Hofstra is launching a Center for “Race,” Culture and Social Justice to promote diversity and cultural awareness in faculty hiring, curriculum, and professional development, President Stuart Rabinowitz announced.
“Diversity is one of Hofstra’s core values, and this effort recognizes and builds on our commitment to it,” President Rabinowitz said. “Embracing diversity and cultural understanding is not a static goal; it is a process that should evolve and change as we learn more about each other. This Center will provide the focus and resources necessary to do that.”
The Center will be launched during the spring 2017 semester, under the auspices of the Provost’s Office. Dr. Jonathan Lightfoot, Associate Professor of Teaching, Learning and Technology, will serve as Center Director. Dr. Benita Sampedro, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, and Dr. Santiago Slabodsky, Associate Professor of Religion and the Florence and Robert Kaufman Chair in Jewish Studies, will serve as the Center’s Associate Directors.
Among the Center’s first tasks will be appointing an advisory board of faculty, administrators and students.
“We want to make certain that the entire Hofstra community is on the same page when it comes to issues of diversity,” said Dr. Lightfoot. To accomplish that, the Center’s goals are:
- Expand the demographic profile of Hofstra faculty to include more faculty of color
- Work to minimize discrimination, cultural insensitivity, and bias
- Advocate policies to encourage and incentivize faculty to improve their pedagogy and advance their professional development through ongoing diversity training
- Support development of curricular offerings across all schools and disciplines, to enable students to embrace diversity on campus and to continue doing so as Hofstra alumni
“Our mission is to prepare students to thrive in a global environment,” said Gail Simmons, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. “This sends a clear message to them, and to our entire community, that cross-cultural understanding is an integral part of a Hofstra education.”
One of the Center’s first initiatives will be to institute diversity awareness training for faculty, administrators and staff. “Its important work because of its power to impact campus culture and climate and increase the overall support students need to be retained and do well at Hofstra,” Dr. Lightfoot said.
Dr. Lightfoot, Dr. Sampedro and Dr. Slabodsky all bring to the Center deep, wide-ranging academic and advocacy experience with issues related to diversity and cultural understanding.
Dr. Lightfoot led the School of Education Affirmative Action committee that was awarded one of the first Provost’s Diversity Research Grants in 2009. Their research centered on the recruitment and retention of faculty of color in the School of Education. During part of his six-year tenure with the University Senate, Dr. Lightfoot chaired the Graduate Academic Affairs Committee whose work included an extensive study of the graduate student of color experience across all of the graduate and professional schools on campus.
Dr. Sampedro works closely with the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program and the African Studies Program at Hofstra. She has published on the politics and processes of decolonization and postcolonial legacies, empire and hegemony, archives, borders, and ruins. Both in her teaching and her scholarship, and in all other academic endeavors, she is concerned with issues of “race,” class, social inequality, and social justice.
“The Center will have as one of its core missions to highlight the centrality of ‘race’ as a privileged category of analysis and academic inquiry,” Dr. Sampedro said. “It will help to promote scholarship and teaching on ‘race’ and social justice across the curriculum, and it will work collaboratively with multiple departments and units on campus to foster an inclusive atmosphere among students, faculty, and the community at large.”
Dr. Slabodsky, who is also an affiliated faculty in the Latin American and Caribbean Studies program, has focused his research on critical theories of “race” and globalization, inter-religious conversations, and Muslim-Jewish dialogue. He has taught on decolonization and critical race theory in leading universities and intercultural organizations in Africa, Latin America and Europe.
“The new Center will be a constructive space for exploration, conversation and action,” said Dr. Slabodsky. “It will bring together students, faculty and the entire campus community to reflect on the implications of racial discourses at the local, national and global levels. It will support multiple initiatives to foster innovative scholarship, pedagogical training and community organizing, to imagine and pursue the building of a world where many worlds can fit.”