeping in step with the LIFT action item to support student organizations and their initiatives on behalf of Black students, Foxworth and other members of the Black African Coalition student organization, for which he serves as vice president, recently unveiled a new guidebook for current and incoming students. The BAC Guidebook is a virtual pamphlet that shares resources and programming available through the 33 member organizations that compose the BAC. In March, the group also launched its first Black Excellence Experience Tour (BEET) for prospective Black students considering ASU as the next stepping stone in their education, and will be hosting another virtual BEET event in late April.
Black History Month at ASU: Actions LIFT our community
Dear ASU Community:
As we reflect on those who sacrificed, contributed, and achieved for the betterment of themselves and others in this month — Black History Month — I’d also like to take a moment to recognize those who are making history every day in service to our renewed commitment to students, faculty and staff here at ASU.
The 25 actions to which we have pledged to address inequities and systemic racism have a new name and a firm resolve to confront these issues through education and participation. The LIFT Initiative, through collaboration and innovation, endeavors to Listen, Invest, Facilitate and Teach — better than we have done in the past. By “better” I mean being better attuned to the unique social and cultural experiences of the learners and educators of our diverse ASU community, and by building better bridges to support leadership learning goals and outcomes for our students, faculty and staff.
Since establishing the Advisory Council on African American Affairs last fall, we have been moving forward and quickly on these initiatives to support the success and growth of Black students, faculty and staff here at ASU. This interdisciplinary group of faculty, staff and students is actively collaborating with other talented members of our ASU community to implement LIFT’s goals through various subcommittees. We are motivated by the efforts and investments of Council members who continue to inspire and initiate participation, not only from within ASU, but in our surrounding communities as well.
It is our goal to document the efforts of these transformative actions, and efforts to do as such are well underway. We will share the results of these efforts in an annual report in the Summer of 2021 and consider new ideas that may stem from this report.
Upholding our commitment to investing resources and providing enhanced service support for Black and African American students, ASU has partnered with the Greater Phoenix Urban League Young Professionals to help create career pathways for our students. Last fall, 50 ASU students enrolled in the 12-month YP CoNext Leadership Program for one-on-one mentorship with young professionals throughout the greater Phoenix area. We encourage others to engage in programs like this and share these opportunities with friends and colleagues.
We are also working to facilitate more opportunities for personal and professional growth among students and staff. Pursuant to our commitment to offer opportunities for service engagement, we have implemented a change to our staff personnel policy to increase the number of hours of release time so that we can engage in activities and opportunities that uphold ASU’s commitment to inclusion. This includes university-sponsored trainings, workshops and conferences, as well as professional organizations, affinity groups and mentor or mentee programs.
The newly formed Faculty Inclusion Research for System Transformation (FIRST) is beginning its research into race and discrimination at ASU. Led by Victoria Sahani, professor of law in ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, this historical study will help us better address our future by looking at our past.
And we recently launched The Difference Engine: An ASU Center for the Future of Equality. Led by Ehsan Zaffar, a civil rights lawyer and educator in ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, this multi-college interdisciplinary initiative is designed to help elevate equality across the United States. Engaging talent and resources from across ASU, Ehsan and his team are creating classes and developing partnerships to transform social justice and deconstruct the structural inequality that calls for this kind of social justice work.
The LIFT initiative is a throughline of the work pioneered and advanced by the artists, the educators, the explorers, the inventors, leaders, laborers, poets and soldiers we often spotlight during Black History Month. It is an active reminder of how ordinary efforts can effect extraordinary change for the betterment of our society. Those efforts advance here through education and dedication in service of our community.
Let’s continue to lift each other up and set our sights higher to build better bridges for our communities.
Michael M. Crow
Arizona State University
To the ASU community:
In an email to ASU’s campus community on Sept. 2, I announced 25 starting actions that we have committed to in the efforts to advance meaningful change in the fight for equality and social justice at ASU and beyond. I emphasize “starting” because we know that this work is not finite. It is evolving and will continue to do so. Central to its implementation is the establishment of a new Advisory Council on Advisory Council on African American Affairs, which has already started the important work of convening constructive dialogue around the initiatives.
I am pleased to announce Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, vice president of ASU Cultural Affairs, and Jeffrey Wilson, professor in ASU’s Department of Economics, as the co-chairs of this new council. I will be working alongside Colleen, Jeffrey and other members of the Council to develop, implement and evaluate the work that we have started in response to recent events that remind us that discrimination still exists and must be dismantled. Together we will draw from our shared knowledge and lived experiences to evaluate and develop all of the possible ways that we can overcome the systemic issues of racism and injustice.
The Council invites the interest and support of all members the ASU community who are committed to ensuring the success and growth of Black faculty, staff and students. It is important to underscore that we are committed to the success and growth of all of our faculty, staff and students, but this particular moment in time calls for heightened focus on the Black community. In the months between now and July 2021, the Council will hold town hall meetings to address key areas of interest related to the initiatives. One of those meetings will include a deeper discussion about why we are embarking on this work now. A data committee will keep track of the progress we are making together, and a new website dedicated to our efforts will provide updates and serve as a connection hub for ideas and inquiries.
In focusing on the immediate issues and opportunities for Black faculty, staff and students, ASU earnestly accepts the inclusive institutional responsibilities laid bare in the ASU charter. We can do more and we will do more to acknowledge and dismantle the barriers of systemic racism in the ongoing design and evolution of the New American University.
I appreciate the voluntary collaboration and commitment of so many leaders within the ASU community as we accelerate our work in progress. I look forward to your ideas, your input and your initiatives. Let’s do this work together.
Michael M. Crow
Arizona State University
To the ASU community:
On June 1, after the murder of George Floyd and as the Black Lives Matter protests refocused the nation’s attention on ending systemic racism and violence directed at Black people and communities of color, I reached out to voice ASU’s rejection of racism and discrimination and to reaffirm our university pledge to always pursue the highest levels of social inclusion and impact. Now, I am reaching out again, this time after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
These incidents, and countless others, remind us that we have so much more to do to achieve our common aspiration for social justice in this country. They are also a reminder to turn a mirror on ourselves to identify our own missteps, inadequacies and deficiencies and to acknowledge our institutional responsibility to do more than we ever have before in the fight for equality and social justice.
In order to accelerate meaningful change here at ASU and to contribute to a national agenda for social justice, ASU is committing to the 25 actions listed below. These 25 actions are drawn from your ideas, your expertise, your creativity and your public commentary, and each and every one of them will be launched this year. They will be undertaken with the goal of enhancing diversity, growth and opportunity for Black undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, while also expanding our academic offerings, community services and collaborative relationships to the benefit of all underrepresented groups and individuals at ASU.
I do know this list of actions will be inadequate by itself. I also want to acknowledge that many units across the university have already been hard at work at introspection and planning on how they will address racial injustice. What I want to firmly communicate to you today is that we will work harder, invest more and do more to ensure that Black students, faculty and staff — and other underrepresented groups and individuals — are provided an educational, work and living environment that is welcoming, supportive and empowering to their success, creativity and ability to achieve their personal, educational and professional goals all for the betterment of this university and our nation.
As always, I welcome your thoughts about this initial agenda of activity. We will provide regular updates on the implementation of these action items. Thank you for being a member of a diverse and inclusive ASU community, and I look forward to working with you to advance these initiatives.
Michael M. Crow
Arizona State University
Arizona State University list of 25 actions to support
Black students, faculty and staff
1. ASU commits to supporting ASU law Professor Victoria Sahani’s proposal to undertake a historical study of race and discrimination at the university. She will be director of the Faculty Inclusion Research for System Transformation (FIRST) initiative.
2. ASU commits to the appointment of an Advisory Council on African American Affairs, comprised of faculty, staff and students to assist the president in ensuring the success of Black faculty and staff and the growth of students while also convening and engaging the Black community at ASU, locally and nationally on a variety of issues. The advisory council will be established and convened by its chairperson as soon as possible in September 2020.
3. ASU recommits to supporting the vice provost for inclusion and community engagement in the role of convening and engaging the university community through the Committee for Campus Inclusion in support of the university provost’s efforts to achieve these and other goals.
4. The chairperson of the Advisory Council on African American Affairs and the vice provost for inclusion and community engagement will convene a regular series of discussions about the implementation of this list of 25 actions and the continued development and advancement of new ideas that would facilitate the goals and activities reflected in these commitments.
5. ASU commits to establishing a multicultural space on campus and establishing and funding a working group to assess and begin design options for this space.
6. ASU commits to publishing an annual report on all key metrics to broadly share student enrollment and graduation data and to celebrate the successes, ideas and work of our Black students, faculty and staff.
7. ASU recommits to promoting student success and well-being among Black students and all students of color as ASU constantly pursues a student body that reflects the people and changing demographics of the state of Arizona. This includes, but is not limited to, realizing undifferentiated outcomes in student retention and graduation for Black students and other students. This work is articulated in our charter, mission and goals and will be accelerated with and through the mechanisms, activities and investments reflected in the first 25 actions identified here and in the work of the President's Advisory Council on Inclusion and Success .
8. ASU commits to investing in and providing enhanced service support to student organizations and their initiatives on behalf of Black students including, but not limited to, the African American Men of Arizona State University, Sankofa, STARS and the Black African Coalition.
9. ASU commits to hosting an annual spring recruitment fair for undergraduates of color into graduate programs across all disciplines with scholarship investments in acute areas of underrepresentation.
10. ASU commits to establishing a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship Program funding a minimum of 30 postdoctoral fellowships from underrepresented communities over the next two years who will — presuming satisfactory performance — continue on after two years into a tenure-track position. This program will continue so that we are creating a long-term process to diversify the faculty of the university.
11. ASU commits to creating a new class of graduate fellowships (Community Fellows) for Black students and other students of color.
12. ASU commits to establishing graduate assistantships for underrepresented students to go to graduate school. ASU will support the addition of 50 new graduate assistantships over the next two to three years.
13. ASU commits to establishing a university-wide student entrepreneurship, career advising and student success initiative to inspire and assist Black students and all students of color to successfully pursue their visions for their future and to help provide pathways to the careers of their choice.
14. ASU commits to the training of all faculty and staff on all search committees to address issues such as systemic bias in identification of candidates and hiring.
15. ASU commits to more cluster hiring around leading faculty members from underrepresented groups to deepen our expertise and recruit more underrepresented faculty with a commitment to 10 positions this year and continuing in subsequent years.
16. ASU commits to advancing appointments and/or enhancing the role of academic centers in the advancement of the institution as both affirming of race and of advancing multicultural solidarity.
17. ASU commits to appointing a Black tenured faculty member to Barrett, The Honors College to serve as a resource to recruit and retain Black students in Barrett.
18. ASU commits to implementing the “To Be Welcoming” training for all continuing and new ASU employees and students.
19. ASU commits to implementing a program of service time for Black (and other) employees to serve as mentors to Black and other students at ASU.
20. ASU commits to the establishment of a new Bachelor of Arts degree in Race, Culture and Democracy to be launched by the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (School of Social Transformation) with support from the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy.
21. ASU commits to the enhancement of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy as part of the Office of the Provost and under the leadership of Director Lois Brown, working under the direction of the vice provost for inclusion and community engagement.
22. ASU has committed to the appointment of Ehsan Zaffar, senior adviser on civil rights and civil liberties at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to launch and lead a multicollege interdisciplinary initiative to help reduce inequality in the United States.
23. ASU has committed to providing funding to sustain the Community-Driven Archives initiative in the ASU Library in order to enhance the historical record of and the university’s and library’s engagement with underrepresented communities.
24. ASU commits to providing increased institutional support for the annual “A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations.”
25. ASU commits to an ASU police force on which all officers have a baccalaureate degree or the opportunity to earn a baccalaureate degree if they do not have one. ASU also will develop additional racial sensitivity and other new training for ASU police officers and further supplement the ASU police force with enhanced services to meet the many needs of students, faculty, staff and the public who call upon the university for responses to emergencies and incidents of various kinds.