Campus Briefs – September 2021
What was it like to become New York’s first openly gay elected official in the late 1970s? Or to be a lesbian law student at Carolina in the early 1980s? To start a weekly column focused on LGBTQIA issues in The Daily Tar Heel in the 1990s? Or to be voted out of a Christian a cappella group for being gay in 2012?
Thanks to The Story of Us, these individual experiences and hundreds, hopefully, thousands, more will be documented, preserved, shared and, ultimately, performed — all in the spirit of providing a broader and richer understanding of LGBTQIA history at Carolina and beyond.
And thanks to generous contributions from members of the Carolina Pride Alum Network, the University is only $10,000 away from raising the $100,000 needed to fully support the project. And the work has already begun. In fall 2020, funds were deployed to hire a graduate student to bring together existing materials from the Wilson Special Collections Library and start collecting oral histories of Carolina students, alumni, faculty and staff through the Southern Oral History Program. “We want to reflect voices from a variety of experiences at UNC, to capture an honest picture of what the student experience at Carolina has been — some of the stories are quite personal and not fond memories, said University Archivist Nicholas Graham. “We are honest and upfront about who has access to an interview and how it will be used.”READ MORE
A new book, “Teacher Diversity and Student Success: Why Racial Representation Matters in the Classroom,” co-authored by UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education faculty member Constance Lindsay, examines evidence that a more diverse teacher workforce benefits all students, especially Black males from low-income households.
In the book, the authors (including Seth Gershenson, associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University and research fellow of the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, and Michael Hansen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and director of the Brown Center on Education Policy) discuss persistent racial achievement and attainment gaps that result from systemic inequalities in public schools. They present evidence that promoting diversity in the K-12 teacher workforce — especially of Black and Latino teachers — can have powerful effects in raising academic achievement among Black and Latino students.
A study conducted by a team that included Lindsay and Gershenson of data from North Carolina and Tennessee found evidence that having a Black teacher at least once in elementary school increases the likelihood that Black students — and Black males from low-income households in particular — will complete high school and aspire to attend college.
The issue is important because the U.S. teaching workforce is vastly mismatched to the public school student population, with a trend of decreasing diversity among teachers while the population of Black and Latino students continues to grow, the authors say. “[A]t every level of schooling and in districts throughout the country, no matter how success is measured, students benefit from having instructors who look like them,” the authors say. “This finding reaffirms our central thesis: teacher diversity is teacher quality.”READ MORE
While food insecurity is associated with a less healthy diet, using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly referred to as food stamps, is associated with reduced food insecurity. It’s unclear, however, if SNAP beneficiaries can afford to purchase enough healthy foods. So the National Institute of Food and Agriculture sponsored the creation of SuperSNAP, which provides beneficiaries an additional $40 per month for the purchase of fruits and vegetables with no added sugar, sodium or fat.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studied the effects of SuperSNAP, which is run through Reinvestment Partners out of Durham, North Carolina, to see if the additional funds translated into the purchase of more healthful foods, setting the stage for better health outcomes.
Published in JAMA Network Open, the researchers found that in the first eight months of the program, SuperSNAP participants not only bought more healthy foods with the extra $40, but they also markedly increased their total purchase of healthier foods with SNAP benefits.
“Our goal now is to see if healthy food incentive programs improve health outcomes,” said first author Seth A. Berkowitz, MD, MPH, assistant professor of general medicine and epidemiology at the UNC School of Medicine. “We will investigate this very soon through a much larger study.”READ MORE
Libraries and library workers interested in examining racism, bias and inequity have a new tool to do so. The University Libraries at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has released the syllabus of its recent 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge focused on libraries and archives.
The syllabus is the work of the University Libraries’ IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility) Council. It is part of the Library’s Reckoning Initiative, which commits to using equity, inclusion and social justice as a lens for its work.
In spring 2021, Library employees were invited to follow the daily syllabus in a shared experience of discovery and reflection. Participants in the voluntary program also had opportunities to come together for discussions and caucus meetings.
“We received a great deal of positive feedback from participants, who found themselves looking at their work in new ways,” said Monica Figueroa, interim librarian for inclusive excellence. “We hope that sharing our roadmap will encourage other institutions to use, adapt and expand it.”
Figueroa said that the IDEA Council modeled the syllabus on similar challenge exercises for general audiences and for other professions. The focus on library and archival work and workers distinguishes UNC-Chapel Hill’s syllabus from others. The syllabus is available as an accessible pdf under a Creative Commons license.
The opening of the new Asian American Center gives students, faculty and staff of Asian descent a place to call their own. The creation of the center during the COVID-19 pandemic and a surge in violence against Asian Americans was particularly profound timing, said the center’s director Heidi Kim, associate professor in the English and comparative literature department in the College of Arts & Sciences.
“I can’t think of a year in history that more clearly demonstrated the need for an Asian American Center that is devoted to supporting the Asian American community and educating our students and our state on the complex and diverse history of Asian America, with all of its painful and glorious moments,” Kim said to the small in-person audience of mostly donors and supporters as well as those watching the livestream provided to the public because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Representing the University’s Board of Trustees, trustee Gene Davis emphasized the importance of the center’s role in fulfilling the University’s first strategic initiative, Build Our Community Together. “More importantly, it moves us toward a University community that is rooted in the virtues of kindness, love and acceptance — a community in which every person truly feels that they belong, truly feels that they add value, truly feels that they are special,” Davis said.READ MORE