From the Desk of the Chief Diversity Officer

Congratulations to our 2020 graduates who are stepping into the professional world at one of the most uncertain, unknown, and challenging times of the century. Graduates, you might feel most vulnerable and helpless given the responsibility on your shoulders to ensure we not only resolve this current crisis, but also to ensure that the world does not go back to “normal” as defined by our past. 

Our pre-COVID-19 world was sad, dismal, unjust, and broken, and the pandemic has only exacerbated these differences. Who are the people with jobs, and who are the people who have no income at all? Who are the people with heating, wi-fi, electricity, and food, and who are the people who cannot afford their rent, are living on the streets, and are queuing up at food banks? Who are the people who can assemble with guns to challenge the government, and who are the people who cannot walk into a store without a mask and be violently questioned or arrested? 

Of course, suffering is relative. We are all struggling with isolation, and being in the spaces we are currently locked in with few chances to be out free. Our pain is no less just because someone else is suffering more than us. However, looking around does put into perspective our privilege and our misfortunes. Let us be clear on this: those underprivileged and discriminated pre-COVID-19 continue to suffer indignities and pain as the pandemic ravages our political, social-cultural and economic world. As the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to grow with this pandemic, let’s consider the threats and challenges to educational institutions across the country seriously. After all, institutions like MIIS are meant to be the vanguard of social and educational progress. 

How can we become more relevant through the education we deliver? Not only do we have to consider how to master technology as we develop pedagogy, but we also must rethink our curriculum to meet the current social challenges. It cannot be business as usual. For example, Ohio’s officials have declared racism as a public health crisis in Franklin County (the state’s most populous) – a laudable step in centering race when making and implementing policies to overcome the pandemic. More than ever, now is the time for academic institutions to revamp their image from being businesses to knowledge centers and to provide leadership in creating social change. It is also the time to condemn policies like those introduced by New York governor Andrew Cuomo for cutting funding to CUNY, SUNY, and other educational institutions (read this, not just how well he is countering Trump through his news conferences). When governments de-prioritize education, making individuals responsible for their education (higher fees), it also means knowledge comes at a price that only a few can have access to and thus further widening the existing gaps in society. 

At a recent webinar, one of the panelists spoke about how difficult it is in an individualist culture, like in the United States, for people to make collective decisions. They thought that as a community, we in this country were used to making individual decisions and not collective ones. It might explain why many of us (whether in our institutions or society) can never be part of the decision making. Most decisions are always handed over to us. The pandemic has shown us that we are more interconnected than we thought. Our lives are dependent on others being healthy. During this time of physical distancing, let’s take this opportunity to become more inclusive in how we decide our future. Speak up, demand attention, and ACT. 

Wishing everyone a safe and healthy summer.

P.S.: One possible action is to donate to food banks that are feeding millions. Here are links to few of these organizations in Monterey, Washington DC, and Middlebury