Doctoral students: courses taught us to embrace liberal activism

The first graduates of an educational doctorate program at the University of Washington-Tacoma credit the experience with inspiring them to fight “religious bigotry” and promote racial diversity.

“In light of recent national and world events, the doctoral students of the inaugural cohort of the EdD-Educational Leadership program at the University of Washington Tacoma (UWT), must state our support for student activism, members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and those who wish an end to hateful rhetoric and the violence happening against our communities of color and within our institutions of education,” the students wrote in an op-ed for The News-Tribune Friday.

The five doctoral students who signed their name to the op-ed are the first cohort to complete UWT’s Educational Leadership program, which was established in 2013 “to address conceptual issues of the roles educational leaders play in leadership, management/administration, and political advocacy.”

Each role is then discussed in relation to various “dimensions” including leadership, diversity, accountability, and learning, with the ultimate goal of preparing graduates for administrative roles in academia.

A chart on the school’s website further elaborates on the program’s objectives. With respect to political advocacy, for instance, students are expected not only to develop traditional skills such as “working with multiple constituencies to address current issues and plan for the future” and staying current on all relevant laws, but also to “[act] decisively in promoting diversity” and “[partner] with external stakeholders to promote diversity within the community.”

Similarly, the management/administration category teaches students to “effectively [manage] and [provide] resources to hire, support, and retain a diverse workforce,” as well as to “[create] a climate recognizing multiple contributions of diverse populations.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the program’s inaugural class identifies combatting bigotry and institutional racism as the foremost responsibility of educators.

“Looking back on our three years of study and community service through internship, we recognize the influences of critical theorists and educational reformers, and many others who speak out on behalf of those who have been systematically silenced,” they explain in the op-ed. “As students who have increased in knowledge and understanding of institutional and structural racism, we understand our responsibility to call out injustice and work toward solutions which create opportunities for equity throughout our society.”

Expressing solidarity with student activists around the country “who have voiced our shared concerns and fears regarding racist attitudes and racial attacks,” they contend that “such acts of violence must not be ignored” because each instance of violence affects the entire community.

“Likewise, we have an opportunity to amplify our efforts to push back against religious bigotry and disparaging remarks when we act in unity against such violence,” they continue, saying, “it is our responsibility as leaders in the community to continue to expose, uncover and reject all acts of violence against our bodies and our communities.”

The op-ed concludes with the students making a commitment to dedicate themselves to “promoting greater diversity on our campuses and in our workplaces; to creating safe spaces for students, faculty, and staff of color; and to intentionally listen to the concerns of all underrepresented populations,” which they hope will help them become “agents for liberation.”

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