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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Cummings School Anti-Racism Task Force to release recommendations on diversity and inclusion

The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, pictured here, has taken steps to promote anti-racist practices within the school.

Tufts' Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine's Anti-Racism Task Force is nearing the release of its 12-month report on diversity and inclusion. The report will include recommendations to aid the Cummings School in promoting and sustaining anti-racist practices over the long term.

The Cummings School’s Anti-Racism Task Force was formed in June 2020 as part of an effort to actively promote anti-racism and diversity in all aspects of the Cummings School. Since then, it has taken steps to address implicit bias and the underrepresentation of marginalized communities in veterinary medicine.

Dean of the Cummings School Alastair Cribb discussed the task force's work. The 12-month report, approaching release, will center recommendations and goals that will sustain anti-racist practices beyond the immediate future.

"As the Task Force works towards its 12-month report, there are plans to develop recommendations on how to achieve wider diversity in our student and house officer bodies... and to develop a recommendation for how to maintain momentum long-term," Cribb wrote in an email to the Daily.

According to Cribb, the task force's six-month report, which was released in December, focused on immediate action, some of which has already paid off.

"The six-month report ... recommended that our faculty search and selection processes be revised," Cribb said. "This has already resulted in changes in our advertisements and processes. This has included stronger statements around diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism in advertisements, a new requirement for all applicants to address this area in their application, and a test implementation of a rubric for evaluating candidates to reduce bias. A new draft Search and Selection Policy will be presented to our Executive Faculty Board shortly."

The task force partnered with the Tufts Veterinary Council on Diversity, another group at the Cummings School aimed to increase diversity and inclusion. 

Florina Tseng, associate dean for diversity, inclusion, equity and climate at the Cummings School and a member at large of the Tufts Veterinary Council on diversity, said the task force was established following widespread calls for racial justice last summer.

Tseng said the task force has developed and executed trainings on implicit bias as part of its short-term, concrete programming.

“We embedded those implicit bias trainings into already existing meetings, like faculty department meetings or staff meetings or group meetings, so we were able to reach most of the campus with those," Tseng said. 

As the task force works to release its 12-month report, it plans to solicit feedback from members of the Cummings School community through a campus survey. According to Cribb, feedback will help guide the task force moving forward. 

In addition to this broader involvement from the student community, the task force includes two student representatives. Cora Evans, one of these students, said the task force is working to build more support for people of color on campus.

“I think a big aspect of the task force is creating that space so that we can get more diverse applicants, so that when they come here, they feel supported, they feel safe, they appreciated and that they want to continue their time at the Cummings School," Evans, a second-year graduate student, said.

For Evans, who graduated from Spelman College, a historically Black college, this space for more diverse applicants is especially important.

“I came from an HBCU, so it's a little bit of a culture shock to come to a school where there are very, very few Black students," Evans said.

Looking toward the future, Tseng said she hopes the task force becomes a permanent — rather than a temporary — project within the Cummings School.

“It had a one year date of expiration, but we're certainly convinced that there needs to be more action and more ongoing sorts of involvement," Tseng said. “One of our goals is to figure out how this continues, not as a task force, but what sort of iteration it might be."

Cribb hopes the task force will serve as one of many steps toward meaningful institutional change.

“It is essential that we take larger and bolder steps to address the long-standing challenges that we face with racism and lack of diversity within veterinary medicine," Cribb said. "I am looking for strong, implementable recommendations that will [affect] change, and will be embraced by our community, and I look forward to the Task Force’s next report."