October 26, 2016

National Technical Institute for the Deaf Considers Creating Ombuds Program

According to an email from NTID's President and Dean, the technological college for deaf and hearing impaired students soon will launch a search for its first Ombuds. The move was prompted by a classroom conflict between a student and faculty member that resulted in campus security escorting the student out. NTID President Gerard J. Buckley has promised a number of other steps including the appointment of a Chief Diversity Officer and faculty training on cross-cultural communication.

Here is the email from Gerry Buckley that was posted to Reddit on September 28, 2016:
Dear Colleagues,
Recently, a student was escorted by Public Safety out of an NTID classroom following an incident in which safety was not a concern. I have met with both the faculty member and student involved. They have come to an agreement that includes an apology from the faculty member and a joint presentation to the class by the faculty member and the student, both of which have occurred.
You will recall that last year our students from the Ebony Club >sent us a powerful letter calling for change in our community with respect to promoting an inclusive environment that values and respects all of our students and the diverse experiences they bring to our educational community. We continue to work as a community to uphold these ideals. Yet, nationally, recent incidents of humiliation, brutality and killings of African-American people and people with disabilities by law enforcement are a powerful reminder of the urgency for all of us to address issues of systematic injustice.
In the Spring, I announced the formation of the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Committee. I have asked NAC members Ms. Thomastine “Tommie” Sarchet and Dr. Alvin Merritt Boyd III to assume leadership of this committee and to move forward immediately with planning monthly discussion and conversations to move our community forward in addressing concerns related to diversity, equity and inclusion. The first session will be on October 25th or October 28th.
I am also taking the following additional steps within our college:
A national search for an NTID Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) will be launched immediately. I have asked Ms. Sarchet to serve as chair of this search committee and will be soliciting committee members as well as nominations for this position within the next two weeks. This position will work closely with Dr. Keith Jenkins, RIT Interim Vice President and Associate Provost, Division for Diversity and Inclusion, and have a dotted line reporting relationship while reporting directly to me. The CDO will be empowered to address all issues related to diversity and inclusion consistent with RIT’s office in this area.
A national search for an NTID Ombudsperson will be launched immediately as well. This individual will work with the RIT Ombudsperson but be a resource specifically for the NTID community. I have asked Dr. Merritt Boyd to chair this search committee, which will be announced within two weeks. [Emphasis added.]
While NTID is conducting these critical searches, I have asked Dr. Merritt Boyd and Ms. Sarchet to be the primary points of contact in working with faculty when classroom issues requiring cultural sensitivity may be involved. They will serve as culturally responsive advocates for classroom management techniques and strategies, and assist in resolving conflicts when necessary. At the same time, our student services professionals, led by Assistant Vice President for Student Academic Services Dr. Mary Karol Matchett, will continue to work to support all students to help them identify and overcome secondary challenges that may hamper their ability to succeed in the classroom. I have asked Dr. Matchett to lead a task force to review the support we provide to students with secondary disabilities (“Deaf Plus”), and make recommendations to me on additional steps that NTID should take to meet the needs of this growing population. Specific attention should be given to how we address the needs of students who may have undiagnosed disabilities. I am seeking self-nominations to serve on this task force.
Additional training for all academic chairs and NTID administrative leaders will be scheduled in October 2016, with Dr. Jenkins presenting on the topic of “Communicating Across Cultures – Effectiveness in a Cross Cultural Classroom.” A session for all faculty will also be scheduled.
Training for faculty and staff related to working with NTID’s diverse student community will be initiated by Dr. Merritt Boyd and Ms. Sarchet with support from the NTID Office of Professional Development Steering Committee.
In addition, NTID is hosting a college-wide convocation on November 19 that will provide a venue for discussion and debate regarding how we bridge myriad perspectives on Intersectionality and Agency. The concept of Intersectionality describes the ways in which a variety of factors, including but not limited to race and privilege, are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. Agency, in turn, means the capacity of faculty, staff, students and administrators to act independently and to make their own life choices, and to be accountable for those choices. Information regarding this convocation was included in my most recent President’s Update. I very much would like to see all members of the NTID community attend this important event.
Finally, a Public Safety/NTID Relations forum will be scheduled this fall for faculty, staff and students to discuss Public Safety’s services to our community and ways in which these services might be improved. My office will work with the Ebony Club, NTID Diversity Group, and NTID Student Congress to plan this event. I have taken the actions listed above to ensure that our commitment to our community’s ideals will not wane. I will work with members of the NTID Administrative Council to insist that we live up to these ideals and hold ourselves accountable for results.
My monthly updates to the NTID community will include a focus on our efforts in this area. I welcome your feedback and counsel as we move forward, and call upon every member of the NTID community to focus our individual and collective efforts on promoting an inclusive environment that supports our students’ success.
NTID is one of nine colleges within the Rochester Institute of Technology where Lee Twyman has been the Ombuds since 2003.  (Reddit.)

Related posts: RIT Ombuds Explains Role in Quelling Conflicts; Podcast Interview With RIT Ombuds.

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