July 2020: From Beth Fisher-Yoshida

July 2020

Dear SPS Faculty,

There is an interesting phenomenon that is happening in the US and around the world and it is looking at systemic injustice, racism and police brutality. Having been around a while and living through the civil rights movement in the 1960s and demonstrations against the Vietnam war and social change in the 60s and 70s, this feels different. Perhaps the pandemic has conditioned us in ways that make us more fed up, more reactive, more sensitive, more determined, just more of whatever, than we were before.

It is a time for deep soul searching and examining the role we have played in the perpetuation of unfair and inequitable practices. Innocence and naivete is not an acceptable excuse. Back in the day we followed the slogan that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Is that applicable today?

As faculty in an institution of higher learning and being responsible for the learning of the students and scholar-practitioners in our classes, we have a responsibility, an ethical and moral responsibility, to address these concerns. This has caused us to look at what we are doing on a daily basis and what we are representing and if that is in alignment with what we want to do and what we think we are doing. In the NECR program, for example, we have had daily conversations about who we are as a program and the ways in which we want to and should address these special times. We also wanted to balance our responsibilities as leaders and providers with being inclusive and hearing from those in our community and what they would like to see happen, what role they would like to play.

We have weekly Zoom calls where we listen, hear concerns, hear stories, and respond when it feels right. One initiative that has emerged from these weekly calls is a working group of students and faculty and a desire to map the system of racism in the US over a 400-year period. We want to walk the talk and apply the skills and tools we teach, so we are leading a process of dynamical systems mapping, one of the core classes and practical theories in the program.

We are confident that the activity will not only be informative, but the process of how we will engage with one another and the conversations that will take place will be very meaningful. It may not be comfortable to not have the answers, to not be fully planned and to not be in control. At the same time, it is remarkable how leaders emerge when given the space to do so and what and how they lead is not prescribed.

In what ways are you addressing these extraordinary circumstances? How are you dealing with being outside of your comfort zone? It would be great to share what we are all doing and to learn from each other. This might be the opportunity we have spoken of so frequently to engage in cross-program initiatives.

Thank you,

Beth Fisher-Yoshida