"As a woman of color in higher education, I am constantly struggling to find a safe and real place to engage in conversations of race, gender, sexual orientation etc. I need guidance, mentors, and challenges in these spaces to elevate my thoughts."
"I’m interested in getting ideas about how to communicate successfully about race with various audiences (students, policy makers, public activists),” wrote one faulty member. “To affirm dialogue, to learn more about productive conversations, and take skills back to students and staff.”
Faculty also came with academic improvement in mind:
“need to rethink my understanding of and relationship between status and agency,”
“I’m interested in framing,” wrote another.
A few faculty focused on teaching:
“To learn how to better educate students to address and not hide behind these issues.”
Other faculty made connections to their research:
“My research and teaching focus on working with low-income community groups; I hope to improve my listening skills in working with large groups.”
Comments from students:
Among the students, there was more desire to effect institutional and social change. One student simply explained his/her presence with: “Three years of work at the UCLA School of Public Affairs trying to make this happen.” Another student wrote: “I want to better address issues of power, privilege, and history in everyday interactions. I want to learn to be a better ally.” Some of the students were academically specific: “My dissertation focuses on social justice organizing, so I am here to hear the current social justice discourse, observe cultural interaction among justice advocates.” Others were more pointed in their purpose: “Frustration in courses that address diversity in Los Angeles yet never talk about differences,” and “concern that my classmates are not conscious of power and privilege dynamics, that they are only learning top-down social change” were emblematic of a number of entries. One student wrote: “As a white-anti-racist planner, I want to contribute to a process where urban planning can be a field that dismantles instead of perpetuates structural racism and white supremacy.”
Framing: an introduction to framing as way to think constructively about race
Framing is a powerful concept. It can be applied to the individual level, the organizational level, the school level, and across professional fields. Research has shown that people understand issues in terms of frames. They are mental shortcuts that help us make sense of the world. They are so pervasive in language and images, messengers and memes, attitudes and values that we are often unaware of the sorting mechanisms that are going on subconsciously in our minds. With reflection, however, frames are easily accessible and by being more aware of our own frames, by being more frame fluent, we can effectively inquire into and understand other people’s frames in ways that make it easier to move a policy agenda forward.
Fishbowl: an exercise on race and framing that asked participants to reflect on their responsibilities and opportunities to engage in conversations across boundaries
We placed seven chairs in an inner circle, leaving one open. The rest of the participants sat outside the circle as listeners and observers, and if one was so moved he or she could take the open seat to ask a question or raise a point. With input from students and administrators we chose a representative group of students, faculty and administrators to sit in the center of the room in advance. Our choices were subjective and intuitive; we looked for a mix of participants who were skilled at group conversation. The question we gave the group was: How might the idea of frames that we just heard help us advance the public conversation about race and inequality across multiple dimensions?
World Café: participants rotate through discussions on a range of questions ranging from the Obama presidency, demographic change, the media, frames and the dynamics of classroom discussions
The World Café exercise was built around nine related questions on the theme of the day (Appendix E: World Cafe). We had nine tables, one for each question, with a facilitator at each. People could sit where they wanted and, when the time came, rotate to any table/question of their choosing. The tables were covered in white paper and multi-color markers were available so the facilitators and participants could keep notes. There were three rounds of twenty minutes each. Participants were asked to try to apply points made in their previous tables to the new question, as well as discuss the question at hand.
Return to top
Role Analysis: a group exercise where students, administrators, and faculty first separately and then together examined their responsibilities to engage and influence conversations of race and diversity; and
For our final substantive session, we organized around our “roles” at our institutions: three student groups, one faculty group, and one administrator group to discuss among themselves how they could help advance conversations of race and inequality in our respective schools. Each group was asked:
Debriefing: a discussion and summary of the event and the takeaways and changes in thinking and practice that could result from the day.
As a group, the participants debriefed the day’s activities. Three months after the dialogue, an electronic survey was sent to the individuals soliciting feedback on whether or not the dialogues changed the way they think and act in the classroom and in the field.