In February of this year, the POD Network’s Executive and Core Committees acknowledged the structural, systemic, and interpersonal racism that persists within the POD Network. At that time we knew necessary changes would not happen overnight, nor without errors and missteps along the way. But we believe that we can create an organization in which our espoused ideals—particularly our organizational commitment to equity—more closely match the lived reality of all our members. We have identified various actions to make change and want to keep our POD members updated on the progress. As such, we will be sending out periodic updates on work being done within our organization.
Since February, the POD Network has undertaken the following actions to support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI):
Improvements in the conference proposal review process
As an initial step, we contracted with two DEI consultants, who were recommended by the Diversity Committee, to analyze proposal reviews for the 2020 conference to:
- identify DEI themes;
- ensure that reviewer comments were inclusive and reflect POD’s values; and
- note any potentially offensive reviewer comments.
After reading all 285 proposal abstracts, the consultants identified 75 with strong DEI content. For these, they read the full proposals and the corresponding reviewer comments: 4% of the proposals had reviewer comments that were perceived to be highly problematic and 11% as problematic (i.e., dismissive or offensive words, narrow understandings of DEI-related topics). The consultants have shared recommendations with the conference committee for handling these problematic reviews and identified issues we will need to address in training for reviewers in future years.
DEI professional development for the Executive and Core Committee members
We hired a DEI consultant, also recommended by a member of the Diversity Committee, to follow through on our commitment to obtain DEI training for POD leaders. The consultant developed a two-part workshop focused on the following takeaways:
- a model for building capacity between self and others in relationship to DEI work;
- a clear context for understanding organizational shifts/dynamics related to equity and inclusion; and
- a clear understanding of strategies to establish a culture which values difference (in all of its forms) as a strength and asset.
Further actions will be determined after the second session occurs in late September.
Formalized support for pathways into POD Network leadership
At the June Core meeting, we approved a recommendation to expand the offer of compensation for specific volunteer leadership roles within our organization; see the report here. Our past practices were neither transparent nor equitable, and hindered diverse and inclusive leadership. In addition, need-based support was expanded so that those with less institutional/employer funding would not encounter structural barriers to participation. With our current projected deficit budget (based on very conservative revenues from membership and the conference), we are unable to fully enact this new plan at this time, but with approval in principle, we are confident that these practices will be fully adopted once they are financially viable.
Increased visibility and advocacy for DEI concerns and changes needed in higher education
In June 2020, POD promoted the #shutdownacademia, #shutdownSTEM, shutdownStem.com/action and #blacklivesmatter, #BlackOutTuesday, and the Diversity Committee’s 2016 White Paper on social media. The Diversity Committee has also initiated a project to update and expand our POD website DEI resources, particularly on how to promote anti-racist and inclusive teaching. And our president has started a monthly message to members, including discussion of DEI issues.
In June 2020, Core Committee members committed to making progress on additional DEI initiatives, examples of which include:
- Increasing communication between the Diversity Committee and the Executive Committee to ensure consistent and direct communication between the committee and executive leadership and to make collaborative decision-making more transparent.
- Charging our new Strategic Plan Committee to increase communication about committee and SIG activities that support our cross-cutting diversity and inclusion strategic priority and to develop plans to help reinforce DEI activities as a key priority for our committees and SIGs.
- Developing an RFP for a DEI consultant to help us study and review our policies and procedures, including a process and structure for adding a member to the Executive Committee who has DEI expertise.
If you have questions about any of these updates or initiatives, please contact Hoag Holmgren, POD Network Executive Director. )To provide input to the Core and Executive Committees on any of these initiatives or to suggest additional ideas, members were sent via email a link to a feedback form.) In the coming months, more progress updates from the Executive and Core Committees will be shared, as well as updates from our committees and Special Interest Groups (SIGs).
NOTE: More information about POD Network’s strategic plan can be found here.