As a Bank Street graduate student, you’re joining a community that is striving to increase equity in education.
As part of that effort, the Office of Social Justice, Equity, and Inclusion (OSJEI) provides capacity-building resources and experiences that empower Bank Street community members to recognize and disrupt systems of oppression. OSJEI is situated in the President’s Office because this work is a commitment throughout all of Bank Street’s divisions, including the Graduate School.
We seek to create a culture and climate at Bank Street that respects all identities in addition to removing barriers to access for those who have been historically excluded from educational opportunity. To do so, we facilitate college-wide spaces where faculty and staff can continue to practice creating an equitable learning and working environment.
Affinity groups for staff and faculty provide spaces for our community members to work within and across their own racial groups to learn and practice the tenets of anti-racism. Currently, we host two groups for faculty and staff —BIPOC/PoGM (Black, Indigenous, and people of color/People of (the) Global Majority) and WAAG (White Anti-Racist Affinity Group). Those who participate are making a commitment to racial equity within the organization and one’s personal social justice journey. Similarly, Graduate School faculty members lead the Students of Color Affinity Group (SOCAG) and the White Students Affinity Group (WSAG) for interested graduate students.
With the help of dedicated facilitators from across the Bank Street community, these affinity groups provide an opportunity to learn about some of the historical roots of racism in the US and develop a critical analysis of racialized experiences. We take a look at the frameworks that have guided our personal and professional understanding of equity and we discuss how we approach important yet challenging dialogues as they occur in our lives, working toward advancing our ability to:
- Dispel the myth that organizations and institutions can end racism because it is a function of our society and instead work to dismantle oppression on an interpersonal and structural level
- Recognize that disrupting racism is an adaptive challenge; we must be creative and resilient to envision new futures
- Build trust in relationships to move from being allies to accomplices in the fight towards racial justice
In addition to the rich conversations that unfold in our group meetings, we also support ongoing learning with guest speakers like Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, who recently joined us to discuss the importance of coalition-building and racial literacy. She reminded us to remain open to exploring our own beliefs, biases, and ideas that shape how we engage in work. This discussion reminded us of something she said when she joined us at last year’s convocation:
With change comes opportunity and the ability to listen more deeply—to children, to communities perhaps that we have marginalized and ignored. To understand some of their fears as well as we understand our own. To listen deeply to how the times that we’re navigating produce this deep anxiety and this feeling of uncertainty. As future teachers, this is what you have to hold space for, not just for yourselves and your colleagues, but also for the children that you will teach.
Workshops are another way OSJEI partners with the Graduate School. Recently, we offered a workshop for all graduate school staff on “Building Capacity to Support Your Queer and Trans Colleagues.” This was a thought-provoking morning that highlighted tools to mitigate microaggressions and how to communicate effectively about pronouns.
Additionally, as part of the College’s strategic planning process, we’re collaborating with administrative teams to implement actions that will strengthen our collective understanding of racial equity and align our institution as a whole with the principles of anti-racism.
We also invite you to check out some books that reflect our approach to this work:
Please feel free to reach out to us at any point during your journey.
Ray and G lead the Office of Social Justice, Equity and Inclusion. Ray received her BA from Columbia University and her EdD from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research interests include racial socialization, multicultural education, racism over the life course, and the educational experiences of students belonging to marginalized communities. G is currently completing their PhD at Teachers College in a higher & post-secondary education program with a focus on creating equitable learning environments for queer and trans people, including faculty, staff, and students. Their many academic and professional experiences are helping Bank Street to work interrogating racism and address inequities in education.