Updates and Reflections from SU ADVANCE

September 2020

How are you doing? 

We’re now several months into a global health pandemic that has wrought seismic upheaval in our world’s socio-economic foundations and forced us to reckon with changes in even the smallest details of our everyday lives. Alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re also being called to face and fight the long-enduring pandemic of racism in the United States.  The socio-cultural fabric wrought by White supremacy is being laid bare across the U.S., bringing into sharp relief layer upon layer of inequalities and injustice. Black Lives Matter movements and related BIPOC protests are demanding that we reckon with quotidian, routine violence in which we’re all implicated. The seemingly mundane question, “How’s it going?” may leave many of us floundering for a response. One thing is certain, there’s very little we can comfortably take for granted at this moment in time.

SU ADVANCE was established four years ago this month (September 2016) through an award from the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE-Institutional Transformation Program. NSF ADVANCE was founded to address the inequities and injustices encountered by women and BIPOC faculty in academe. The early conveners of the program understood that the inequities women and BIPOC faculty experience are endemic in institutional structures of racism and sexism; the cure is not fixing people, but transforming institutions.

When we received our award and launched our own SU ADVANCE program, we could not have imagined the current global circumstances. We did, however, already have a deep and well-informed understanding of racial and gender injustice, as well as systemic practices and processes that undervalue the significance of many faculty contributions. Our activities at SU ADVANCE are centered fully in encouraging and implementing structural transformations that will enable all faculty to develop their unique expertise and talents and to thrive and be confident that their contributions count.  The research is clear: faculty development and evaluation practices that encourage faculty to discover, articulate, and develop their specific passions and talents lead to greater student success, enhanced community and public relationships, and a flourishing university environment. While we could not have anticipated current events, we are enthusiastic about the ways in which we can contribute our expert resources and in-depth research as Seattle University considers its own way forward in engaging with the double-pandemics.  We see this as an opportunity for positive change and greater equality and justice.

 In this Newsletter (our second!), you’ll read more about our ongoing process of revising promotion guidelines for greater inclusivity, including a thematic summary of faculty responses (N=116) to a recent survey, and an essay by some of our team members on why integrated promotion processes are central to practicing transformative diversity and inclusion.  As always, we also invite you to visit the SU ADVANCE Library for the most recent articles on race and gender (in)justice in academe and other U.S workplace settings, available at https://www.seattleu.edu/advance/external-resources/su-advance-library-/. More specifically, we recommend a recent publication from ASPIRE: Supporting Faculty During and After COVID-19: Don’t Let Go of Equity, available via our online library.

As we all grapple with finding our way through these times, SU ADVANCE wants to know how you’re doing.  We care about your experiences and are committed to bringing instrumental changes for more inclusive, just, and holistically productive university careers. We are still gathering COVID-19 “urgent response” reflections, for example, and invite you to take this opportunity to assess for yourself how you’re doing and share your insights and experiences with us. Please see the “Activities & Updates” section of our Newsletter for more details.