Focus on Diversity Updates PHENOM Agenda

by Lisa Field


At the annual Delegate Assembly, held at UMass Boston in June, a group of delegates brought forward a proposal to increase diversity and representativeness in PHENOM.

They cited several reasons for focusing the organization on diversity issues.

PHENOM’s credibility as the voice of Public Higher Education in Massachusetts depends on being representative of the full range of diversity of our communities.

Many issues that have impacts for people of color, women, and other communities are the issues PHENOM works on.

Women, people of color, and other marginalized communities are chronically underrepresented as decision makers—like the ones who have underfunded our campuses and helped create an affordability and access crisis.

After a lengthy discussion, a vote was taken to form a Diversity Committee charged with presenting a unified proposal for a bylaw change, guided by the concerns expressed at the annual meeting. This proposal was presented to the membership in mid-August.

Even though a proposal to mandate strict representational quotas for women, people of color and LGBTQ people on PHENOM’s Board was defeated after extensive debate, PHENOM’s Delegate Assembly did adopt a number of important measures.

The group affirmed that it is the responsibility of all members, including members of the Board, to actively recruit, organize, and network with women, with people of color, with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, or Queer (LGBTQ) people, and with low income people. Support caucuses were identified as means to achieve greater diversity.

A nomination and membership committee is to be established and given the charge to develop criteria and standardized procedures for the nomination process. This is in order to present diverse slates of candidates to fill vacant seats. The committee will also monitor PHENOM’s progress in recruiting, organizing, and networking with under-represented constituencies.

The annual meeting and Diversity Committee discussions identified actions the Board can take immediately to make PHENOM a more welcoming organization. Producing basic materials in Spanish was identified as a priority. The Board was encouraged to create a fund to mitigate transportation and childcare costs.

The Board plans to schedule training for itself and plan membership activities focused on enhancing diversity and on organizing around the issue of access to public higher education.

Work that PHENOM has done in the past to establish collaborative relations with other groups addressing access issues should be reinvigorated.

In addition to progress reports and anti-oppression training, the Board will appoint an Ombudsperson or equivalent committee to whom concerns about cultural insensitivity can be brought.

A system of accountability and responsiveness, from grievance procedures to the formation of caucuses, is intended to help the organization achieve its mission. Finally, the Board is mandated to appoint a subcommittee to bring the bylaws into alignment with this plan.

The members of the Diversity Committee included Stephenson (Hollywood) Aman, Lisa Field, Marilyn Frankenstein, Marie Hedrick, Alex Kulenovic, Dale LaBonte, Stasha Lampert, Ryan Manita, Vanessa Martinez, Gillian Mason, Nicole Ouimette, and Max Page.