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AACOM's Council on Diversity and Equity Shares Best Practices in Crisis Management and Incident Response

May 27, 2021

AACOM's Council on Diversity and Equity (CDE) promotes evidence-based practices and initiatives on issues related to a culture of diversity and inclusion. AACOM’s CDE has outlined best practices in laying the foundation for a caring, compassionate and impactful framework of procedures to deploy when faced with a local, national or global crisis. We recommend that colleges adopt a multi-step approach involving proactive strategies, strategies to adopt during a crisis and strategies for recovery and healing. The goals of these strategies are to offer support to those affected directly or indirectly by the crisis, to use action and words to take a stand when possible and to offer spaces for learners to educate themselves about the underlying issues and ways that they can support those who are affected. Here are the systematic and strategic steps we recommend institutions adopt:

Proactive strategies:

  1. Develop a model of shared and diverse leadership at the highest level possible.
  2. Develop meaningful communication strategies ensuring transparency.
  3. Prepare policies, procedures and protocols ahead of time.
  4. Invest in training of key stakeholders and leaders.
  5. Take the time to periodically revisit these policies and test protocols.
  6. Maintain an environmental scanning process.
  7. Assemble services, much like a “disaster-kit,” to be deployed to support survivors.

Strategies to adopt during a crisis:

  1. Convene key advisory teams.
  2. Craft prompt, compassionate, humble and clear communications to share details.
  3. Send out communications often and have regular town halls.
  4. Create safe, inclusive spaces for stakeholders to gather, vent, share fears, reassure each other and begin grassroots healing.
  5. Acknowledge impact, including the pain and trauma caused.
  6. Reach out to community and national partners for advice and partnership if appropriate.
  7. Celebrate efforts and accomplishments whenever possible and appropriate. 

Strategies during the recovery and healing phase:

  1. Engage in collaborative reflection (on the event) and data collection involving stakeholders at every level, especially students.
  2. Provide prompt and clear communications about the lessons learned, bridges built, policies changed and new goals. Frame strategies and assessments in order to achieve those goals.
  3. Identify blind spots and institutional gaps.
  4. Identify and deploy strategies and plans to fills those gaps.
  5. Make a commitment to “never forget.”
  6. Update policies and protocols to reflect learning.

Putting Principle into Action

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us all that crises can occur in many shapes, forms and sizes and certainly can happen to the most prepared of us with little to no warning. In addition to all of the challenges caused by COVID-19, the pandemic has led to a steep increase in discrimination and violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). Our colleges are adopting the strategies recommended in our framework as we respond to these serious incidents, and have taken the following action steps in support of the AAPI community and our AAPI faculty, administrators and students.

William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine
The Office of Diversity of William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine spent their inaugural year formulating best practices for crisis management and started a chapter of the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association. Leadership met with this group to hear their concerns and are working collaboratively to create appropriate programs.

Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine
Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine created a flow chart to help determine a First Response Protocol, which proved very useful in supporting members of the AAPI community.

Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine - California
The Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Advancement Committee (IDEA) at Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine - California (TUCOM-CA) developed a preliminary Scorecard early in 2020 to assess and keep track of several indicators of initiatives and accomplishments related to Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (IDE) at TUCOM-CA. The scorecard was developed in an iterative fashion, by first gathering information on IDE activities and initiatives underway, and then assessing possible gaps in need of fulfillment, thus populating and expanding the scorecard. IDE training is campus-wide, from provost training on Trauma Transformed Systems; administration, staff and faculty training on Managing Bias, Diversity and Inclusion in the Modern Workplace; and Harassment and Discrimination Prevention. A newly formed Council for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion with representatives from all colleges, faculty and staff senates is hiring for a position of Diversity and Equity Officer. When the AAPI communities in the US and northern California were targeted by hate crimes, the TUCOM-CA leadership put out a clear and public statement of allyship and support for the AAPI community, standing with them in solidarity against AAPI hate.

Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific
Last summer, the dean of Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific created an Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The chief diversity officer, along with two anti-racist curriculum directors, assisted by a 40-member council made up of staff, faculty and students, developed a shared leadership model. Transparency and robust communications in the form of regular meetings and weekly updates are prioritized to create a model of shared and diverse leadership at all levels. A subset of White Coats for Black Lives chapter members offer bias and prejudice reduction trainings to employee and student groups on a regular basis. These workshops invest in training of key stakeholders and leaders. When violence and hate crimes against members of the AAPI community suffered an uptick in the past few months, they were able to quickly deploy collaborative and prompt efforts to move forward as one. Several student clubs, especially those based around the AAPI identity, connected with members and then brought their ideas to a meeting held by the chief diversity officer. The group decided to use the next monthly “Diversity Talks” event to have honest conversations about the complexity around the AAPI identity in the US and increased racism due to misconceptions about COVID-19. The group also decided that mental and psychological services must be extended to those who mourn or need one-on-one support as this crisis may be far more personal. Prompt, compassionate and clear communications were crafted to share campus resources with the community and a panel discussion on the topic was held where people could vent, share fears and support each other. Simultaneously, leadership reached out to colleagues across the country inquiring about steps taken to support other campuses.

AACOM’s CDE commits to addressing the crisis of AAPI hate crimes, to “never forget,” and to make allyship to the AAPI community a priority for our institutions. We encourage your institution to join us in adopting our recommended framework in responding to violence against the AAPI community and other acts of intolerance and discrimination.


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Vol. 1, No. 4
February 23, 2017