Administration’s Response to the TIRED Collective
The Collegian previously published an article detailing the demands of the TIRED. Collective and their motivations.
On April 19, 2023, the Collegian had a sit down with Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Ruth Feingold, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Lisa Landreman, and Assistant Provost of Equity and Community Engagement, Emilio Solano, to converse about the TIRED. Collective and their petition of demands. Additionally, Rob Passage, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, met with the Collegian on April 26, 2023 to discuss how the petition of demands has impacted the Athletics Department.
When asked if the TIRED. Collective had reached out to administration, Feingold said administration “became aware of them through the posting of the petition on campus a couple of weeks ago.” Landreman elaborated, stating that there had been email correspondence between her and other members of administration after they sent an email to the collective, saying, “We share many of these concerns, and actually some we are making progress on as they’re goals for us too.” In response, the TIRED. Collective questioned administration's intentions, as they felt that there hasn’t been any visible change and commitment to Queer, Transgender, Black, Indigenous, People of Color (QTBIPOC) students. In the following email from administration, Landreman pointed out some of the concerns of the TIRED. Collective had already been addressed or were in the process of being addressed.
“Statistics for the student profile actually live on the institutional research page already. And with the Campus Climate Survey, we were going to post that data in an email, but we don't have the data yet because we work with an outside company,” Landreman said.
Regarding data involving JED—sourced through the University of Michigan—it took an especially long time to retrieve and evaluate that data, Landreman explained, because of a smaller workforce due to the pandemic. Additionally, “if you're posting especially sensitive stuff like mental health [through the Healthy Mind Survey Data],” Landreman said, “you talk to the members of the community first, so they aren't surprised. And then you post it. We are still going through the process of doing that. In the letter addressed to the TIRED. Collective, we share all of that data.”
The administration has dealt with similar initiatives before, devoted to similar concerns the TIRED. Collective has. Feingold explained that with prior collectives, “there were many individual meetings conducted associated with different concerns over those few weeks. We shared that some work was already being done. We conducted investigations in regards to concerns such as with Sorority and Fraternity life.” Additionally, there are current Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives the University is taking in order to combat racist and homophobic tendencies around campus, including receiving training from USC Race and Equity Center, usually costing upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
However, there are some concerns that cannot be addressed properly by the university, the first being the hiring of 8-12 QTBIPOC tenure-track professors by the year 2024, as well as hiring a QTBIPOC president. The tenure-track is a way for a professor to secure academic job security and involves a pathway to different promotions. Feingold explained, “It is illegal to discriminate in hiring on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, et cetera. So for example, the request that we hire a QTBIPOC University president would imply not only that we selected the next president based specifically on those characteristics, but also that we fire our existing president.”
Furthermore, hiring tenure-track professors is a difficult and complicated process making the request unfeasible. Academic departments are asked to put forth proposals for lines—or potential tenure-track professors—they would like to see in the department, along with reasons for why hiring a new line would be beneficial. “The faculty committee vets those proposals and makes recommendations to me,” Feingold said. “The president makes recommendations to the board. Only the board can approve tenure-track hire, and they are very careful about doing that simply in terms of numbers, because when you hire someone on the tenure-track, you are potentially making a commitment for 40 years as it’s a lifelong job.” Administration has only been able to hire 14 tenure-track professors in the last 7 years as Feingold explained. Eleven of those professors are a part of the BIPOC community, with a retention rate of 73 percent, compared to their white counterparts with a retention rate of 67 percent.
“It’s a long game,” Solano explained. Tenure-track professors—and professors in general—have predominantly been white and male. “Some professors have been around for 35 to 40 years. And it's the game actually that you [current students] won't be here for, which is the toughest part. You might see it 15 to 20 years down the road and see that it’s happening,” Solano said. “But when students ask me, I'm gonna tell it like it is, and they ask me and I'll be honest with them: keep the energy, but this is the process of tenure.”
Even President Steve Thorsett once said, “The biggest enemy to faculty diversity is old, white professors with tenure,” Feingold pointed out.
Yet some demands on the petition can be met with ease, administration says. “Making a public list of the leadership awards so students can see what they can apply for seems totally reasonable,” said Feingold. Others have already been or are in the process of becoming addressed, as mentioned prior with the publishing of statistics on the university website.
When going about the process of hiring an individual who specializes in EDI for the athletics departments, Passage noted that Leslie Shevlin, associate athletic director, covers many of the responsibilities regarding EDI training. “She’s a female member of senior staff within the department, but also is responsible for the training taking place; there's continuing education for coaches, student athletes, staff, and is involved in the hiring process.” He went on to say, “I don't know that that person would function necessarily any differently. Leslie's responsible for a lot of stuff. But I could see if we had a specific person that just did that, they would have more bandwidth potentially.”
Passage additionally emphasized how small the institution is, and how it might be more beneficial to partner with existing campus resources if the department were to hire someone specifically designated to EDI work. “Our goal would be, again, to partner with existing campus resources because that's how we have to do a lot of things, and because we don't have funds to say we're gonna have this position that just supervises student athletes.”
He additionally stated, “The more conversations we can have, I think the better. And that's a way to close some of those gaps if we hire new staff; I think there's opportunities all the time.”
While the conversations in the athletics department surrounding racist and homophobic microaggressions haven’t “progressed this year as far as I would like it to progress, it’s still something we want to make sure that we are continuing to do; students and staff are busy and trying to get a collective group together [is difficult], but that's an excuse and I don’t think it can be an excuse any longer.”
Solano touched on the sentiment as well, saying, “I completely understand the sentiment, and it's steeped in so many realities. I think that it is particularly a challenge to pair what our students are truly feeling inside with how they feel like it could be better valued by the institution. And that's just a challenge that's probably always going to exist.” He added, “It speaks to a larger challenge, which is this theme of transparency and communication. And I think another challenge is that we haven’t figured out the best practice of that yet. Oftentimes, we are doing things, but they aren’t visible because of the ways we disseminate information to the general college campus.”
The TIRED. Collective invited students and administrators to a town hall meeting on April 24, 2023, where members of the collective and others would discuss all ten of the demands being made. Via the collective's Instagram account, they posted, “The fourteen administrators who received personal invites have declined to attend an in-person meeting today, citing personal commitments, confusion at our need for anonymity, and concern at showing up to an on-campus meeting run by students that they haven’t confirmed the identities of.