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‘All Hands on Deck’

Dr. Jakari Griffith on racial-justice progress on campus

Story Series
Action: Racial Justice and Equity

As a member of the Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice who continues to serve on Bridgewater State University’s Racial Justice Council, Dr. Jakari Griffith has had a front-row seat for the changes the institution is making in the name of equity. 

As expected, it’s a work in progress, but with signs of growing success. 

While there have been concrete accomplishments and movement on many fronts, it’s already apparent that practices, minds and perceptions are changing, said Dr. Griffith, who is associate professor and chairman of the Department of Management and Marketing. 

“In terms of best practices, BSU is following them when it comes to recommending changes of this kind,” he said. “And what you see is we have support from the president and from the provost and the academic deans across all divisions, and this filters all the way down. When you have that level of direction and clarity, and with the resources we’ve been given, I think you have an all-hands-on-deck situation.” 

The task force was assembled in the summer of 2020 by President Frederick W. Clark Jr.; its report was issued the following May. Part of the job of the council is to monitor progress on the recommendations and help clear any obstacles that may be preventing implementation. 

“It’s a group of excellent thought partners making sure we are thoughtfully implementing the things that came out in the original report,” Dr. Griffith said. 

The work of the past four years has resulted in many faculty, librarians, staff and students putting equity front and center in all the work they do. 

“That’s absolutely happening,” Dr. Griffith said, adding that the bottom line has not changed: “There are real resources and metrics that are tied to our vigilance around paying attention to student-success outcomes.” 

He goes on to cite some accomplishments to date, including the rethinking and, if needed, redesigning of courses with an eye toward strengthening DEI knowledge (diversity, equity and inclusion); the CUBES project, an initiative that brings together a team of faculty to explore ways to reinforce career readiness through the curriculum and provides on-campus internships for students; the inaugural Apple Institute which helps departments look inward to see how they can enhance equity practices; expanding the incorporation of pictures and imagery on campus that accurately reflects BSU’s student population; making the Honors Program more inclusive; offering the GPA restart policy that assists students who are no longer enrolled in being readmitted under certain circumstances; and adjusting the methods of recruitment and hiring of new employees and faculty. 

“It’s a culture change, and it’s a healthy and welcome part of the conversation when people ask questions about it,” Dr. Griffith said. “It’s great to see the transformations over time.” 

University Operations also earned some praise for its efforts in promoting the use of vendors and contractors that qualify as minority owned and ensuring that equity is part of the discussion throughout its various processes. 

“They’ve been very intentional about how they think about the contracting process,” Dr. Griffith said. “They are providing a really impressive example of how these efforts have been implemented. It’s a real indication of how committed everyone is, and we own this plan together.” 

The upshot of the work done so far is evident in the voices and on the faces of students. Ultimately, it’s something that is infusing the entire campus. 

“Students feel celebrated and seen, and we’ve created a welcoming environment,” Dr. Griffith said. “Because of the forward thinking of the leadership and the trustees, I think everyone kind of gets it. People are saying, ‘What does this look like through an equity lens?’”

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