Stephanie Varnon-Hughes, Ph.D., is CLU's Dean of Teaching, Learning & Leadership. Dr. Varnon-Hughes is an award-winning teacher and interfaith leader. She is the host of the religion & culture podcast In Times Like These and the author of Interfaith Grit: How Uncertainty Will Save Us. Varnon-Hughes was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Inter-Religious Studies, a peer-reviewed journal, and its sister publication, State of Formation, an online forum for emerging religious and ethical leaders. She holds a Ph.D. from Claremont Lincoln University, an M.A. and S.T.M. from Union Theological Seminary, and her undergraduate degrees are in English and Education from Webster University.
Here is an important article our colleague Dr. Kendra Smith shared with me:
Here is the abstract:
"Despite efforts toward equity in organizations and institutions, minority members report that they are often ignored, their contributions undervalued. Against this backdrop, we conduct a large-sample, multiyear experimental study to investigate patterns of attention. The findings provide causal evidence of a racial attention deficit: Even when in their best interest, White Americans pay less attention to Black peers. In a baseline study, we assign an incentivized puzzle to participants and examine their willingness to follow the example of their White and Black peers. White participants presume that Black peers are less competent—and fail to learn from their choices. We then test two interventions: Providing information about past accomplishments reduces the disparity in evaluations of Black peers, but the racial attention deficit persists. When Whites can witness the accomplishments of Black peers, rather than being told about them, the racial attention-deficit subsides. We suggest that such a deficit can explain racial gaps documented in science, education, health, and law."
I have been thinking about my own attention and inattention all week since I read the article. One of the more powerful things I learned in my teacher training was that: Teachers, including female teachers, call on boy students more than girl students. EVEN IF they are aware of this bias. UNLESS they implement a mechanism to be more inclusive and equitable (e.g. using popsicle sticks with student names to call randomly, doing an audit at the end of each day to make a check by every name called on). I'm still aware of this bias-- that I will more naturally call on men and people who have learning styles I think are similar to me/people like me EVEN if I intellectually understand that I have a bias.
This part of the abstract is huge: "White participants presume that Black peers are less competent—and fail to learn from their choices." EVEN IF we have been "trained" or are "aware" unless we participate in an intervention, or require interventions of ourselves--daily-- we will continue to fail to learn AND fail to get access to what our Black peers offer.
One of the reasons I love working with all of you is that we challenge each other to become more aware and try to keep each other from failing to learn. May it continue to be so.
Here is a spotlight on key resources for supporting our colleagues and communities in Atlanta, in the academy, and all over the US.
This organizations FB group has very specific webinars, activist events, and immediate ways to support the community in Atlanta:
For those of us continuing to need resources on supporting BIPOC colleagues, students, neighbors, and family members, and to share with our neighbors and students (including academic-specific resources):
While the resources above specifically address issues of race, many of the lessons are relevant to other social justice issues and advocating for members of marginalized communities.
I found this incredibly illuminating graph illustrating different countries' values (and which countries are similar to one another), based on the World Values Survey: https://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/wvs.jsp
It's interesting to see who we're kin to when it comes to values. This might be interesting data in some of our course conversations about culture and assumptions of similarities or differences.
I found an interesting example of a way one on-ground university is keeping COVID from spreading amongst students— student-run “courts” to hear evidence and facilitate community reparations for students who break social-distancing and mask guidelines: https://www.texasmonthly.com/politics/rice-coronavirus-court/
"To get that buy-in, the team decided to hand over enforcement of health protocols to the student body.” — the article documents the positive and negative aspects of this. Students are working hard to listen to one another and look out for vulnerable populations, but many students dislike the increased surveillance.
The pandemic has highlighted for many of us all of the ways we depend on one another, and the ways real dialogue and collaboration are failing in many communities (distrust, fear, unwillingness to take others’ perspectives, rise in illnesses, vulnerable populations and [so-called] front-line workers feeling unheard and expendable…)
I hope that the values and capacities of the Claremont Core might serve wider communities than just CLU students as we grow and move into the next year.
Accurate and helpful resources to think about the conflict in Palestine right now, and students might also be referencing this in their application of course concepts. As an inter-religious scholar who has long worked in Jewish-Christian and Jewish-Muslim dialogue spaces, I am also personally interested in ways to think about the criticism of the actions of the Israeli government/state that is not antisemitic. I have found these resources helpful in the past week:
Please find attached a didactic I found really helpful when thinking about peer learning. That is, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we instructors plan for and facilitate learning. I do spend some time thinking about student agency and actions in her own learning. But I have not really reflected lately on how to facilitate peer learning.
That is our intention, of course, is the emphasis we put on the Discussion Board space and assignments. The attached figure really highlighted for me that I have a role to play in “activating” student-led peer learning. I also like the didactic because it gives us clear next steps as we work to focus on these learning “levels.”
The figure comes from this source, “Formative Assessment for Remote Teaching: Understanding Learning Intentions,” by Kathleen Scalise and Dylan William: https://tinyurl.com/y2h38qvd
May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the US. Please find attached a quick and helpful "temperature check" for how you might be feeling in a given situation. It gives us and our students/communities language to talk about how we're coping.
It's Pride Month! Here is an amazing conversation I had on my CLU podcast with PreK-12 literacy specialist and LGBTQ+ activist Courtney Farrell on being inclusive for trans students in K-12 spaces (particularly in PreK-3 spaces. I learned so much from her: ttps://www.claremontlincoln.edu/engage/clu-live/podcasts/in-times-like-these/trans-rights-justice-education-courtney-farrell-podcast/
This website is geared to undergraduate student leaders, but they have a ton of events and resources. It's helpful to see how young leaders at the beginning of their higher ed journey are doing this work: https://www.campuspride.org/resources/
Finally, this issue of Diversity and Democracy from the Association of American Colleges & Universities is focused on LGBTQ+ contexts in higher education: https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/making-excellence-inclusive-higher-educations-lgbtq-contexts-0
“Observe, brainstorm, research, build, and communicate.” —Gitanjali Rao, TIME magazine’s first-ever Kid of the Year. https://time.com/5916772/kid-of-the-year-2020/
Ms. Rao, who is 15, invented Tethys, a device that detects lead contamination in water, in 2017, in response to her concern about the Flint water crisis. https://www.npr.org/2019/01/29/687788715/a-13-year-old-science-entrepreneur-wants-to-bring-her-water-testing-device-to-ma
She’s also invented Kindly, an app that flags cyberbullying in real-time, and Epione, an early diagnosis solution for prescription opioid addiction, which also has an app for mobile devices. Marvel also made her a superhero in their web series Marvel’s Hero Project, as “Genius Gitanjali,” for the work she’s done to help people.
Her quote that captures the research process— from observation through collaboration to communication—resonates for me with all the work we’ve been doing to build the three new Core courses (Invitation to Inquiry, Activating the Core, and Applying the Core).
Many of you may already be aware of a movement across North America today and tomorrow to educate ourselves and participate in teaching around actions against racism, policing, mass incarceration and other symptoms of racism’s toll in America.
Scholar Strike is both an action, and a teach-in.
You can learn more about #scholarstrike here: https://academeblog.org/2020/09/02/scholar-strike/?fbclid=IwAR3uajb_d8ZU21Uqxm70_u_C0n063bJvzB_KVIX_nsHF_7-1QVvQ3xdWf6I
From the organizers: "In the tradition of the teach-ins of the 1960s, we are going to spend September 8–9 doing YouTube ten-minute teach-ins, accessible to everyone, and a social media blitz on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to share information about racism, policing mass incarceration, and other issues of racial injustice in America. Participants at various institutions will be engaging in their own programming with students at their universities, and sharing with us their teach-ins and other activities. Scholar Strike has even gone across US borders, with our Canadian academic neighbors to the north engaging in their own action across Canada on September 9–10."
I will be taking time these two days to do some homework about the ways in which my actions and language propagate white supremacy - inside academia and out. Resources can be found here:
I welcome your own reflections on ways you are learning, and teaching, to dismantle white supremacy and support all of our students as they create positive social change in their communities.
Many of you know that a core group of us are working on DEI initiatives here at CLU, including incorporating a variety of voices of scholars and practitioners in our courses, a new course for all programs, and other resources for teaching and learning.
Over the past few years, I’ve been learning a lot from these leaders and organizations. They include disabled academics and activists, and also “universal design” resources (everything from architecture to course design).
Constitution Day s a requirement the federal government gives to schools and universities that receive federal funding. It has been in place since 2005. Usually, someone in the financial aid office or student affairs office makes the announcement. On an on-ground institution, it’s easy to miss, because it’s often just a flyer that goes up, or maybe a flyer with free food. For online, we have to send out emails (including to staff).
Specifically, the requirement is that schools “offer educational programming” around the Constitution, hence the language below about “learning or reacquainting yourself” with the document.