Help Students Decolonize the NIU School of Music

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Kee Taylor ('21), a Black Music Education Student at NIU has faced anti-black racism during their time at the Predominately White Institution (PWI), alongside many other Black students. This petition is a call to action to demand that the School of Music provide support for their BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, & People of Color) Students, as well as commit to keeping Students safe during the COVID-19 Pandemic, and to making the student, faculty, and staff more diverse.

This petition is addressing the Black Lives Matter Statement sent out on July 1st, 2020 by The School of Music to NIU Music Students. This statement expresses that they will
"Commit to anti-racist practices that affirm our diverse School of Music community.
Pledge to continually critique our curriculum and pedagogy for bias, marginalization and inequality.
Listen to and learn from each other’s lived experiences to strengthen both our music making and our community.
Perform and study music that represents diverse voices and perspectives.
Recruit with the intention to build diversity in the School of Music that reflects the world in which we want to live.”
This petition is a direct and detailed call to action made by BIPOC Students to ensure these changes actually take effect.

This petition is also addressing the lack of concern for Students' health and safety during the COVID-19 Pandemic. As of 8/10/2020 all NIU Music Students are being required to take their core Music classes fully in-person, or using the “Hybrid Model” which still requires Students to be on campus. In addition, students are being asked to participate in large ensembles like Band, Choir, and Orchestra despite the fact that the local Professional Orchestra (CSO) has canceled all CSO Concerts & Events through December 23 due to COVID-19. Moreover, Students who do not feel safe returning to campus for these courses were told by the Director of the School of Music, Andrew Glendening, to “consider delaying a term”. Delaying a term is an extreme financial hardship considering that scholarships and financial aid will not “roll over” when a student returns to campus.

Support

  1. We request a program to support BIPOC Students. This program should address the following:
    1. Academic networking and community support for BIPOC Students.
    2. Individual support to help aid incoming BIPOC Students’ transition into the NIU School of Music environment, led by BIPOC Students, faculty, and staff
    3. Beginning of semester orientations where BIPOC Students can meet other Students, faculty, and staff of color within the School of Music as well as in the CVPA.
    4. We request the creation of a BIPOC caucus
  2. We request the School of Music serve as a catalyst in creating a more accessible, and properly marketed Bias Incident Report Protocol in which more visibility is brought to any incidents that may occur, and further that they are properly addressed by the community.
  3. We request the craft of protocol for handling hate crimes and microaggressions
    1. Including but not limited to the creation of a separate policy outlining steps of communication and action based in community and individual transformative processes to deal with hate crimes and Microaggressions resulting in perpetrators participating in and taking accountability for their actions.
    2. Non-consequential reporting system for students to disclose microaggressions, for monitoring incidents and tracking college climate.

Safety

  1. We request an option to take lecture based courses 100% online, similar to what was offered in the Spring 2020 Semester. To ensure the safety of all Students, but specifically BIPOC Students.
  2. We request that all students, but specify BIPOC students be exempt from Large Ensembles for the Fall 2020 Semester. Black Americans are disproportionately dying from COVID-19 according to the CDC, and music making:
    1. “Though Black Americans make up 13 percent of the country's population, they account for 22 percent of the deaths connected to COVID-19, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We see this disparity—another manifestation of decades of systemic racism and deeply entrenched inequity in America—in individual cities and states across the country. In Chicago, 30 percent of the city's population is Black but they have accounted for 45 percent of COVID-19 deaths.”
    2. “Back in March, early in the US outbreak, 61 members of a choir group in Skagit County, Washington, met for their weekly choir practice. One person at the two-and-a-half-hour meeting displayed cold-like symptoms. Days later, after an investigation by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 53 Covid-19 cases were identified - 87% of the group that had assembled to sing. Two members of the group later died. [...] During the 10 March rehearsal, chairs were arranged in six rows of 20 chairs each, spaced 6-10 inches apart, according to a report by the CDC. Members took their usual rehearsal seats, with some space left over by the roughly 40 people not present that night. Some shared snacks during a 15-minute break, though no member reported physical contact between those present. Why the spread? In this case, the key factor is likely the group's reason for meeting: to sing. When you sing, similar to when you speak loudly or shout, you expel respiratory droplets from your mouth and nose, Dr Karan says. "When you really are breathing out heavily from your airway you're producing more aerosol, smaller droplets that can hang around in the air," he says. In the Skagit County choir, the initial sick member could have expelled these droplets as they rehearsed, which then hovered in the air as members sang and socialised for more than two hours.” from BBC article on Super Spreader Events

Faculty recruitment, training, and evaluation

  1. We request a funded commitment to recruit, retain and promote more domestic diverse faculty (Opportunity Hires), specifically those of Black/African-American, and Hispanic-American backgrounds
    1. Currently there are only 5 black faculty members out of a total of 56. Out of those 5 there are 0 in the following areas: Composition, Theory and Aural Skills, Music Education, History, Recording Arts, Strings, Woodwinds, Chamber Music, and Administration.
    2. By SY 21-22 We request that the total number of Black Faculty members be doubled to at least 10
  2. We request the resources to train faculty to use and embed diverse texts, music samples (those used in music theory, music history, and aural skills courses), and repertoire. Not only to embed the above, but to acknowledge the contributions that non-white american musicians have made to classical music.
  3. We also request the resources to create warehouses and databases of texts, cases and other resources to support these courses and the new, diverse curricula.
  4. We request that the diversity competency be embedded into formal evaluations of faculty, staff and administration. If NIU truly values this competency, key stakeholders should be assessed on this competency.
    1. More transparency about hiring efforts and potential obstacles encountered for Opportunity Hires
  5. Recurring Diversity sensitivity Training (led by people of color) for faculty and staff to promote better inclusivity for Students of Color in classroom, office, and administrative spaces.
    1. Including but not limited to using end-of-year evaluations and suggested reporting system to recommend/require participation in faculty/staff groups or other sensitivity training.

Resources and reporting

  1. We request a report on the current state (e.g., numbers, positions, time in position, salary) of domestic diversity amongst The School Of Music’s current faculty and staff to ensure equity
  2. We request a report on the current number of Students that pass core music classes such as: MUTC 101, MUTC 102, MUTC 103,MUTC 104, MUTC 201, MUTC 202,MUTC 203,MUTC 204, MUTC 301,MUHL 321, MUHL 322, MUHL 323- as the completion of these courses often are serve as a barrier to earn a B.A. and B.M.
    1. This report should include the demographics of each student from at least the past 10 years including: race, grade, and gender to ensure equity.
    2. This report must also include the overall number of attempts it took each student to complete the above courses, also broken down by demographics to ensure equity.