Our country grieves the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as many, many more Black lives and minds lost to systemic, anti-Black violence. The pain and current response are rooted in 400 years of racialized violence. This violence is not new to our country nor to our institutions. Most of us work at campuses and live in neighborhoods that are rooted in systems of slavery, theft of indigenous lands, and/or exploitation of people of color.
Assessment is not exempt from being complicit or contributing to oppression, biased interpretation, erasure of identities, or inviting only privileged perspectives for contributions. While we work as assessment professionals, we are human beings and still subject to the biases of our cultures. To serve our diverse students, colleagues, and institutions, we must work to eliminate these biases from our work and our lives. To this end, the Board of Student Affairs Assessment Leaders recommends actions for individual members and pledge actions that you, the members, can and should expect from us.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR INDIVIDUAL ACTION:
Thank you to all Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who have been doing this work. This work carries inescapable physical and emotional labor, which takes a toll on health and wellness. You deserve time, space, and support to recharge and refresh. You deserve to do as our colleagues teach our students--that is, to practice wise self-care.
Here are action steps we can all continue or start to take as assessment leaders:
Educate yourself on critical assessment theory and practice and share with others.
Be active and engaged in forwarding anti-racist work in all the ways that you can. Equity and inclusion are not add-ons to our work, but should always be centered in what we do.
Develop an equity scorecard to highlight strengths and opportunities to advance equity.
Invite people with diverse perspectives to the table, especially when developing measures and learning outcomes.
Engage in methodological pluralism. One method of data collection fosters one way of telling a story.
When analyzing and interpreting data, pull together a diverse group of individuals to do so. If you are interpreting data regarding historically underrepresented students, engage with such students to facilitate the opportunity to inform and shape the narrative.
Disaggregate data to explore diverse lived experiences. Relying on averages masks the margins. In addition to data disaggregation, conduct within-group analysis rather than assuming homogeneity.
When interpreting data related to historically marginalized groups, work to avoid fostering stereotyping or taking a deficit based approach. Include students in the interpretation to contextualize the data.
When conducting cross-group analysis and comparisons: 1) use approaches that do not require a large N, effectively silencing marginalized groups 2) do not compare historically marginalized students to white students without contextualizing their experiences.
Work with diverse groups to develop assessment questions so that questions are not chronically reflective of historically dominant perspectives.
Join us for the upcoming structured conversation, Culturally Responsive Assessment, on July 7th at 12:00 p.m. (Eastern) with Marjorie Dorimé-Williams, PhD, Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri. Join us via Zoom [https://uoregon.zoom.us/j/94356698810] This will be recorded and shared.
Access resources provided to you by SAAL members. Resources on socially just assessment are highlighted on the front page of our website.
A Call to Action for White Colleagues:
Do your own homework and research first, do not ask your colleagues of color to do it for you. If you find yourself not knowing or suspecting you don’t know, then research, read, listen, watch. As assessment leaders, you are good at doing your reading. Here is a list of some great places to start depending on where you are in your journey:
Engage in active self-reflection or reflexivity. How do your identities shape your approach to data collection and analysis? What voices are elevated? How is evidence determined to be valid? Who has a say in the credibility of evidence?
Ask yourself, “Am I willing to risk my power, privilege, position to be an ally to people of color?” Get to a place of yes.
Do not leave it up to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to bring up social justice and white supremacy, speak up.
Build allyship and create a collective agenda with others doing this work.
PLEDGED ACTION FROM THE SAAL BOARD:
As a board, we haven’t shied away from this work, but we have more work to do now and in perpetuity. We pledge to the following actions:
Publicly share updates on the Grand Challenges in Assessment in Higher Education, Equity project
Place resources on critical and socially just assessment, including professional development opportunities, front and center on our website.
Each committee and workgroup will develop a commitment to and actionable steps for infusing social justice into their work. These will be shared publicly once identified.
Involve, feature, and represent diverse perspectives and identities in professional development offerings (e.g., blogs and structured conversations).
As a board, commit to engaging in our own professional development on anti-racism and anti-white supremacy in our work and in our lives.
Our group is named Student Affairs Assessment LEADERS, which means that all of us have a role to play in making our work and our institutions socially just. In order to dismantle white supremacy and fight for racial justice, we must answer this call to action.
The purpose of this organization is to provide the opportunity for all of us to improve our work. In the spirit of SAAL’s ethos of Curiosity, Equity, Justice, and Intentionality, we encourage all of you to share resources and tools with one another to provide critical, socially just, culturally responsive assessment. SAAL offers several avenues for sharing: structured conversations, blog, journal articles, and of course, the SAAL listserv.
The SAAL Board