What is UMKC doing to cultivate an anti-racist campus?

UMKC hosts Zoom workshop to discuss anti-racism in classroom settings. (Shutterstock)

Yusra Azzeh

UMKC expanded the conversation on anti-racism by hosting a workshop specially crafted for faculty and staff members. 

This month’s workshop, “Cultivating Antiracist Assessment Practices: A Faculty Workshop Series,” was part of UMKC’s Shutz Lecture Series designed to engage and challenge faculty to explore their biases and create anti-racist classroom assessments.

“The classroom is a space where racism happens,” UMKC English professor Antonio Byrd said. “This workshop series is partly about helping faculty see how that happens in writing instruction and giving them the tools to create more inclusive spaces that recognizes the linguistic and cultural diversity of their students.”

Byrd hosted the event in collaboration with Virginia Schwarz, an assistant professor of English at San Francisco State University, and Lizbett Tinoco, an assistant professor of English at Texas A&M. 

The workshop, conducted over Zoom on Oct. 14, was interactive and involved open conversations and self-reflection. The first part of the workshop revolved around the tactics used in student assessments. 

“Even as a grad student, some of the assessment practices that I saw the first year of the composition program where I went to graduate school were not very appropriate for the context and the student body population,” Tinoco said. 

Byrd said that educators must unlearn their own biases by having discussions with fellow educators and students, in order to fully embrace diversity. 

“I think a first step in cultivating an anti-racist environment is listening to our BIPOC, LGBTQIA, and other groups of historically excluded students, since racism and anti-racism must be intersectional,” Byrd said.

Fourth-year psychology student Brenda Reed said she feels safe at UMKC, to an extent.

“I don’t think anything physically would happen to me,” said Reed. “But I think some people don’t realize how what they say affects other people.” 

Reed, also a member of The African American Student Union, agreed that students at UMKC would also benefit from anti-racism workshops. 

“I think students would benefit from this type of workshop, but it would be hard to reach the people who aren’t open-minded,” Reed said. 

As a psychology major, Reed found that the professors within the department do a good job at embracing anti-racism and teaching it to students.

“My major deals with the public, and my professors really stress accepting others who don’t look like us,” Reed said. “It could be different if I was a different major.”

The skills taught by educators in this workshop aim to improve communities beyond the university. 

“Anti-racist work is about coalition-building, it’s about partnerships among students, the university, and the local community,” Byrd said. “But I also think it’s also important to realize anti-racism is a lifelong process and evolves to meet the demands of the moment.” 

The Shutz Lecture Series will host another workshop on anti-racism this Thursday, Oct. 28, at 4 p.m. For more information on the session, please visit: https://cas.umkc.edu/shutz-lecture-series.html

[email protected]