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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32321

Title: Changing the System from Within: Three Phases of Human Rights Policy Struggles in an Urban Community College
Authors: Singh, Samuel Chet
Advisor: Walcott, Rinaldo
Department: Sociology and Equity Studies in Education
Keywords: human rights organizational change
Equity Studies
Issue Date: 26-Mar-2012
Abstract: This case study documents the work of this researcher and others to transform oppressive ideologies and practices in an urban community college through human rights policy development and implementation. Analysis of policy processes examines how contestations of equity discourses by various organizational stakeholders influenced organizational constructions of equity as ideology, policy and practice. Policy struggles over the three administrations are examined using a typology of equity discourses defined as assimilationist (status quo: resisting human rights/equity), managing diversity (organizational benefits: liability protection, commodifying equity/human rights) and transformative (structural/curricular change). In this particular case study, a human rights crisis during the 1990’s led to substantive policy change as human rights was framed as organizational change. These changes were resisted and recuperated by the next cadre of change agents and senior and middle managers and human rights were administered as rights based complaints management. However, the large complaints bureaucracy was unable to contain underlying systemic issues and complaints increased dramatically. Management responded with neoliberal influenced managing diversity/cultural competency training, proposed as a customer service model to train faculty and staff how to deal with the Other - ‘culturally diverse’ clients/students. This discourse of equity was challenged by this researcher (who was seconded to develop institution wide cultural competencies for faculty). This curriculum project was used to recoup some of the transformative elements of the policy and refocus institutional efforts towards system wide organizational change. This attempt at tempered radicalism was recouped by senior management and the competencies developed were contained in a single course during the next administrative turnover. This research builds on the survey studies of equity practitioners by Westerman (2008) and Agocs (2004) that examine how the positionality of institutional change agents influences opportunities to advance equity in institutions (in areas of complaints management and/or employment equity). It differs from previous studies in three ways: first I expand the definition of equity as the totality of all institutional functions including curriculum. Second, in addition to examining the scope and impact of these ‘expert’ roles, this study examines the influence of larger societal discourses of equity, the motivations of managers and other important stakeholders such as unions in shaping what constitutes equity work, how this is embraced and/or resisted by change agents and others in spite of ‘official’ policy. And third, it is a historical case study examination of one institution over a sustained period of time. The conclusions drawn from this institution’s policy struggles suggest that transformative equity initiatives can shift organizational cultures by changing the conversation about was constitutes equity work, however their effectiveness in bringing about structural change remains tenuous. Neocolonial societies are premised on relations of inequality, and dominant neoliberal discourses have imposed business models of managerial efficiency, standardization and profitability on public institutions which ensures that managers will continue to translate the demands of equity-seeking groups into bureaucratic procedures.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32321
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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