Member Thoughts on DEI


The Who, Us? Class of 2020 recently proposed an initiative concerning diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) measures for the Bard LLI Council to consider. Their ideas were reflected in questions included in the 2021 annual survey assessing member interest in ways that Bard LLI can address social issues in our community. Not surprisingly, those questions elicited some strong responses. Here is a brief summary of those responses.

Social Issues of Interest

One question concerned which social issues members would like to explore via LLI classes. One of the 67 respondents summed up many answers by commenting “anything related to our complex history of race.” Members specifically mentioned related topics such as inequality of income and opportunity, police reform, food insecurity, restrictive voting systems, and environmental racism.

Not everyone wanted to explore social issues. “Why does everything have to be so serious? I am retired!” wrote one member. “We are being bombarded through TV and other media. For me, that is enough,” said another.

Addressing DEI Issues

When asked about ways Bard LLI could consider addressing examining DEI issues, 147 respondents suggested creating courses in which diversity issues are relevant (68%), recruiting course presenters of color (59.2%, and encouraging diversity in our membership (61.2%). However, not everyone was interested. More than 20% either thought change was not necessary or had no opinion about the matter.

Taking Action

About 22 members indicated they were already working on the DEI initiative or had some interest in doing so. Here are some specific responses:

  • I do hope the long range goal can be to have a more diversified LLI membership because on a personal level, I have always liked being in a learning environment with a diversified population of learners
  • I think we need to still “educate” more members on the need for this, about systemic racism, and get more diversified presenters before we might be successful in bringing more diversified members into LLI
  • I think that it is important in this area to make minorities feel welcome, included and appreciated
  • This is an interesting issue because of the demographics of the area
  • I think our courses continue to offer deeper understanding of more and more of the challenging and often divisive issues of our time
  • These initiatives are core to my very being
  • I would be willing to but not sure what I might have to offer 
  • LLI may want to consider working with college recruiting to offer some hybrid classes to AP students and their parents

Others expressed some caution: 

  • I would not want course subject matter to be dictated by any particular emphasis or policy
  • If encouraging diversity is too aggressive, it can also be seen as another form of racism. That is, seen as treating people of color differently–but from the opposite direction

Council has approved the formation of the Bard LLI DEI/Social Justice Task Group, which will report to the Planning and Evaluation Committee. The Task Group, under the leadership of Barbara Danish and Laura Brown, will review the comments from the member survey as they develop plans to promote DEI among our members and presenters.