CPP’s Black Thriving Initiative makes progress toward an inclusive campus

By Raveena Rahman, March 19, 2024

The Black Thriving Initiative at Cal Poly Pomona acknowledges and addresses anti-Blackness as a critical threat to the mission as a public university and implements campuswide effort dedicated to mobilizing the entire institution in support of Black student success, higher graduation rates and overall progress in academic pursuits.

CPP created a two-part plan to address issues the Black community faces. Phase one involves creating a plan to address racial issues, while phase two consists of putting the plan into action.

Jonathan Grady, former senior associate vice president and dean of students at CPP, led phase one of the initiative, which essentially recognizes anti-Blackness as an ongoing issue on campus and aims to change the racial climate and create a diverse culture that allows Black students to succeed. After collecting data from Black students and faculty through surveys, listening sessions and other collaborative activities, the feedback shows the Black community is struggling in terms of belonging and success at CPP.  The report showing the data can be found on CPP’s BTI webpage.

“Folks (Black community members) said it’s toxic,” Grady said. “It’s hostile. There is no accountability. There is not a lot of trust and there was a lot of hurt from things that have happened in the past. That really set the precedent for campus recommendations.”

Concluding the first phase of taking initiative, Grady’s set of recommendations included proactively addressing the racial climate, increasing awareness and educating the community, making culturally relevant policies and procedures, retaining Black students, staff and faculty and providing them with equitable professional development opportunities.

Guest speaker Cindy Picket starting her presentation on the Black Thriving Initiative Spring update.| Alexander Novoa

Phase two, led by Cynthia Pickett, Presidential Associate for Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, is implementing these recommendations and taking accountability for the non-inclusive racial climate at CPP. She led a meeting discussing the progress of this phase Monday Feb. 12.

According to Pickett, the current goal of the BTI is to expand campus investments in high-impact programs that support Black student persistence and retention. The BTI also aims to expand the work of the Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence to include robust professional development for faculty that specifically addresses classroom racial climate and anti-Blackness. Furthermore, they want to expand new faculty orientation to include a greater focus on creating inclusive classrooms.

During the meeting, Pickett also mentioned the BTI aims to create a Racial Justice and Cultural Humility Certificate Program for CPP staff. Their goal is to provide Intercultural Development Inventory coaching to CPP students, faculty and staff and provide greater financial and administrative support to the Black Faculty and Staff Association.

Pickett explained the California State University Office of the Chancellor is currently finalizing its review of the Black Student Success systemwide campus inventory and action items, and the date of completion for action items is May 2025. CPP intends to utilize a portion of the $10 million allocated from the Chancellor’s office to address the Black Student Success workgroup report recommendations. Plans are underway to create a CSU Statewide Central Office for the Advancement of Black Excellence.

Pickett stated it is vital to not only create a safe environment for Black students and faculty but to also increase the rate of Black students and faculty at CPP.

“One of the issues that we have heard many times from our Black students is that they don’t see enough Black faculty,” said Pickett. “I was a psychology faculty member for about 16 years, and I know it made such a difference for students to see someone who looked like them teaching the class. But we don’t have that at Cal Poly Pomona. So, one of the things that I’m working on with faculty affairs is how we are working to recruit faculty.”

Pickett suggests going out to conferences and creating specialized marketing materials that appeal to potential Black faculty.

Pickett clarified there are resources such as the Black Student Union and Black Resource Center already in place to help Black students, but that does not help change the overall racial climate of the school. She said not all Black students necessarily face racial discrimination.

This was the case for CPP student Helena Fultz, majoring in Kinesiology, who claimed she felt supported by faculty and peers on campus, and that there are available resources. However, every student has a different experience and according to CPP’s racial demographics the rate of Black students and faculty on campus continues to be low because the current available resources cannot address the issue of creating a diverse climate.

Feature image courtesy of Alexander Novoa. 

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