In Conversation with President Keith Ward

Keith Ward

Now that we are in February and have settled into our respective terms, I continue on the theme of diversity and inclusion, the Society’s common topic for 2018. In January I wrote to chapter presidents, inviting them to consider ways of incorporating our common topic into regional conferences. The program committee for the Vancouver conference in October meets this month to begin shaping our national conference; diversity and inclusion will be one of the issues they consider. (The conference has received over 500 proposals encompassing a vast array of topics — an impressive indicator of an engaged membership.) This month charges to governance committees should be complete, and one such charge will focus on the national topic. How, then, will you be influenced?

There are many ways we can address diversity and inclusion, from building awareness to taking social action. We can turn to the presence of underrepresented populations on our faculty through hiring and other appointments. We can look critically at the repertoire we program and ask whether there are new possibilities. We can purposefully recruit students to promote fair access and opportunity — because it makes our programs better. We can look at the curricula we teach through new, stand-alone courses whose themes focus on an issue of diversity, or we can take a second look at pre-existing courses that are due for revision. For example, how can we teach a course on American music without confronting the issue of race? From ring shouts to hip-hop, part of our history is intertwined with African American influence. In the Southwest, Hispanic American influence is legion.

What are the regional traits that affect your institution, its curriculum, and its performance calendar? The answers will be different comparing, say, Texas with Minnesota. Are you aware of campus resources to support an inclusive community? Does your institution encourage clubs focused on diversity? Are there mechanisms in place to address bias and hate?

I ask many questions in these monthly messages, and that is by design. The richness of our dialogue and the meaning of our actions needs ownership by all of us; it is not relegated to discrete groups. It requires a commitment to engage our astonishing culture fully, from the local to the national. In the process, I will not presume to tell you what to do, but I will be interested to hear your answers.