Commitment to Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism
Department Value Statement
The Department of Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences (SLHS) at Sargent College condemns racism in all forms and recognizes our role in providing an inclusive educational experience while working to dismantle racism in the field of communication sciences and disorders.
To our Clients and Colleagues
Our clients and patients are deserving of culturally-responsive care that is free from bias, judgment, and assumption. The field of speech, language, and hearing sciences is largely comprised of white, cisgender women whose lived experiences do not reflect those of our increasingly diverse clients, many of whom come from historically marginalized communities and have experienced mistreatment in the healthcare and educational systems. Without the awareness and acknowledgement of the privileges we hold, we risk our goal of delivering optimal, impartial care. Additionally, we may fail to recognize racist and/or discriminative policies in our workplaces that impact our clients and their families.
Our colleagues, present and future, are deserving of authentic allyship and to work with those who are willing to take a stand against acts of racism, discrimination, and other forms of mistreatment in the workplace. We believe it is the responsibility of academic and clinical educators to lead this charge; thus, we are committed to cultivating a more inclusive profession so that our colleagues from diverse and historically underrepresented backgrounds thrive as professionals and experience a sense of belonging in the field. An increase in professionals from diverse backgrounds would also likely benefit our clients as representation in healthcare and education matters, particularly as speech-language pathologists teach and rehabilitate communication skills—characteristics that are central to one’s identity and belonging to particular groups.
To our Sargent College Community
Our commitment outlined above, and our objectives and action plan below directly align with Sargent College’s Strategic Map (2019). The SLHS Department is committed to creating an inclusive environment that values diversity and heightening a sense of belonging for the broader community of students, faculty, staff, and alum of Sargent College. We will continue to work to recruit, develop, and retain high quality people from underrepresented backgrounds so that we can bring about greater diversity of thought and innovation to the Sargent community.
Objectives and Action Plan
We would like to acknowledge the SLHS student group who helped identify and propel many of these strategic objectives. Much of the change underway is thanks to their dedicated efforts. Additionally, we are deeply grateful to all the students, colleagues, and scholars who shared their lived experiences with us. Your voices and stories have helped identify and define problems within our profession, and we stand with you.
Elevate awareness of cultural humility and need for anti-bias training within the department
The Committee on Cultural Humility and Inclusion is engaged in ongoing discussions with program directors and the SLHS department to enact meaningful changes in our policies, instruction, and mentorship. We also raise awareness of current racial and social injustices in the field of speech, language, and hearing sciences at large and respond with curricular updates and changes.
Examine the educational and clinical spaces, policies, and practices that uphold racism
The examination of our admissions process, academic and clinical experiences, policies, and practices is in process and ongoing. We began by eliminating the GRE as part of our admission requirements. We also recognize the need to make our academic and clinical spaces more welcoming and safe for Black, Indigenous, and other students of color by ensuring that faculty and supervisors participate in antiracist training. We have also begun reviewing syllabi to increase representation of historically underrepresented scholars and to consider representation when inviting guest speakers. We invite alumni and current students to offer suggestions as we evaluate practices and procedures to make them more equitable.
Collaborate with students and faculty to develop anti-bias and antiracist curricula across all programs
This collaboration includes reviewing materials across our programs, providing training as part of clinical placements, and adding to our elective courses.
Cross-review of course and seminar materials in undergraduate and graduate programs
Student/faculty working groups were formed in 2020 to review course material in an effort to include culturally responsive and anti-bias practices, particularly for Black, Indigenous, and people of color as well as other historically underrepresented groups. Additionally, a cross-review of course content has been conducted to ensure students have multiple opportunities to understand the intersection of social inequities and determinants of health as it relates to communication disorders and professional practices. Topics include, but are not limited to:
- The historical context of Black individuals in healthcare and medical research, examining with scrutiny the dominant narratives and uncovering the root cause of racial injustice, including the relation of Jim Crow laws to healthcare and education
- School to confinement pathways
- Potential misdiagnosis of African American English as a disorder and implications thereof
- Factors associated with various attitudes about bilingualism and multilingualism in the US and implications thereof
- Transgender care in speech-language pathology
Explicit training within clinical practical opportunities in the MS-SLP program
Several first-year practicum experiences examine attitudes and beliefs about groups historically socially disenfranchised. For example, students who participate in Literacy Group in the Boston Public Schools are asked to acknowledge their biases with socialized conceptions about behavior management of young children and to consider, instead, how to support learning. Another example can be found in the Cognitive Wellness Program where students are asked to reframe their understanding of homelessness, social determinants of health across the lifespan, and their own implicit biases when serving clients who may experience homelessness.
Co-creation of separate and distinct trainings for the MS-SLP program to promote more inclusive, antiracist, and anti-bias practices for the next generation of clinicians
We recognize that the best programmatic approach to an antiracist and inclusive curriculum is a combination of infused training within established courses as well as providing separate and distinct trainings. In addition to course review and revisions, student/faculty working groups were formed to develop separate and distinct trainings for MS-SLP students to address anti-racism, inclusion, and allyship. Specifically, it is the goal that our students leave the program with the knowledge to answer three main questions: 1) As clinicians, how might our words and actions contribute to the perpetuation or prevention of harmful policies and beliefs, 2) How might our attitudes and beliefs impact our clinical decisions, and 3) How might we contribute to safe and inclusive learning spaces and workplaces for our colleagues? The first question begins with an examination of the ways in which racism and bias present in healthcare and educational systems. The second question begins with a critical look at our own implicit bias, beliefs, and assumptions. The third question is twofold; it invites students to recognize their role in creating a more inclusive space for their peers in graduate school while also looking ahead to their intraprofessional and interprofessional relationships in the workplace.
These modules are introduced at the program orientation and continue in smaller cohorts in either the first or second semester. Topics include, by are not limited to:
- The purpose of and need for antiracist and anti-bias training in the field of speech-language pathology
- An overview of Boston’s history and the people here today
- Identity and intersectionality
- Implicit bias and its influence on our relationships and client care
- Examination of white privilege (and other privileges) when working with clients
- Recognizing and dismantling racist and biased policies, ideas, and actions in the field of SLP
- Establishing and reinforcing antiracist practices for our coworkers and clients
- The role of SLPs in the prevention of racist ideas and/or policies in the workplace
This curriculum was piloted over the 2020/2021 academic year and revised following student feedback for the following year. In response to student feedback, we also worked to elevate discussions of the intersectionality of social identities such as sexuality, disability, and class; and address specific issues such as anti-Asian racism and transphobia in healthcare.
Addition of the “Anti-Racist/Anti-Bias Speech-Language Pathology: A Workbook”
In 2021, we introduced a student journal designed to help students develop their critical-thinking skills as they progress across the two-year program. Journaling has long been used in nursing as an active learning technique for both clinical experiences (Blake, 2005) and, more recently, for reflection of cultural humility in students (Schuessler, Wilder, & Byrd 2012). Our student journal was written specifically for our MS-SLP students and includes three primary sections. The first series of prompts and resources are tied to the anti-racist/anti-bias modules mentioned above. Subsequent sections ask students to make connections to specific courses and clinical experiences within the program (e.g., the intersection of language disorders and the school to confinement pipeline; aging, dementia, and housing insecurity). The last section prompts students to connect the material to experiences in their clinical placements. Such prompts ask the students to engage in critical self-reflection (e.g., Describe a clinical experience that challenged your assumption about a certain group) and others ask students to identify moments of cultural humility (e.g., Describe how you invited your client to be an active collaborator so that their culture/identity/lived experiences were central to goal selection). Students are also asked to reflect upon certain excerpts and quotes from scholars, activists, and authors and offered a list of materials to read, listen to, or watch to further their learning.
Identify outreach opportunities to recruit and retain students, faculty, and staff from under-represented groups
We acknowledge that the limited number of clinicians and scholars of color in the field of speech, language & hearing sciences perpetuates the challenge of recruiting students of color and that this contributes to disparities between professionals and the general population. We are in the process of developing outreach programs specifically designed to raise awareness of the profession among young students of color in local schools and community organizations. We invite our current students and alumni of color to join us in these programs. We are also committed to the recruitment and retention of faculty from underrepresented groups, and our faculty search committees participate in trainings to promote equitable and inclusive hiring.
Mentorship Across Programs
We have introduced an informal mentorship initiative aimed to connect undergraduate students with graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds in the field of SLHS. We recognize the role of representation in the early academic stages of these professions and are grateful to our MS-SLP and doctoral students who have volunteered to support our undergraduate students. For more information on this initiative, please contact Alyssa Boucher (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We are dedicated to making-long term, sustainable changes and appreciate feedback from our alumni and students. Along with other departments at Sargent College and Boston University, we aim to create a more inclusive profession for both our students and the individuals we serve, including those from marginalized communities and with consideration for race, gender expression, sexual orientation, nationality, neurodiversity, and ability. We are committed to reducing racial disparities in the field and strive to educate our students to be inclusive, antiracist clinicians and colleagues.