Creating an Inclusive Institution at the Marxe School

Time for Action: Items for Meaningful Change at the Marxe School

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.

Implementation Date: Start of Spring 2021

Rationale for 6-8: Classrooms need to be environments conducive to learning. Students should not be subject to unconscious bias, racism, microaggressions, etc. by faculty, staff, or other students at the Marxe School. These reparations will ensure students are prepared to create, foster, and lead more inclusive institutions, as well as to benefit from the education we are entitled to by right.

Tomorrow we will host the second event of our social justice series, “Allyship 101: How to Create More Inclusive Institutions.” These actionable items will briefly be discussed but the event is focused on addressing the inequalities that exist in our institutions and the ways we can fix them as a community. Here’s a link to register.

As students and practitioners, we will follow the approach of the School’s Diversity Committee in fighting for reforms: “…unapologetically as the status quo in academia is no longer acceptable.” We want to see action-driven changes in our school. We are committed to holding the Marxe School accountable for these actions- we have been studying to do just that. To that end, we have created the Actionable Items site with this letter of actionable items. These items reflect the values and strategic goals in the Marxe Strategic Plan, the Marxe Diversity Strategic Plan, and the Diversity and Inclusion segment of the NASPAA accreditation process. Consequently, it is the Marxe School’s responsibility to comply with both the spirit and the letter of its stated plans, as well as the requirements of accreditation. As members of this community, we will work with you to realize these actionable items because we all have “skin in the game.”

 

Sincerely,

 

Jael Henry, MPA Club President
Kelly Brosnan, MPA Club Vice President
Kelsey Wheeler, MPA Club Treasurer
Michael Cruz, MPA Club Secretary
Joanna Green, MPA Club Event Coordinator
Rosmery Hidalgo, HEA Club President
Nicole Wright, HEA Club Vice President
Brian Aguilar Avila, HEA Club Treasurer
Sandra Cortez, HEA Club Secretary
Hafsa Tahir, HEA Club Executive Board Member
René Hernandez, HEA Club Executive Board Member
Laura Arenas, MIA Club President
Javaria Inam, MIA Club Vice President
Ogo Sylla, MIA Club Treasurer
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