The Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders Response to Racism and Inequity

The Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at Michigan State University explicitly condemns racism, oppression, bigotry, hatred, violence, and exclusion in any form.  The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubrey, Tony McDade, Elijah McClain – and so many before and since – have escalated social protests and momentum for change.  We join the University, our College of Communication Arts and Sciences, and our professional organization, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, in committing to affirm and expand our efforts for meaningful change.

We acknowledge our own place in the systems of inequity that exist in academia, the professions, and in our professional work settings.  This is dramatically evidenced in the homogeneity of the fields of audiology, speech-language pathology, and speech, language, and hearing sciences, wherein only 8% of members identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color.

We commit to cultural humility as we dedicate ourselves to understanding and dismantling the systems that oppress and limit opportunity for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Our efforts must similarly address the intersection of other social categorizations such as sex, gender, nationality, socioeconomics, ability, neurodiversity, and other identities. We commit to seek out, be informed by, and amplify the voices of all marginalized communities.

Addressing these issues requires immediate action, as well as long-term effort, with emphasis on listening, humility, vulnerability, and courage. We commit to taking such action, in a conscious, respectful, and sustained manner.

We also reaffirm the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders Strategic Plan for 2020-2024 (ratified by faculty December 2019), which includes several key Aims, Objectives, and Outcomes that explicitly target increasing diversity and cultural responsiveness:

  • Commit to diversity, equity and inclusion in faculty hires by making our department worthy of consideration by candidates of underrepresented and marginalized groups. 
  • Participate in pre-college programs and university events, where undergraduate Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color are exploring degree options and professions, as one means of increasing diversity of the students within the CSD degree programs. 
  • Establish and maintain relationships with two or more MSU student groups or off-campus organizations serving Black, Indigenous and People of Color in order to glean understanding of academic and professional barriers in CSD and to simultaneously inform those groups about CSD degrees and professional opportunities. 
  • Expand the colloquium series to include presentations that support professional growth and development in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 
  • Consult and collaborate with the ComArtSci Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, as well as the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives at MSU to increase DEI training for CSD faculty and students; increase efforts until each faculty member is engaged in DEI education throughout the year. 

We commit to additional actionable steps, which we hereby establish anew:

  • We will establish a departmental Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, which will:
    • Consist of faculty, staff, and student representatives, 
    • Be informed by, and have cross-membership in, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences DEI Committee, 
    • Meet at least quarterly, and 
    • Hold a permanent agenda line in monthly departmental meetings.
  • We will strive to increase to annual participation in mentoring Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color in the department through the MSU Summer Research Opportunities Program
  • We will require that each relevant academic course in the undergraduate, Masters, and PhD programs contain Culturally and Linguistically Diverse learning objectives informing of diverse patient/client populations related to the course content area.
  • We will initiate the process to eliminate requirement of GRE as part of M.A. and PhD program admission decisions, given its inherent biases.
  • We will strive for the establishment of a scholarship fund to pay the graduate school application fees for Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color, and/or otherwise marginalized applicants to the M.A. and PhD programs.
  • We will take steps to establish a departmental Equity and Anti-Racism Advisory Board, made up of alumni and community partners, who will provide guidance and feedback on departmental actions and plans moving forward.

The statement and actions outlined above were unanimously ratified July 2020 by the faculty and staff of the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders.  We acknowledge that these steps are just a start, and many are overdue.  Each of us expresses our ongoing commitment and dedication to antiracist and abolitionist teaching practices and professional activity.