Conducted by Jibril Howard ’22
In an August 28th email to the Goucher Community, Kent announced the appointment of Juan Hernandez as the new Associate Dean of Student of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion & Title IX This mouthful of a title, with its acronym “ADOS DEI & TIX” is still irritatingly long. The DEI & TIX position was among several positions created and or subsequently filled over Covid-19 lockdown and summer including that of Vice President, Dean of Students Aarika Camp; Vice President of Campus Operations Erik Thompson; and Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Elaine Meyer-Lee. The Q staff will be interviewing all these new staff members—below is our conversation with Dean Hernandez.
Tell us a bit about yourself? What are some fun facts you’d like people to know?
“What I can come up with really quick on the spot is I’m a huge sports everything. I love watching basketball, football, baseball, soccer…you can’t get me away from the TV if there’s some sports happening so obviously, I was struggling pretty much since March with Covid-19. It was a struggle. I’m originally from Chicago; so Chicago everything, Chicago Bears Chicago Bulls, [Chicago] Cubs, specifically no White Sox please…another fun fact is I was a former elected official…I ran for office and was elected as a member of the Board of Education here in the capital city of Connecticut so that was always which was a wonderful experience. It was actually a really good time to be able to learn policy.”
What led and or attracted you to Goucher?
“I was really interested in the Study Abroad [requirement]. Not necessarily because I’m going to be able to study for fun but for me that tells me as students are hopefully going away and coming back coming back with a bit more of a global perspective. The fact that you know a lot of the problems that we’re dealing with here in the United States don’t only the belong to us; there is discrimination and bigotry all over the world and people are dealing with those with those issues in very different ways. I love the fact that students are required to have some sort of global perspective via the RPP [Race, Power, and Perspective GCR] but then also specifically study abroad.
I also really wanted to get back to some big city living. It’s a very different experience being in a bigger city or being near a bigger city where you can see you can see the impacts of systemic racism, in homophobia transphobia, those phobias and isms you can see it right in front of you in a big city it is very easy for us to avoid them in cities like Towson or Hartford or West Hartford where I lived. In cities like Baltimore you can’t ignore [the systemic racism] its right in front of your face. I’ll also say I’m very happy to be working with and working for people who seem authentic when it comes to their conversations and their commitment to anti-racism, to battling hate, to making sure our campus is as safe as possible and as healthy as possible. I’m also excited about working with [new Dean of Students] Aarika Camp who is amazing and that’s not just because she’s my boss. It’s also because she’s authentic and her leadership style is one that I’ve been craving for a while.”
How does this position compare with previous jobs you’ve held?
“This position certainly comes with more responsibility and visibility than any of my previous positions. But it is similar in the sense that my job is to be present and supportive of all who are not at the tables that I am privileged enough to sit at. I hold that responsibility very close to my heart.”
In terms of this position, what do you see as being your primary objectives? And do you feel like you have the space and freedom at Goucher to accomplish those goals?
“I’m gonna answer that in two ways. The first one is a very typical new employee answer but I’m going to give it anyways because I really mean this. I really do want to sit back a little bit and listen to what you all want.
I’m not going to go around and do a listening tour. I think that listening tours are technically pointless in the sense. What I really want to do is I’ve been trying to schedule time and with students as much as possible now that I’ve had a couple weeks to get acclimated to the campus. I really want to hear what you all have to say because two of my bigger goals are to try to change the culture around CREI and specifically around the Office of Title IX.
What I mean by that is I want the Office of Title IX to be an office where you can go to receive education. It’s not it’s not just an office where you need to receive resources as a survivor or as a victim; it’s also an office where you can come and have conversations with someone like me about areas where you as a student, or you as a faculty member, or you as a staff member need more knowledge and maybe I can provide some of that knowledge and if I can’t provide it myself I will put you in contact with it with the folks that can give you some of that knowledge.
I want CREI to be a center, a space, that people can come to and sit down and do homework and hang out and meet new people and do that without being worried about being judged because you might not look like everybody else in the space or you might not come from the same spaces or places as the folks who are using the space in that moment. I want it to be a center where we offer programming and trainings and workshops and conversations that are very random and impromptu but can be heated. I want that space to be because I think that that’s when we’re craving. We’re craving a space where we can be ourselves and breathe for a moment instead of being out on campus in that moment and having to code switch just to survive. I want CREI to be that space for everybody. And it’s my job to make it that space for everybody.”
I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the new Title IX regulations. I was wondering if you could provide like a little bit of an idea or an update on where Goucher stands on implementing the new policies?
“I’m very glad you asked that question. This is one that I’ve been struggling with and through a little bit. We do have interim policies that are that are in place for right now. It is my job… it is on my plate to organize a working group of folks, faculty, staff, and students 100 percent, so that we can review those policies and so that everybody has a say in where we go permanently right starting moving forward. Where I’ve been struggling with that…we’re in the middle of a presidential election and that election is going to impact we’re trying to accomplish right now. I’m struggling because let’s say for example that we create this working group to examine these interim policies and to offer feedback. [Because of the Presidential Election] we might actually have to change these interim policies within the next six months again. That’s where I’ve been struggling with that a little bit. All I can do is laugh because in my head I want to cry – it is sitting in my to do lists that we’re going to be creating a working group of folks that includes students.
Either [myself] or Aarika Camp will eventually be sending out an interest form for students to fill out if they are interested in joining the working group…I want people to actually be interested in this work and…so students will be able to express some interest in helping us review these interim policies and have some input in the development of the permanent policies moving forward.”
GBSU has been mobilizing recently around specific demands that they like to see about changing the culture and conversations on campus around discrimination and racial justice. I was wondering how you see those demands fitting into the scope of your job. I know you’ve at least at one the GBSU teach-ins so I was wondering if you could speak to that a little bit?
“What a very good question. I see that I almost see that as a personal mandate for myself. I am in a position of what I think you all will consider to be pretty significant influence, right. What I consider my relationship to those demands to be is I am going to be using that as part of my platform as I determine what my long-term and short-term goals are moving forward. Will I be able to tackle everything on GBSU’s demands? Absolutely not. But I think we know that. I can tell you that I am having conversations with Aarika Camp every day; she is going to be taking on some of those things personally on her own plate, I will be taking some of those demands on, the resident is taking some of the demands on. I’m using that as guidance, believe it or not, on how to do my job for the first year my first thing to do is to say thank you.”
Many students favor a restorative justice approach towards dealing with issues of racial bias and TIX issues. Do you plan to incorporate this approach into your work as ADOS DEI & TIX and if so, in what way?
“I am a strong proponent of restorative justice. I have actually, in the past, utilized restorative circles in my work. I also led an initiative during my time on the Board of Education to prioritize the use of restorative circles and peer juries for high schools. While I am confined by the TIX regulations and the Code of Conduct, I will always support restorative approaches.”
We have included the entire transcript of the interview because we are in a critical position on campus right now. The enormous amount of administrative turnover that has taken place in the past two or three years is finally culminating in the hiring of people to hold key positions of influence. As Goucher’s independent student newspaper, we see ourselves as students tasked with the responsibility of seeking out information from members of our community and re-expressing it to our readers. Mr. Hernandez has named his stances on issues of systemic racism and the process of addressing harm within the community. The transmission of information is crucial to give our peers access to this knowledge so we can shape of student activism moving forward. Please stay tuned for future interviews.