CUNY Received $425,000 City Council Grant for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Efforts

City University of New York was awarded a $425,000 grant from New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson
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The City University of New York was awarded a $425,000 grant from New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson for its ongoing efforts to transform its campuses into spaces that serve as national models of equity and inclusion.

The new funding will allow the CUNY Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Incubator, run by the Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding (CERRU) at Queens College, to double the number of CUNY campuses it works with by early 2021, ultimately expanding the work University-wide.

Created in 2019 with a $500,000 grant from the New York City Council, the DEI Incubator develops programmatic training for CUNY staff and faculty to build skills in the areas of bias recognition and mediation as well as cross-cultural communication skills, while promoting dialogue between diverse groups on individual campuses.

“CUNY is extremely proud of its history as an inclusive and diverse space, one befitting the nation’s largest urban public university located in one of the most diverse cities in the world,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “But we continue to strive for greater levels of diversity and equity across our 25 campuses. We thank City Council Speaker Corey Johnson for his generous support, which will enable the Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding to continue its important and move into the second phase of development.”

“CUNY has one of the most diverse student bodies and faculty in the world and the Council is proud to fund the expansion of this incubator, which works to address racial bias and promote equity,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “This work is needed now more than ever and I applaud CUNY for being on the forefront of working to end discrimination in all forms.”

Nationally recognized as an engine of transformative social mobility, CUNY continuously seeks to reduce persistent and less obvious forms of discrimination its students face, in order to support their academic success, help them with degree-completion and achieve stated career goals.

Despite the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic this past spring, CUNY staff went about its work assessing issues and needs across the University through one-on-one interviews, focus groups and dialogues. By mid-February, DEI Incubator staff had travelled to 12 campuses, and the first cohort of four community and senior colleges — Queens College, Queensborough Community College, Baruch College and York College — were duly selected.

In March, after CUNY shifted to a remote learning model, in-person training workshops were postponed until July and held virtually throughout the summer and fall. Now, while the DEI Incubator and its college partners deepen their work on those four campuses, it will simultaneously finalize plans for the next cohort of colleges, doubling the number of CUNY campuses it engages with in its work.

Founded in 2009, CERRU is an equity education center that works in both academic and community settings, providing impact-based, nonviolent communication tools for individuals and groups, and helping them to bridge social differences. Since last year, the DEI Incubator’s work has been co-led by Sophia McGee, the director of CERRU, and Aysa Gray, the center’s associate director.

“We continue to face the ongoing challenges of the pandemic and fight against systemic racism and anti-Blackness, but we remain resilient,” said Gray. “Now, more than ever, we must dig deep within ourselves to accomplish the difficult and extensive work to ‘not just talk about it, but be about it.’ We are heartened by the energy of the people of New York to demand, create, and foster change, and look forward to continuing the work ahead in CUNY.”

The University has committed itself to driving change across its 25 campuses by expanding a range of initiatives in order to advance social and racial justice. In August, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded $3 million to CUNY over three years to reimagine and further develop its programs in Black, race and ethnic studies, a key aspect of the University’s commitment to serve the vast multiplicity of cultures represented by CUNY students and New York City as a whole.

Ultimately, by leveraging its excellent faculty, programs, centers, and institutes in these areas, CUNY seeks to expand academic offerings in Black, race and ethnic studies across the University, supporting future hiring in these disciplines and creating opportunities for increased faculty research.

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