Carroll Report Maryland Muckraker

Muckraker: McDaniel trustees unanimously endorse diversity, equity centric five year plan for college

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Quote from McDaniel President Julia Jasken on the college’s five year plan, background photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

In October, McDaniel announced that their thirty-six member Board of Trustees voted unanimously to endorse the college’s five year strategic plan that holistically integrates diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ), into the fabric of the small liberal arts college that sits high atop a hill overlooking historic Westminster.   

Apply diversity, equity to every initiative

President Julia Jasken said she wants the “lens of DEIJ applied to every initiative” in her college’s plan because they have learned that the work of diversity is “never done”. The college says the strategic plan, called Reaching New Heights, “shapes McDaniel’s future” by guiding the “direction, priorities, and investments” for the private school where tuition is $$48,672 annually.   

Reaching New Heights has four key initiatives. One of them is to expand the college’s “alliances” within the city of Westminster, by strengthening a sense of “safety and belonging in Westminster” in addition to providing opportunities for “community leaders” to participate in “activities” with a “focus on DEIJ” in the city and throughout the county.     

Make Westminster more inclusive

McDaniel’s Associate Provost for Equity and Belonging Richard Smith, who previously co-founded a “racial healing clinic” alongside former Carroll County Public Schools Officer for Equity and Inclusion Judith Jones, said: “When it comes to making Westminster and Carroll County more inclusive and welcoming for students and employees, we have to be the model of what we want to see around us”.

Smith ascended to his equity and belonging leadership post in 2021, after serving as a special advisor to the provost on matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Now he leads the college’s office of DEI (ODEI) and guides the campus’s Bias Education Response Support Team (BERST), which allows students, faculty, staff, and community members to report bias related incidents that can be “verbal, nonverbal, or written”.  

Corporate Pride Festival sponsors

In 2022, Smith’s ODEI partnered with the city of Westminster for its first annual Juneteenth celebration, a new federal holiday started in 2021 officially called Juneteenth National Independence Day, and for the Westminster Pride Festival, which was sponsored by Lifebridge Health, the nonprofit in charge of Carroll Hospital, and Penguin Random House, the international book publisher with distribution and fulfillment centers in Westminster and Hampstead. 

In a 2021 interview with the Carroll County Times prior to a virtual speaking event for students, Smith, a PhD sociologist who says Karl Marx is considered one of the founders of the discipline he holds an advanced degree in, explained that his focus at McDaniel is on “decolonizing the curriculum”. Explaining what it means to be a colonizer, he said there is a “preference for whiteness” in the culture of Western civilization. He wants others to understand why “decolonization is important” and wants them to “go through the process of decolonization”.         

McDaniel and Black Lives Matter

Prior to Smith’s ascent, in June of 2020 during the nationwide Black Lives Matter riots, former president Roger Casey released a statement where he declared the college would be “expanding its efforts on behalf of diversity, equity, and inclusion”. He said the college supports the Black Lives Matter movement, and he announced sweeping new policies, including adding more “racial justice course offerings” and implementing a more “appropriate staffing model”.  

The college says the class of 2026, where 82% of applicants were admitted, is 58% female and 49% people of color, though only 21% of students submitted SAT scores, in keeping with a nationwide trend where fewer and fewer colleges require standardized testing for admittance because the practice is considered discriminatory.

McDaniel & Salisbury: diversity institutional capture

McDaniel’s complete adoption of a diversity and equity institutional orientation resembles a comparatively hysterical administrative revolution that took place at Salisbury University around the same time, where after an extended racist graffiti hoax that butted up against the death of George Floyd, the university’s president reacted anti-racistly by revising school curriculum, altering the physical appearance of campus, and insourcing a Chief Diversity Officer.

Read: How fake racism changed Salisbury University forever 

Groundbreaking diversity research

Westminster’s Mayor Mona Becker, formerly a professor and environmental studies department chair at McDaniel, recently made headlines with the college when she partnered with chemistry professor Melanie Nilsson to research “gender and race imbalances” in college chemistry textbooks.

Analyzing who is visually shown and academically cited in the texts, the pair found that they “fail on gender representation” and “aid and abet racial disparity”. The college called the research “groundbreaking”. 

In 2017, Nilsson, whose research focus used to be diabetes but is now diversity, published an article in the Peace Studies Journal titled “Bathroom Lessons” where she argues that “admittance criteria for gendered bathrooms is a complex issue”. Today, McDaniel offers “gender inclusive housing” for students whose “gender identity is different than the sex they were assigned at birth”.  

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