Following the death of George Floyd and other acts of racial violence and injustice in the summer of 2020, The Graduate School engaged in reflection, research, and planning related to two main questions:
- What practices, policies, and processes have the largest negative effect on graduate students at the University of Connecticut who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color (BIPOC)?
- What practices, policies, and processes can be addressed by The Graduate School?
We met with a variety of campus partners including the Graduate Student Senate, the Graduate Employee Union, the Office of Institutional Equity, and the Ombuds Office. We also met with Harriott and Crandall fellows and the Graduate Students of Color Association. We used the results of these conversations to develop a survey for department heads, Directors of Graduate Study, program coordinators, and departmental administrators.
II. Overall Survey Results
Campus partners identified four obstacles that have a disproportionate negative effect on BIPOC graduate students:
- The University often fails to hold advisors accountable for discriminatory or racist behavior.
- The power imbalance between advisors and advisees may exacerbate conflicts and limit accountability.
- BIPOC graduate students may not have the same opportunities for mentorship and community that are available to graduate students with other identities.
- Faculty and staff have insufficient training in anti-racist practices and advising.
III. Interpretation of Themes
The overall survey results were disaggregated by school and college. Across all programs, respondents identified increased funding, training, and mentoring as necessary to better support BIPOC students. Fostering a vibrant sense of community among BIPOC graduate students was uniformly identified as critical. Respondents diverged when it came to their awareness of resources available and their conception of racism at UConn.
The Graduate School identified three internal priorities for action:
- Improving graduate student advising experiences.
- Analyzing policies of The Graduate School for racially disparate outcomes (with a focus on admissions and fellowships).
- Building the capacity for supporting BIPOC graduate students in The Graduate School staff.
The Graduate School identified three priorities and it will advocate for action on them by UConn as a whole:
- Hiring and retaining more BIPOC faculty and staff.
- Building a community for BIPOC students, faculty, and staff.
- Investing in structures that support BIPOC student well-being and belonging.