ACSJL Conversations Report

Prepared by Kiran Cunningham and Vernon Wall; May 2021

In the wake of the Summer 2020 search for a new Executive Director and the subsequent outcry by students, faculty, staff and partners closely associated with the ACSJL that resulted in the candidate who was selected not taking the position, the Provost determined that a set of conversations about the Center needed to take place. The overarching goal of these conversations was to generate a shared understanding of the work and potential future direction of the ACSJL before re-engaging in the search for the Center’s next Executive Director. Through this process, it was hoped that participants and others would come to understand the totality of perspectives about the Center, and that the conversations would inform both the process of the next search and the qualities and experiences desired in a new ED.

The questions guiding the conversations were developed through a series of conversations with both the Provost and the ACSJL staff. After receiving an initial set of questions from the Provost, we had two in-depth conversations with Center staff that led to a recrafting of the questions so that they were grounded in a more strength-based approach. The guiding questions were attached to the invitational emails to each constituent group so that participants could see them ahead of time and have an opportunity to think about them before the conversation began. During the conversations themselves, we had the questions as a guide, but generally followed the participants’ lead rather than rigidly sticking to the exact wording and order of the questions. Given the range of the constituent groups, some issues were focused on at greater length in some groups than in others. We saw ourselves as facilitators of conversations as opposed to researchers conducting focus groups. That said, we did our best to ensure that each group had the opportunity to address each of the questions.


The groups were chosen in consultation with the Provost, and designed to target constituencies that all generally into three categories: 1) people who are formally tied to the Center (FAB, GAB, and ACSJL student staff), 2) people who are closely connected to the center (community partners, connected faculty, connected staff, connected students), and 3) people who are less connected to the ACSJL but take a social justice approach to their work (less connected faculty and the Experiential Education Center directors). Center staff helped us identify participants in the second category, as they tended to be individuals who are or had been connected to the center as faculty fellows, regional fellows, staff fellows, and/or individuals who have had initiatives funded by the Center at some point. Cunningham identified participants for the less connected faculty group by going through the list of current faculty and identifying people whose work she knew had a social justice orientation but who were not members of the other two faculty groups.

As the table below shows, of the 98 people who were invited to the conversations, 48 participated; the groups ranged in size from two to 12. All of the conversations lasted from 45-60 minutes and took place on Zoom. While we did not record them, we both took detailed notes. We found the conversations to be rich, substantive, and nuanced, and we are deeply grateful to the participants for their thoughtful and candid engagement.

GroupDate# Invited# Participated
Faculty Advisory Board3-1-2164
Global Advisory Board3-15-21143
Exp Ed Center Directors3-3-2144
Community Partners3-17-21118
Connected Faculty4-7-21116
Connected Staff4-19-21105
Connected Students4-29-21164
ACSJL Student staff4-9-2162
Less Connected Faculty4-12-212012

Approach to the Report

Once all of the conversations were completed, we identified a number of themes that emerged, and have used these themes to structure the report. For each section and sub-section, we provide a summary that captures the key issues, followed by a few quotes from the conversations that we think best represent and articulate the common and at times diverging views expressed. The quotes also help to portray the passion with which the views were expressed. Given the sensitivities inherent in the conversations and our promise to participants that they would not be identified by name, we do not include names with the quotes, nor do we identify the group from which the quote is taken.

The Findings section of the report is organized into six main sections that focus on what we heard related to 1) the relationship between the ACSJL and the College, 2) the Center’s mission of developing social justice leaders, 3) collaborations with other entities on campus, 4) the Center’s relationship with the local community, 5) tensions around the Center’s work and approach, and 6) concerns and suspicions about the College administration’s intentions for the Center. Each of these main sections is broken into sub-sections that describe key themes that emerged within these broader topic areas. The report concludes with a set of recommendations that we hope will be useful for both the next ED search and, more generally, for the Center as it embarks on its second decade.

Findings/What We Heard

Relationship between the Center and the College

When we asked participants to talk about how they view the relationship between the Center and the College, almost all talked about it as a driver of institutional change. Participants discussed two main mechanisms by which this occurs: by attracting social justice oriented students, faculty and staff to the College; and by adding weight, capacity and expertise to social justice projects and initiatives conceptualized by faculty, staff and students. The Center’s financial independence from the College was also discussed as being essential to enabling this work.

Attracting social justice-oriented students, faculty and staff to the College

In each of the conversations with faculty, staff and students, at least one and typically more of the participants talked about how the existence of the Center was one of the main reasons they decided to come to Kalamazoo College.

  • “The Center was one of the big attractions to this position. Hope it was featured on campus helped me see that K was a good fit.” (faculty)
  • “When I started I was excited about potential collaborations with Arcus, especially around engaging POC and first generation with the CCPD and providing professional development opportunities” (staff)
  • “Arcus was key to bringing my position to campus.” (staff)
  • “What drew me to K was the Center.” (student)

Not only the presence of the Center signal to them that the College was committed to social justice, but it also assured them that they would have a community of fellow social justice warriors.

  • “When I interviewed, I was taken to the Center. It was like finding my people, rable-rouser people.” (staff)
  • “Arcus is my home professionally. It’s where I find my people.” (staff)
  • “Arcus had an influence on me choosing K. I knew that there was a community of people who could challenge my thinking and help me grow as an activist.” (student)

Backing social justice initiatives on campus

Faculty talked about the Center being a driver of institutional change mainly in terms of how the Faculty Fellows program has catalyzed curricular change across a broad range of departments, including Art and Art History, Biology, Chemistry, and Computer Science. This Faculty Fellows program builds the capacity of faculty to be agents of curricular change in their departments and divisions.

  • “The goal of Arcus was to infuse the curriculum with social justice. Conversations in my department have really shifted since my fellowship year. We are now centering anti-racist pedagogy and feel a real inclusivity with the Center.”
  • “The goal of the Center is to infuse social justice at the College by centering a social justice pedagogy.”

Staff talked about how the Center provides backing and weight to programmatic initiatives conceptualized by those whose ideas and voices might otherwise not be heard given their positions in organizational hierarchies.

  • “The Center is our advocate and can help us push. They are in a strategic place to push due to their unique position vis a vis the College.”

Students talked about how the center provides training and strategic advice for their initiatives, and how this builds their capacity to be social justice leaders and effective agents of change in the world.

  • “Arcus has served as a radicalizing and organizing space.”
  • “Arcus has helped me integrate my political beliefs into my scholarly work.”

Importance of ACSJl’s financial independence

When discussing the relationship between the Center and the College, participants in all of the groups stressed how important it is that the Center has financial independence from the College because it is this independence that enables it to be a driver of institutional change.

  • “The Center’s separation financially from being controlled by the institution gives it independence and they can claim their space and speak without fear of retraction of funds.”
  • “Arcus has somehow been able to operate in the best of both worlds. It is supported by the College but not held back; it is a unique space.”

This financial independence positions the Center both inside and outside the College, and many talked about how this creates the kind of “productive tension” or “productive friction” that is characteristic of – and even essential to – social justice work.

  • “To have the Center be effective, there has to be friction. Have to embrace the push-back; that’s the way change happens.”
  • “Arcus offers a productive friction. The fact that it isn’t completely assimilated into the College enables it to be productively critical from both inside and outside. It has pushed faculty and staff to think more intensely about social justice, and provides spaces for the idea that we can always be striving. Sometimes that involves criticizing the College itself.”
  • “Arcus is a space that works against a damaging curriculum, especially for BIPOC students.”

Development of social justice leadership

Through supporting social justice initiatives

It is in large part through supporting the kinds of initiatives discussed above, from conceptualization through implementation, that the Center enacts its mission of developing social justice leadership. Faculty, staff and students who have received such support all talked about the invaluable role the Center played, not only financially, but by helping them situate their projects within the theoretical frameworks of social justice, guiding them in the practice of social justice, and providing strategic advice. In other words, the Center helps them ground their projects in praxis, fulfilling the Center’s own praxis-grounded mission of developing social justice leadership while simultaneously driving institutional change.

  • “When Arcus started, I was finally able to put language around my work.”
  • “Arcus is really good at seeding projects; helping me envision project, seeding it, and helping us find our wings and become social justice leaders.”
  • “I learned a lot during my fellowship year. Arcus gave me a home base to work with others centering social justice. We get mentoring and opportunities to foster relationships outside our comfort zone.”
  • “The ACSJL and CCE are places where we connect interdisciplinarily. Having national and international colleagues and speakers is critical. I need to know what I don’t know.”
  • “I could always get support and learning tools from Arcus to navigate issues I was working on.”
  • “I wasn’t an activist, but through the Center’s alluring programs I have become one.”
  • “The Center does activist work in a way that builds unity in the local community and brings more and more people to the work.”

Through bringing social justice activists and scholars to campus

Virtually everyone who participated in the conversations talked about how important the Center directors’ national and international networks are to their professional development. Their ability to bring renowned social justice activists and scholars to campus, as well as activists in the local community, has been essential to developing SJ leadership among faculty, staff and students, and enriched the College’s curricular and co-curricular programs.

  • “I have found the programming to be essential to my professional development.”
  • “The Center’s ability to bring global/international activists is so key!”
  • The regional fellowships have been fruitful in building relationships with local activists. For example, through relationships with local tribes, I can take students to festivals; and the artists/activists in residence have also always connected with other centers on campus (eg. IC, CIP, CCPD).”
  • “The networks and connections Arcus has facilitated for me have been amazing.”
  • “Arcus is masterful in bringing in key leaders, but also artists – poets, visual artists, musicians. This is really important.”

Collaboration with other entities on campus

The conversations around ways that the Center collaborates with other entities on campus included attention to both spaces of/for collaboration and structures or mechanisms through which collaboration takes place. This is an area that is particularly fraught for those who are less connected with the Center but whose work centers social justice; as such, additional findings related to collaboration, especially with the CCE, are included in the section on Tensions.

Spaces of Collaboration

In several of the conversations, when we asked the question about how the Center collaborates with other entities on campus, the With/out Borders conference was quickly mentioned. For many, the conference was a key mechanism for collaboration, enabling conversations across campus constituencies and with local, national and international social justice scholars and activists. As mentioned in the section above, these interactions with outside speakers has been invaluable to participants’ personal, academic and professional growth. Beyond the space of the conference, the ACSJL building was mentioned as an important space for collaboration, and there was a desire, especially on the part of local community partners to make it even more available.

  • “The use of the space for social justice oriented students not directly connected with the Center reminded me that the space can be used by a range of students.”
  • “I’m concerned that the Center has not been open during this time of critical social change in our society. We’re missing out on opportunities.”
  • “Would love to be able to use the space for the Native Justice Coalition. We want to work but it’s hard to find space.”
  • “There are several student organizations that work and hold events there. The Muslim Student Organization, for example, held events there talking about Halal food and Palestinian Seed Savers. Mind blowing talks.”
  • “It’s a space for students teaching students – amazing!”

Mechanisms of Collaboration

The second way that collaboration was discussed was in terms of examples and mechanisms of collaboration. The mechanisms of collaboration often involved faculty, staff and students who are connected to the center taking ideas and departments, programs and organizations in which they are situated through the faculty fellows program, the student liaisons program, and staff relationships with the Center. Co-sponsorship of speakers and events was mentioned frequently. Some examples specific collaborations with other offices on campus include:

  • The student liaison program that started with using students as liaisons between Arcus and the Intercultural Center. It has since expanded to four other offices.”
  • Several collaborations with the CIP – on an educational piece on the relationships in the post-colonial era and how to do study abroad without reproducing the colonial experience; working with international students on navigating the racialized U.S. landscape; helping our Black and Brown students understand what it means to enter into racialized spaces abroad.

Relationship between Arcus and local community

The Center’s local community partners described their relationship with the ACSJL and its significance to their social justice work in ways similar to those on campus. The regional fellows program provided them the opportunity to sharpen and amplify their work through engagement with others, and broaden their networks locally and nationally. More generally, the participants talked about the Center as a space for the kinds of radical, uncomfortable conversations that are essential to creating change, and were grateful for the opportunities to engage with thinkers and artists at the forefront of social justice work.

  • “The Center has always been at the forefront of racial justice issues in the community, and has consistently been ahead of the community in this area. I don’t want the College to retreat to a safer space.”
  • Arcus has always been at the forefront of supporting grassroots organizations.”


Throughout the conversations, a number of intertwined tensions associated with the Center’s approach and structural position vis a vis the College as a whole were discussed. For those most closely associated with the Center, these tensions were often described as productive and expected given the radical framework that necessarily grounds social justice work. For those who are less connected, these tensions were more problematic and, in some cases, experienced as personally and professionally harmful. NOTE: It is very important when reviewing this section of the report that readers not make assumptions about who or what categories of people were more critical of the Center’s approach. Some of the sharpest critiques, for example, came from participants with more marginalized identities.

ACSJL as both inside and outside the institutional structure of K

As discussed in the section on the relationship between the Center and the College, the financial independence of the ACSJL makes it uniquely situated both inside and outside the institution, enabling it to maintain its radical approach and be a more forceful driver of institutional change than would otherwise be the case. At the same time, however, this independence is perceived by some to be an inhibitor of active, two-way collaboration with entities at the College, as there is little incentive to engage in such collaboration and any expectations for doing so are unclear.

• “People go to the Center; it doesn’t go to the campus. It’s the place with money that we go to access their largesse. But it is still the place on the hill.”
• “I remember Lisa extending invitations to come the Center; but I would like to see the Center coming to the curriculum.”
• “Arcus doesn’t see itself as ‘typical anything,’ and doesn’t operate like other offices organizationally. It feels like their mission/vision doesn’t match the typical institutional structure, which makes it hard to collaborate.”
• “The Center doesn’t seem to think that the rules apply to them. Other offices – student development, facilities management, the business office – have had similar experiences.”

The ACSJL as “the hegemon of social justice” on campus

Probably the biggest area of tension, and one that is intertwined with several of the others, concerns the ACSJL claim of being the definitive voice and site of social justice on campus. While no one disputes that social justice is at the heart of the Center, the tension is around the ACSJL claiming that its definition of what social justice is and what kinds of work falls under that umbrella is indisputable. Many whose work is arguably grounded in social justice and even radical in nature talked about how they have been, at best, excluded from accessing the Center’s resources, and at worst, harmed by the Center’s claims that their work does not “pass the litmus test” of what social justice is. Because of the influence the Center has with students and its reputation nationally, these claims have personal and professional consequences. It also inhibits active collaboration with other campus entities because, as the “hegemon” of social justice on campus, many perceive there to be little room for collaboration that is not fully on the Center’s terms.

• “Some of the most ‘radical’ Arcus supporters have been the most racist to me in word and deed. If you’re a member of the clubhouse, you don’t get questioned. Are we performing social justice on a national stage without practicing it here?”
• “I worry about the “keep Arcus radical” discourse. The Center shouldn’t be the hegemon of social justice. Students are being weaponized against faculty who weren’t put in the “radical” bucket by the Center.”
• “There has been a denigration of the CCE and by implicating and undermining of the staff.”

Relatedly, several participants talked about how there seems to be a rather narrow definition of what falls under the umbrella of social justice at the Center. Those working on environmental justice issues have had a hard time finding a way in, for example, and Jewish students have not felt the Center to be welcoming to them. This also underpins some of the tensions between the ACSJL and the CCE.

• “We need a broad definition of social justice rather than a narrow one. Jewish students have felt very left out; there was a litmus test. The Center didn’t respond when they were under attack.”
• “Arcus has enabled our students and faculty to hone in one particular factor; in the future I hope they can bring in a more intersectional lens.”
• “The Center’s existence has made it harder to run the Environmental Studies program rather than easier.”
• “In staking the claim to social justice, the Center has claimed that the CCE is not about social justice. Denigrating things have been said to students. Would be great if Arcus could help CCE rather than diss it.”
• “Everyone has an idea of what social justice is, but all of those might not fit what social justice is at the Center; it’s not what experts say. There is tension around what social justice is, especially in CCE. Civic engagement and social justice are different; experts understand the difference.”
• “We are not a Jesuit social justice center.”
• “From a purely strategic point of view, we can’t just have a watered down definition of social justice. It needs to be liberatory; distinctive. Can’t move to the neutral.”

Personal vs. structural relationships

Almost all the faculty and community partners closely associated with the Center talked about their relationship with the Center in personal terms. They highly valued the mentoring, support, and encouragement they received from Lisa and/or Mia, and talked about them as catalysts for their own growth in the area of social justice. Indeed, as members of the advisory boards stated, relationships are at the heart of social justice work. For some of those less closely tied to the center, however, it was the personal nature of relationships with the Center that created tensions. If one’s relationship to one of the principals of the center became strained for one reason or another, their relationship to the center and access to its resources was reduced or cut off, as access was understood to be dependent on that relationship. They were also then vulnerable to the personal and professional harm described in the previous section.

• “Too much of the Center’s work has been around personality and personal relationships. The former AD posted about me on Facebook, which was super hurtful. I never got any more assistance from the Center after that, and felt like I was blacklisted. There are a number of faculty who have been ostracized.”
• “My relationships with the Center have all been personal relationships. Seems like they get formed or they don’t. There is a lack of systemic relationships.”
• “The work of social justice is by definition personal because it doesn’t have institutional backing.”
• “There is a difference between productive tension and disposability politics.”

Related to this issue is the perception of a lack of transparency in how and why funds are allocated in certain ways and to certain people. For those who aren’t “insiders”, the way to access the Center’s resources is often unclear, and it can feel pointless to try if they aren’t already connected to the center through personal relationships.

Center as a “haven” vs. Center as a “clubhouse”

As has likely become clear in the discussions of other tensions, there is a perception among many of those less connected that there are “insiders” and “outsiders” when it comes to the Center. In the conversation with less connected faculty, the Center was described as like a “clubhouse” for this reason. Those more closely connected with the Center acknowledged that this perception exists, but described the Center as more of a “haven,” a place where they could be with, learn from, and be pushed by others engaged in social justice activism and scholarship. It isn’t experienced as an exclusive place; rather, as a site of inclusion, a space where the experiences of people with marginalized identities are centered, and where a radical vision of what the world can be is taken for granted. This area of tension needs to be understood as intricately intertwined with the previous two. From the perspective of many of those on the outside, the opportunity to be part of the “club” or have access to the “haven,” even for those with marginalized identities, is limited if one has had a strained relationship with a staff person or if one has received an indication from the Center that one’s work/approach falls outside the ACSJL’s definition of social justice.

• “In its first ten years the Center has felt like a clubhouse. It is not an inclusive center.”
• “At what cost do we have the haven? The Center defines what it means to be an activist. If students aren’t an activist in that way, they’re not allowed to join; they’re left out.”
• “I have always felt like K has been inclusive in that there are multiple points of entrance and engagement.”
• “You have to already be woke to work with Arcus. Some students don’t feel like they’re the cool kids.”
• “I can’t stay at K if I don’t have my allies. It’s too hard to do what I do.”
• “Arcus has always supported our trans faculty/staff/students. Without Arcus, where would that have lived?”
• “What is the balance between the core base of students and other interested students? What is the balance between regulars and non-regulars?”

Is whiteness centered at the Center?

The final tension is in some ways an unexpected one. In the connected faculty conversation and in the community partners conversation, some BIPOC participants raised a question about the extent to which ACSJL actually centers whiteness. In the community partner conversation, this was talked in the context of a desire to have the Center be more of a place of mentorship and development of grassroots leadership for folks with marginalized identities. In the connected faculty conversation, it was framed as a concern about the Center becoming the “ERACCE place” – i.e. a place to bring white people along as opposed to a place of white discomfort. After this issue was raised in these two conversations, it was interesting to go back to previous conversations and note how several of the white faculty members who were most closely connected to the Center described themselves as having little knowledge of social justice before their fellowships, and crediting the Center leadership with being pivotal to their own growth as social justice activists and scholars. Several participants also noted that the community members that often come to events sponsored by the Center are from the neighboring, predominantly white West Main Hill neighborhood, another example of white people being the audience of the Center’s work.

  • “Arcus is a space for a certain population – white people – to have uncomfortable conversations. It isn’t yet a space for BIPOC people in the local community.”


We wrap up the Findings section with a set of concerns raised across the conversations about what the current administration’s intentions are for the Center. As the call to “Keep Arcus Radical” implies, most of these are connected to an overarching concern that the “administration” may be attempting to tame or de-radicalize the Center and is tied to what many perceive to be a lack of transparency in the recent search for a new ED. The process and outcome of that search has left the staff feeling sidelined and vulnerable, members of the FAB and GAB outraged, a sense among many that there was a hidden agenda in the whole process, and a wound that will be difficult to heal.

Is the administration trying to “tame” the Center?

• “The Provost is now on record that Arcus needs to de-radicalize, and she needs to know that the students won’t let that happen.”
• “The administration has lost the sense of the difference between social service and social justice.”
• “We knew the Center would be disruptive. Is the campus willing and able to tolerate that level of disruption and recognize that it is necessary? Willing to recognize that young people need to understand system critique and change-making within a justice process?”
• “The College wants to move Arcus away from its mission. There’s a malevolence on the part of the College. How to mobilize against it?”
• “At the very moment when the College needs this center the most, it seems to be moving to the right.”

What will the administrative structure within the Center be and how will that decision be made?

• “The structure of the Center is critical. Moving to a one-director model would make connecting deeply with all constituents very difficult.”
• “We hear the words social justice, but Arcus gives them body and fire. Without a strong ED it will feel empty.”
• “If the teaching piece of the AD is retained, the co-director model doesn’t work as the AD is more part-time at the Center.”

The absence of either an AD or ED at the Center leaves the remaining staff without a leader who can stand up to the administration, and leaves the Center as a whole vulnerable to being “tamed.” Was this intentional?

  • “With Lisa’s retirement and Jax’s departure, the institutional memory at the Center is gone. We know what this means.”

The ACSJL has heightened K’s reputation locally and nationally among sj activists/scholars. Moving the Center away from its radical edge risks harming the College’s reputation.

• “K’s reputation in the national social justice arena is amazing. I hate to think that at a time like now, we back off. It will damage K’s reputation.”
• “Is the administration exploiting the Center for its own gain – as a way to diversify the faculty and student body by claiming the mantle of social justice while at the same time taking away the Center’s radical edge?”

The way the recent search ended left a wound that will be difficult to heal.

• “The last search didn’t reflect social justice principles at all. It was autocratic, defensive, and personalized. An administrative powerplay.”
• “I felt betrayed by the last process. Students reach out to the Provost and President, but they didn’t listen.”
• “How can we get the administration to listen? What’s preventing them from doing it again?”
• In the last search, the option was between middle of the road liberalism/generic and one with networks and grounding in social movements and social justice theory. It was a huge fumble to mismanage the process; they need to own up to their mistakes.”


We conclude this report with a set of recommendations that emerge from the findings.  These recommendations focus on four main areas: the structural connection between the ACSJL and the College, how the center operates, the next ED search, and healing the frayed relationship between the Center and the Provost.

Recommendations for “formalizing” the relationship between the ACSJl and the broader institution

• Clarify the plan for the administrative structure of the Center and share the plan and the decision-making process that led to it with the Center staff, GAB, and FAB.
• If the ED continues to report directly to the President of the college, then the ED should be a member of President’s Staff. {DIJ note: the ED has not reported directly to the President since at least 2018}
• If there continues to be an AD and that person reports directly to the Provost, then the AD should be a member of the Experiential Education Committee and expected to regularly attend committee meetings.
• “The current structure doesn’t allow the good intentions to happen.”

Recommendations for how the Center operates

• More consistently ground the Center’s outreach to faculty, staff and community members in principles of active collaboration that insist on a co-generation of ideas, as opposed to mainly inviting people to participate in programs devised primarily by the Center. The faculty, staff and regional fellows programs are excellent models of this kind of outreach and collaboration.
• Engage in more outreach to and development of grassroots leadership in local BIPOC communities.
• Devise strategies for connecting a broader range of students to the Center when they arrive on campus so that it is not only the already “woke” students who benefit from the Center’s transformative work in developing social justice leadership.
• Provide more transparency about the Center’s decision-making processes, specifically relating to how and why funds are allocated in certain ways and to certain people.
• Adopt a more intersectional approach as a way to broaden and deepen collaborations on campus. For example, one person suggested that the Center could invite people who focus on issues such as racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, sexism, sectarianism, ableism, etc. to enter into a discussion about ways to use an intersectional approach to bringing all of these issues to everyone’s attention.

Recommendation for healing the relationship between the Center and the Provost

  • Hire an outside facilitator to engage the Center staff and the Provost in developing a document together that would clearly delineate the “guiding principles” to be used in decision-making moving forward.

Recommendations for the next ED search

Recommendations for the search process

• Use a search firm that has grounding in social justice. There is a list of such firms on the Arcus Foundation’s website.
• Include representatives from FAB and GAB on the search committee
• Ensure that the search itself reflects social justice process and principles – the more open and inclusive it is, the better.

Desired qualities and background of the next ED

• Someone who knows what active collaboration is and enacts it
• Strong national and international networks that could even be the basis for partnerships with other entities at the college (e.g. CIP, CCE, CCPD)
• Grounding in activist work
• Creds in the social justice world
• Someone who will take an intersectional approach to the Center’s work
• Experience with administration and management
• Experience with deconstructing and reconstructing

Questions that could be asked of candidates

• What does “radical” mean to you? How do you define it? How do you situate yourself in that discourse?
• Whoever takes this position will need to make people at all levels of the institution uncomfortable. How will you navigate maintaining relationships with faculty, the administration, and the Board while pushing change?
• How do you understand intersectionality, and how might you incorporate an intersectional approach into the Center?

Questions that the Center might consider going forward

• What’s the current process for on-boarding new faculty?
• How do we institutionalize the center and its purpose/programs?
• How can we introduce new students to K College’s history of social justice during orientation? How can the Center be involved in this?
• The question of who the Center is for is connected to many of the other issues raised in this section of the report. Who is the Center for? Is the Center for everyone? Should it be? If it tried to be, would it lose its essence?

Guiding Questions for the ACSJL conversations

Facilitated by:

  • Kiran Cunningham, Kalamazoo College Professor of Anthropology
  • Vernon Wall, President of One Better World, LLC

ACSJL Mission & Vision: The Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership is an initiative of Kalamazoo College whose mission is to develop and sustain leaders in human rights and social justice through education and capacity-building. We envision a campus and world where:

• every person’s life is equally valued,
• the inherent dignity of all people is recognized,
• the opportunity to develop one’s full potential is available to every person, and
• systematic discrimination and structural inequities have been eradicated.

Guiding Questions

  1. Where have you seen the ACSJL mission and vision reflected in the Center’s work?
  2. Given the identities that you hold, how can/does the center represent you?
  3. What do you see as the role of the Arcus Center vis a vis Kalamazoo College more generally?
  4. What have been some of the most productive/exciting/successful collaborations between the ACSJL and other entities on campus?
    a. Probe re: academic departments/programs, other experiential education units, student development, student organizations, the Intercultural Center, etc.
    b. What makes these collaborations particularly successful?
    c. In what ways could such collaborations be strengthened?
  5. What have been some of the most productive/exciting/successful collaborations between the ACSJL and the local Kalamazoo community?
    a. What makes these collaborations particularly successful?
    b. In what ways could such collaborations be strengthened?
  6. What are the most exciting future opportunities for new or deeper collaborations on campus?
    a. What existing or potential tensions/obstacles need to be overcome to realize these opportunities?
  7. What are the most exciting future opportunities for new or deeper collaborations beyond campus?
    a. Probe re: local and more broadly
    b. What existing or potential tensions/obstacles need to be overcome to realize these opportunities?
  8. How do you understand the role of an executive director? What are the most important characteristics/experiences for an incoming executive director of the ACSJL?
  9. Anything else the group would like to share/discuss