The Council for Inclusive Excellence (CIE) serves as a central hub for Bard College’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) agenda. Students, faculty, and staff volunteer or are appointed annually to this institutionally recognized catalyst for change. The Council serves as a communication nexus for concerns, projects, and initiatives requiring campus-wide collaboration for success. The CIE operates from the belief that the institutional transformation for greater inclusion requires systemic change. This systemic change is most successful when the diversity of people within an institution collaborate to work, support, and care for the holistic needs of the campus community.
2019–20 Council for Inclusive Excellence Annual Report
Antiracist Reading and Policy Group
The How to Be an Antiracist Reading Group formed in the fall of 2019 after the October visit of author Ibram X. Kendi and reports of bias incidents at Bard College in Annandale and on other Bard campuses. The interest was so great that more than 60 people participated in the fall sessions about the book, splitting into three groups. Faculty, staff, and students (though in smaller numbers) were all represented in the groups.
Group members were charged over the winter break with finishing the book and sharing the sections they wished to discuss in the winter meetings. The flow of these meetings was affected by the campus closure in response to COVID-19, but a group of about a dozen members has continued to meet to discuss the implications of Kendi’s book for work at Bard going forward.
The How to Be an Antiracist Reading Group has thus gradually evolved into an “action group,” with four overall areas of campus life to be analyzed and explored the coming year, possibly leading to recommendations to Bard administration and other stakeholders in four areas:
- Policies related to student mental health.
- Dialogue about issues of identity and difference among students, particularly as these affect BIPOC students and other students of color.
- Policies related to study abroad.
- Curriculum and academic experiences, including; first-year programs such as the Difference & Justice Workshops, Language & Thinking, First-Year Seminar, and Citizen Science; moderation; overall course offerings; and the senior project.
Staff Mentorship Program
In the two and a half years since the start of the Staff Mentorship Program we’ve accomplished the following milestones to serve all staff members at Bard, with a particular focus on serving underrepresented professionals on campus:
Fall 2018/Spring 2019:
- Launched the first cohort of mentee/mentor pairs
- Hosted a kickoff event to provide an opportunity for mentees/mentors to connect and learn about the initiative
- Summer Soiree and campus tour for new staff members to acclimate to campus and learn about the program
- Members of the mentoring program and college administrators attended as well
- Mentor and mentee training and orientation session
- Explained best practices of mentee/mentor relationship
- Provided funded lunch opportunities (meal vouchers) for mentees/mentors to meet as a way to incentivize mentor/mentee interactions
- Paired the second cohort of mentee/mentor matches
- Launched the Welcome Committee for new employees
- Put together and delivered welcome care packages
- Invited new staff members to the mentor program
- Fall Event: Networking Breakfast
- Provided an opportunity for new mentor/mentee pairs to meet and establish a connection
- Initiated an all-staff meeting led by the President and facilitated by campus leadership
- Worked with campus leadership to provide an opportunity for College staff members to hear updates relating to COVID-19 directly from the President in a Q+A forum. This session was held via Zoom and was facilitated by Coleen Murphy Alexander, Vice President for Administration. These sessions continued on during the spring semester and represented our Committee’s commitment to representing the staff perspective and raising our collective voices at the College (April)
- Connected the CIE and campus community with RaisingHOPE, which is a mentorship program that serves as a personal and professional development opportunity for women in Ulster County
- February 2020: In the spirit of the new year, a new semester, and continued professional and personal growth, the staff mentoring committee provided a late-afternoon professional development session for supporters, mentors, and mentees to join in fellowship and preparation for a successful 2020! The theme: Self Love in 2020
The Staff Mentor Program Committee hosted “virtual water coolers” in April to support staff as we transitioned to work-from-home environments. The purpose of the virtual water cooler is to provide an opportunity for support and connection among staff who work remotely. Staff had the opportunity to drop in and out and enjoy the camaraderie that came from sharing a space and purpose. Water cooler talks occurred once a week, at a scheduled date and time, and were hosted by one of the staff mentoring committee members. Water coolers will continue to occur during the summer months to provide support for staff. The staff mentoring committee will prepare/discuss ways to engage with staff for the fall semester.
As part of our ongoing communication with campus leadership, the Committee also worked to initiate an additional Q&A forum with the College President and campus leadership to keep staff members abreast of news and updates relating to COVID-19 and the College. (May)
The committee will provide assessments this summer to gauge staff interest in taking part in the staff mentor programs, as well as analyze the needs and interests of staff members not involved in the mentoring program. We will conduct two assessments: one for our mentorship program participants and one for the greater Bard community. The results of these assessments will determine the direction of our programming for the 2020–2021 academic year, taking into account how our work will continue to be impacted by COVID-19, and the changing needs and interests of our colleagues.
Montgomery Place Working Group
The goal of the group is to address the need for a more robustly inclusive, public-facing interpretation of Montgomery Place (MP), especially regarding the historical presence of Native Americans and African Americans on the land. We anticipate having new signage in place at the Visitors Center by May 1, 2020 that reflects the latest historical scholarship. We have also committed to searching for funding for additional interpretative projects through outside grants.
Native American Interpretation
A group consisting of Professor Christopher Lindner, Montgomery Place Managing Director Amy Husten, and Professor Myra Armstead met in fall 2019 to launch a discussion regarding the need for signage acknowledging Native Americans as first people on MP lands. It was agreed that Professor Lindner would provide materials, based on his expertise as an archeologist, concerning the Lenape peoples historically located in nearby regions of the Hudson Valley in order to aid Professor Armstead in drafting a rough narrative from which signage text could be drawn. Late in the fall term, Professor Armstead added to Professor Lindner’s sources and circulated the draft to this group, but also particularly to Professor Christian Crouch, whose historical expertise in Native American life and history in North America the working group felt was essential for this project.
In early winter 2020, a group consisting of Professor Crouch; Assistant Director of Student Activities Cynthia Cunningham; and Amy Husten (including Myra Armstead, ex-officio) began working on a proposal for funding for a double-faceted interpretive program, which was submitted to the Greater Hudson Heritage Network (GHHN) in early February 2020. The general aim of the proposal was to restore the visibility and amplify the narrative of regional Native peoples—now identified as the Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, The Delaware Nation, and The Delaware Tribe of Western Oklahoma—as essential actors within the context of a larger and more comprehensive historical narrative of MP. First, the proposal included a Montgomery Place Fall 2020 Salon Series to focus on local Native history and contemporary Native topics. Historians, authors, and artists were to be invited to introduce audiences to the historical Indigenous presences in this region. Second, following and influenced by the Salon Series, a digital exhibition augmented by Montgomery Place collection objects demonstrating how Native peoples have always been present in and inherent to the site’s history was to be designed. The exhibit was to live permanently on the MP website.
We learned in early March 2020 that this proposal was unsuccessful. The transition to remote learning and the campus shutdown prevented further movement on the project. However, the group plans to return to its work in fall 2020, incorporating feedback from GHHN into a reworked funding proposal to that group, and in developing a grant for NEH funding for a fourfold general reinterpretation of the main house at Montgomery Place, as described below, that will embrace the Indigenous narrative.
African American History
Gilsonfest in Spring 2019 was a successful public history project that won Bard a Greater Hudson Heritage Network award in early fall 2019. We were pleased that Gilsonfest included the posting of new signage at the MP Visitors Center to acknowledge and honor Alexander Gilson as the chief gardener and horticulturalist at MP during much of the nineteenth century. However, we were stunned to learn that Bard’s community partner in Gilsonfest—Historic Red Hook—had been unsuccessful in its application to the Pomeroy Foundation during the summer of 2019 for signage marking Alexander Gilson’s gravesite in the village’s old Methodist cemetery. The PF found our documentation of Gilson’s slave status unsatisfactory. We countered that Gilson had been born before 1827, the year when slavery was made illegal in New York State, and that Janet Livingston Montgomery had owned several slaves as documented by her own records and in the 1820 U.S. census.
The veracity of Gilson’s slave status having been called into question, we felt compelled to alter the text on Gilson that we presented at the GHHN award ceremony and on the Omeka website concerning Gilson and Gilsonfest, pending the location of indisputable evidence. Dr. Myra Young Armstead decided to join the Public History Working Group (Amy Husten; Helen Tieger, College Archivist; Historic Red Hook (Claudine Klose, President and Chris Klose, member); William Tatum, Dutchess County Historian; Cheyenne Dunham, Bard MBA Program Associate and MA in Public History; Emily Majer, Red Hook Historian; and Bill Jeffway, Dutchess County Historical Society Executive Director), and convinced them that a fresh historical look at and enumeration of the variations in the legal status (slave, semi-free, indentured) of black people in New York State during the period of gradual manumission from 1799 to 1827 was called for. The idea was to place Gilson and his family members in some verifiable legal category, and to rewrite MP signage according to our findings. Members of the group were given assignments toward a coauthored article on this subject with the goal of completion by May 1, 2020. The group met monthly to report on findings until all activity was suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis and the accompanying state-wide shutdown (particularly of access to libraries and archives). The group hopes to reconvene and complete its work over the summer.
Montgomery Place: The House
Plans are now afoot for submitting a proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for a total reinterpretation of the main house at MP along several lines: a) Indigenous history, with Professor Crouch as the lead scholar; b) Land us, with Professors Eli Dueker and Susan Merriam as lead scholars; c) Foodways, with Professor Julia Rosenbaum as lead scholar; and d) Labor (slave, indentured, tenant), with Professor Myra Armstead as the lead scholar.
Archive Working Group
The goal of this group is twofold: a) to collect materials of various sorts—printed, digital, audiovisual, oral histories, and more—in order to document historical, present, and ongoing activity at Bard College related to diversity, inclusion, and equity, and b) to create an accessible repository for the resulting archive.
The Archive Group was originally headed in the fall term by Cynthia Cunningham, Assistant Secretary of Student Affairs. It began by discussing the range of sources available to populate the archive and ways of organizing the archive. Because of the increase in duties assigned her over the course of the semester, Cynthia was no longer able to chair the group whose work was consequently halted temporarily.
The Archive Group was reinvigorated in the spring term with the addition of Laura Gust, Senior Program Associate for Learning and Thinking, and Gee Wesley, a graduate student at the Center for Curatorial Studies, as the primary thinkers and architects for the archive. The group has developed an outline, which is provided below. Currently, the plan is to create a document to be used exclusively for collecting data. This document would be bookmarked so that contributors would be sent links that direct them to the specific upload sites they need to populate. Next, the group intends to take this document to a Bard IT/design person to design a user friendly and appealing digital archive that the group imagines living on the Bard College website.
The archive group will reconvene in fall 2020 and will progress with sourcing links and contents.
Report of the CIE Archive Working Group, 2019–2020
Conceptual Categories (Land & Place, Activism, Representations)
Land & Place / Placing the Past /Mapping History (Before Bard to present)
- Native American Presence (Before Bard to the present)
- Maps representing various different territories, rivers of tribal nations
- Listing of the names given to key sites and areas by Indigenous tribal nations and previous inhabitants.
- Brief timeline surveying the continued Native American presence in the area spanning politics, the arts, industry, etc.
- Listing contact information for tribal governments and representatives
- Potential Sources
- Before Bard: A Sense of Place https://omekalib.bard.edu/exhibits/show/before_bard
- African American Presence (Before Bard to the present)
- Documents tracing the history of gradual manumission in New York State, 1799–1827
- “Children of Slaves,” bound manuscript book in the Starr Library in Rhinebeck (Enslaved people owned by Janet Montgomery)
- Gilson Place documents and archival histories
- Potential Sources
- Digitized Student Newspaper Content (https://digitalcommons.bard.edu/stu_news/)
- Bard Oral Histories (https://digitalcommons.bard.edu/oral_hist/)
- Inclusive Curriculum and Hiring
- Latin American Iberian Studies, Immigration, Sociology, Middle Eastern Studies, Religion, Multi-ethnic studies, gender and sexuality studies, Indigenous studies courses in history and anthropology, Latin American Studies, Middle Eastern studies
- Activism Subcategory Tree (Spanning student, faculty, and staff)
- Civil Rights
- LGBTQ Activism
- Community Organizing
- Media & Publications
- Student Groups
- Afro Pulse
- Bard Hookah Club
- Caribbean Student Association (CSA)
- French Club
- Latin American Student Organization (LASO)
- Queer Student Organization (QSO)
- Women of Colore United
- Asian Student Organization (ASO)
- Chinese Calligraphy Club
- Hot Pot
- Multiracial Student Union
- South Asian Students Association
- Asian Students Organization (ASO)
- Black Students Organization (BSO)
- Chinese Student Organization
- La Voz Club
- Queer People of Color (QPOC)
- Trans Life Collective
- Diversity and Inclusions Programs
- SEE (Students for Equity & Education)
- Black Out Bard
- Posse Scholars
- BEOP (Bard Education Opportunity Program)
- Student Support Services Program
- Office for Equity and Inclusion
- Arts & Culture
- Race Monologues (example)
- Inclusive exhibitions at CCS Bard and other venues
- Inclusive events and festivals at Fisher Center
- Difference and Media Project
- Bard Alumni Magazine
- Bard Website