Equity, Inclusion and Diversity

Addressing Systematized Racism and Promoting Equity, Inclusion and Diversity

Accessible description of 2021-2022 Racial Justice Reckoning at Heller

March 2022


The Heller Office of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity (EID) is committed to helping Heller achieve its motto of “knowledge advancing social justice” by building a strong community culture of belongingness for all. This work requires participation from every corner of our institution to succeed. Our approach to EID work at Heller is grounded in a philosophy of continuous improvement, evidence-based practices and targeted interventions, and one where everyone is engaged in the movement. All existing programs, working groups, institutes and centers must address initiatives or updates on ‘contextualizing and embedding anti-racism, anti-discrimination, anti-bullying in pedagogy, research and policy within standing meeting agendas.

We undertake this work at every level: in each of Heller’s academic programs, research institutes, and administrative offices. The Heller EID Office tracks progress on four key performance metrics through repeated 1) climate surveys, 2) course evaluations, 3) faculty activity reports, 4) Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) table, as well as student memos and community discussions. Built from our initial assessments in 2018/2019 we were able to create, four EID evaluation pillars:

  • Demographics
  • Vulnerabilities (e.g. health, safety, wellness, employment, housing, food security)
  • Belonging and inclusion (including perceived discrimination)
  • Satisfaction with Heller and willingness to recommend to others

In the years since Ford Hall 2015, we see evidence of progress in these areas while prioritizing new or on-going challenges. Our faculty and academic leadership are reexamining curriculum, teaching approaches, and the school structure, systems, and psychological and behavioral conditions. We take a growth mindset that seeks to build on areas of progress and creativity often inspired by our students, and we are using diffusion innovation and partnerships to expand our reach and our measure of what is possible. 

Much work is needed. Although we have introduced changes to our recruiting processes at the school, such as a newly released inclusive recruitment policy, the outcomes from those processes show only small and inconsistent progress. Disparate financial burdens challenge the pace of progress, inequity persists in hiring, and we see the mental and physical effects of societal and environmental stress on our community. We lack a unified understanding of history and social justice across disciplines and demographics, and there remain instances of micro-aggressions, invalidations, hyper-visibility, micro-assaults, harassment, racism, bullying and discrimination, particularly among members of underrepresented populations at the school. In short, the work is far from done. As President Liebowitz noted on June 9, 2020 in a campus-wide initiative to address systemic racism at Brandeis, “I heard many of you express outrage, fear, and the exhaustion of living with cruel racism in your lives and on our campus. I said then that we must do more; we must do better.”


The following plan builds on the past work of the Office of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity and the Office of the Dean to address systemic racism at Heller. During July 2020's webinar titled “Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired,” our colleague Professor Anita Hill linked the famous statement by activist Fannie Lou Hamer to a history of “systematized racism.” This turn of phrase from systemic to systematized takes us from an adjective to a verb, demanding action.

It is in this spirit of action that our offices and our partners in the school and university continue to craft transformative change.

The plan derives from the broader mission statement guiding our equity, inclusion, and diversity efforts at Heller. Our mission is to create a continuously thriving community, aimed at achieving universally higher quality academic and research outcomes for everyone in and beyond the Heller community. We do so by creating specific, measurable, and achievable metrics which we monitor against internal baseline metrics as well as data from peer institutions. We do so by adopting  the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED), a nationally-recognized, standardized framework for measuring diversity and sharing our HEED progress with the community.

This plan is not merely a suggestion for meeting our aspirational motto of “Knowledge Advancing Social Justice.” To combat “systematized” racism and other kinds of oppression requires a multi-pronged approach addressing multiple aspects of our structure, operation, and activities. In the next stages of our EID work, the responsibility for progress cannot be limited to a small number of people or a specific program office, but embraced by the school and all community members within.

The Heller Plan to Address Systematized Racism

Our plan is built on the four groups that make up the immediate Heller community: students, faculty, researchers and staff as well as close working partnerships with others in the Brandeis community including our strong alumni base who provide invaluable mentoring and internship opportunities. For each group, we list the major areas of activity; briefly describe our past work; lay out the work and activities that are underway this Academic Year 2021-2022; and in some cases identify tasks for the future. Some activities are repeated in order to indicate the cross-cutting features of our efforts.


  • Benchmarking current climate at Heller:
    • Past work: Heller student climate survey 2018; Community analysis with student representatives and discussions of climate survey results in Town Halls.
    • Future work: Next climate survey 2022 (2020 survey delayed due to COVID-19). Survey data analysis with student representatives during summer of 2022; Presentations beginning at Fall orientation, showing change over time.
  • Expanding recruitment efforts to increase diversity of Heller students:
    • Past work: Expand pool of outreach to students of color and underrepresented groups; expand financial assistance available to students in all programs including full scholarship opportunities.
    • Underway: Continued efforts to expand fellowship and financial support for students of color and underrepresented students across programs.
  • Decolonizing course syllabi to address systemic racism:
    • Past work: Pilot efforts on training, syllabus review, and program revision in the Master of Public Policy Program; Curricular interventions in partnership with the Brandeis Center for Teaching and Learning, Brandeis Library, graduate students and faculty/staff representatives from the Social Impact MBA Program, Global Programs - launched Fall 2021.
    • Underway: Gradual rollout of curricular intervention tool - Multicultural Teaching and Learning Research Guide - allowing for responses to student memo to be prioritized in group discussions.
    • Future: Continued expansion of these efforts based on learning and evaluation of impact in AY2021 through the four key evaluation mechanisms previously mentioned (i.e., 1. climate surveys, 2. course evaluations, 3. faculty activity reports and 4. tracking against the HEED).
  • Creating Mentorship Opportunities:
    • Past work: Piloted mentoring in small numbers, AY 2020.
    • Underway: Introduced Heller Mentorship Program (Voluntary online pairing including peers and alumni) in Summer 2020; Evaluation of impacts late Fall 2020.
    • Underway: Pilot of student-led initiative to increase faculty coverage and matching for underserved student populations, Spring 2022.
    • Future: Expansion of program Fall 2021 based on first year learning.
  • Building Mental Health Supports:
    • Past work: Introduction of embedded BCC Counselor at the Heller School, AY 2019; Heller EID and student service interventions and programming; creation of self-care programming.
    • Past Work: Brought in expert workshop facilitators for students, staff, faculty and researchers (multiple sessions).
    • Underway: BCC and Ombuds Staff are working with staff, faculty and students to support positive mental health of Heller (and all members of the Brandeis) community, focusing specifically on the effects of systemic oppression on mental health outcomes; Heller working with BCC on video and other resources for self-care.
    • Underway: Scheduling additional sessions on topics by demand and/or by recommendation, including related to restorative justice listening sessions with Ombuds and GSAS trained staff.
  • Developing Conflict Resolution Skills:
    • Past work: Student affinity groups and engagement through Sankofa Community Conversations, including, for example, our Brandeis Gittler Awardee's workshop specifically with the Heller community.
    • Underway: Campus group (previously led by Heller students, now led by Ombuds, GSAS, etc.) working to create campus-wide transformative justice towards conflict resolution initiative.
  • Promoting community discussions of race and racial justice in social policy
  • Expanding community engagement social justice efforts promoting pipeline of diverse students, including those nearby and across the country
    • Past work: Engagement and evaluation research with Waltham Public Schools; Boston HOPE Institute (2019, 2020).
    • Underway: Continuing outreach work and research engaging Heller students in Waltham, Boston, and through continuation of the HOPE Institute.
    • Underway: Outreach to HBCUs and HSIs, including through partnerships with Heller research institutes and centers.

Faculty-, Staff-, and Researcher-Focused

  • Benchmarking current climate at Heller
    • Past work: Heller climate survey 2019; Community discussions of results of climate survey.
    • Future work: Next climate survey 2022 (Spring 2021 survey delayed due to COVID-19); Survey data analysis during summer of 2022 with presentations beginning at orientation, showing change over time; [Stand alone demographic survey in production and review with Brandeis OPIR and Heller HR.]
  • Revising hiring processes

    • Past work: Inclusion of EID training into all faculty searches at Heller; Associate Dean for EID participates on Heller search committee; Creation of search guidance and guidelines; reporting and evaluation.
    • Underway: Continuing evaluation on impact of EID training and protocols on hiring outcomes in the future.
    • Future: Adopt EID hiring protocols for current faculty searches to searches at all levels across the school.

      Staff, Researchers:
    • Past Work: Creation of new staff recruitment and onboarding policy, including policy training, accountability and monitoring; review and adoption by the Research Steering Committee; Specific interventions with targeted Institutes.
    • Underway: Implementation of recruitment procedures into the search procedures for all institute research and administrative staff hiring; monitoring of adoption of procedures in institutes (through the Annual Review) and discussion of impact on outcomes.
    • Future: Adopt EID hiring protocols for current faculty searches to searches at all levels across the school.
  • Decolonizing course syllabi to address systemic racism
    • Past work: Pilot efforts on training, syllabus review, and program revision in the Master of Public Policy Program.
    • Underway: Curriculum interventions in partnership with the Brandeis Center for Teaching and Learning; Brandeis Library; graduate students and faculty/staff representatives from the Social Impact MBA Program; Global Programs.
    • Future: Continued expansion of these efforts based on learning and evaluation of impact in AY2021.
  • Training on race and institutional racism
    • Past work: Training interventions in specific programs and institutes; group training in a variety of forums (Faculty and staff meetings; specific program activities, etc.).
    • Underway: Mandatory training for all faculty, staff and researchers by the Office of Equal Opportunity in the Fall; Heller faculty meeting will include one workshop per semester on antiracism, as well as community book reading.
  • Revising review and evaluation processes:
    • Past work: Progress on increasing diversity in hiring has been incorporated into annual reviews for institutes, master’s and PhD programs; Specific interventions in academic programs.

    • Underway: Addition of EID questions on student course evaluations; Faculty Activity Reports incorporated supplement for Heller that requires reporting on EID activity engaged in and undertaken.
    • Future: Incorporate work on antiracism/antidiscrimination as part of promotion guidelines for tenure and non-tenure track faculty. 

      Staff, Researchers:
    • Underway: Annual performance reviews to include EID activity (including antiracism/antidiscrimination work) engaged in and undertaken during the current school year.
  • Promoting community discussions of race and racial justice in social policy

The Path Ahead:

Taking on the issue of systematized racism requires a multi-pronged approach and open and participatory processes. Progress also requires deliberative, intentional, thoughtful and inclusive conversations and engagement in our daily decision-making, interactions and work. The late Congressman John Lewis wrote an op-ed days before his passing and published in the New York Times on the day of his funeral. His words are a clarion call, applicable to our task in our Heller and Brandeis community as they are for us all in our society.

"When you see something that is not right, you must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself."