August 12, 2020
Dean David S. Birdsell, Administrators, Faculty, & Staff
Austin W. Marxe School of Public & International Affairs
One Bernard Baruch Way, Box D-901
New York, N.Y. 10010-5585
Re: Actionable Items
Dear Dean, Administrators, Faculty, and Staff:
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. Less than a week later, the nation erupted with millions of people marching and protesting in the streets. People demand not only justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, and many more, but also the dismantling of the racist systems and policies that have plagued our society and our institutions since its founding. Public education has not been immune.
In Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Chief Justice Earl Warren noted the following about the court’s deliberations: “We must consider public education in the light of its full development and its present place in American life throughout the Nation.” As a publicly-funded institution, with most of its students already practitioners in public and international affairs, the Marxe School must apply a similar rigorous review of its entire development and place in American life.
As students and practitioners, we need to be better equipped with the knowledge and skills to not only work in and lead public institutions, but also to benefit from theory and practice to actively dismantle racist systems and policies. We are on the frontlines of creating a world where racial justice prevails. It is the calling of our generation. We need our educational institution to meet us there and confront its own issues with racist policies, diversity, and inclusion to provide an inclusive educational space where we can thrive as anti-racist public and international affairs practitioners.
On June 6, 2020, Dean David Birdsell addressed the Marxe community in the wake of the George Floyd protests stating, “We need to move forward toward a future as fully inclusive and equitable as we can make it.” We are calling on all of you—administrators, faculty, and staff—to put these words into action. The below list encompasses eight action items for reforms that we, as students and practitioners, want to see in the Marxe School to build a more inclusive, equitable institution for everyone.
Action Item 1: Minority candidates who apply to Marxe face barriers to entry.
Reparation: Eliminate the Graduate Record Examination Requirement (GRE)
Implementation Date: By the start of Spring 2021
Rationale: Research has clearly shown that standardized examinations disproportionately hurt minorities. Several science programs have already eliminated the GRE requirement. Furthermore, the Marxe School suspended the GRE Admissions requirement for Fall 2020 due to COVID-19. Thus, this requirement is, in effect, already eliminated.
Action Items 2 & 3: There is a lack of transparency in the Marxe School.
Reparation 2: The Marxe School must explain the internship requirement decision, in writing, to accepted students. A formal appeals process must be created; students must be able to use new relevant professional experiences gained during their time at Marxe to satisfy the requirement, including leading and working in student organizations.
Implementation Date: Fall 2021
Reparation 3: There is a lack of transparency, from collection to expense of the Academic Excellence Fee (AEF). This fee creates a financial burden and presents a barrier to current students and potential applicants, exacerbated by the devastating impacts of COVID-19. We seek the abolishment of this fee to lessen the burden on students. If Marxe does not pursue this action, then this fee must be utilized to make our School a catalyst of inclusion and equity beyond its walls. This revenue should be utilized to fund Graduate Assistantships for students in each of the five policy centers, one from each program—a total of 15 positions. Such positions, “policy activists”, would empower students to work with faculty to have an impact consistent with Marxe’s mission: “contribute to the city, state and nation in public and international affairs.”
Implementation Date: For elimination of the AEF or the implementation of the “policy activist” positions in Marxe’s research institutes, Spring 2021.
Rationale for 2 & 3: Institutional racism is not exclusive to higher education; institutional racism affects minority students’ ability to secure “relevant” professional experiences to waive this internship. The Marxe School must create a clear set of standards for the internship requirement decision with this in mind; this will eliminate any room for unconscious bias. The Marxe School must use student generated revenue from the AEF to provide no cost options for students to meet their internship requirements, as current options create an undue economic burden on students.
Action Items 4 & 5: There are not enough minority viewpoints & voices in the Marxe curriculum.
Reparation 4: Hire more minority professors. The last published diversity report from 2016-17 shows the disparities of the Marxe School minority faculty relative to our student population. With the Marxe School having one of the largest endowments ($30 million) in CUNY history, the COVID-19 pandemic and CUNY hiring is no excuse to delay in hiring to diversify our faculty.
Implementation Date: Spring 2021
Reparation 5: Class syllabi must include required readings from Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) authors.
Implementation Date: Start of Fall 2020
Rationale for 4 & 5: Representation in the classroom is an important aspect of inclusive learning. For students to be better prepared to serve diverse communities, they need more diverse perspectives.
Action Items 6, 7 & 8: Unconscious bias and/or racism in the Marxe School.
Reparation 6: Class syllabi must include a section detailing how students can report discrimination, similar to sections on academic dishonesty, the disability office, counseling center, etc.
Implementation Date: Start of Fall 2020
Reparation 7: Mandatory learnings on unconscious bias, microaggressions, and racial sensitivity for all Marxe administrators, faculty, and staff.
Implementation Date: By the end of Spring 2021
Reparation 8: Required diversity and inclusion course, with a focus on race and ethnicity, for all Marxe students.