Commitment to Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism
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.
In 2019, our department established a Committee on Cultural Humility and Inclusion with the goal of providing inclusive and actively antiracist instruction, advising, and clinical supervision. This began with the process of “learning and unlearning,” examining our biases and attitudes while recognizing our identities and privileges. Faculty and staff attended lectures, training sessions, and conferences including the ASHA Faculty Development Institute and the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE). We also read and listened to the work of social justice scholars and activists, including those in the field of communication sciences and disorders. This process, along with the acknowledgement of racial disparities in both the clinic and academia, shaped the initial direction of our committee and strategic plan.
More recently during the summer of 2020, as the Black Lives Matter movement demanded long-overdue change following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain, Daniel Prude, and countless others, we re-examined the depth of our work, refined our strategic objectives, and outlined our 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.
Objectives and Action Plan
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.
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 authors and to consider representation when inviting guest speakers. Additionally, we seek to protect Black, Indigenous, and other students of color, by developing protocols for students to report incidents of racism. 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 have been formed 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, cross-review of course content will be 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
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 reconcile 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.
Explore addition of electives in the MS-SLP program
We are exploring the possibility of adding electives that center on the history of racism and anti-racism as it relates to healthcare or education from the BU School of Public Health and/or Wheelock College of Education and Human Development.
Collaborate with students and faculty to develop 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 infusing training within established courses as well as providing separate and distinct trainings. In addition to course review and revisions, student/faculty working groups have formed to develop separate and distinct trainings for MS-SLP students to address anti-racism, inclusion, and allyship. The purpose of these trainings is twofold: 1) To better serve clients and families and 2) To be antiracist colleagues in the workplace. Four trainings have been co-developed by students and faculty. The first training is led by students at the MS-SLP program orientation and three successive trainings are included in the first semester of the clinical experience. 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
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.
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.