TC History

Highlights from TC’s History to the Present Day

TC’s rich history has been centered around improving the lives of the underprivileged since our founding by Grace Dodge in 1887. Her driving principle was to provide a new kind of schooling for NYC’s poor, dedicated to improving the quality of their lives. It is a principle from which we have not strayed while expanding our work nationally and globally.

During the profoundly segregated 1930s and 1940s, TC provided graduate education for Black teachers, principals and leaders from the South. They traveled to TC and then returned to their schools armed with additional knowledge provided by TC’s academic opportunities.

In 1973, the Edmund W. Gordon Institute for Advanced Study (formerly the Gordon Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME)) was created and led by our beloved, renowned and legendary psychologist Dr. Edmund W. Gordon. The Gordon Institute was one of the first university-based institutes devoted to designing research and programs to improve education and life outcomes for people of color in urban areas.

In 1996, the TC Minority Postdoctoral Fellowship Program was established to create opportunities for people of color to become members of the faculty. In 2016, we celebrated the Minority Postdoctoral Fellows’ 20th anniversary and saw the return of the numerous graduates who went on to successful academic careers, including four who joined our TC faculty.

In 1999 then-President Arthur Levine convened a Diversity Taskforce, co-chaired  by Professor Peter Coleman and Security Officer Dennis Chambers, and charged them with fashioning a plan for enhancing the diversity and quality of community at the College. The resulting Diversity Taskforce Report was presented to the College in September 1999 and included short- and long-term recommendations.  The TC Board of Trustees led the way by supporting Taskforce recommendations, including the appointment of a senior leader, reporting to the president, devoted to these complex issues and charged with working with the entire community — now the VP for Diversity and Community Affairs.

The Office for Diversity and Community Affairs was created in December 2000 to lead the President’s and College’s initiatives concerning community, diversity, civility, equity, inclusion, anti-discrimination and anti-racism. 

The President’s Committee for Community and Diversity (CCD), established in 2003, remains the College’s only cross-constituency committee with faculty, students and staff, including collective bargaining members, to improve the academic, professional and cultural climate.

In 2008, then-President Susan Fuhrman elevated the office to the Vice President level, recognizing and supporting the work as central to TC’s mission.

In 2015, Students for a Quality Education (SQE), a multicultural student advocacy group, identified areas of needed improvements in diversifying teaching, curricula/syllabi, faculty hiring, mentorship and support for students and faculty. They presented before the full faculty in 2016 and set forth a roadmap to guide progress. Also in 2015, TC launched the Center for Sustainable Futures, which examines how environmental, social, health and economic forces differentially impact groups based on ethnicity, socio- economic status, and other markers of identity.
In the summer of 2020, when the racist murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many others by the police without judicial accountability brought into painful relief the fact of structural inequities and racial injustices that continue to pervade our institutions, our students once again spoke out and moved their academic programs to take immediate actions. Students and faculty collaborated to review curricula, syllabi, and experiences of microaggressions and racism. They met, discussed, reworked courses and academic experiences and engaged in microaggressions education sessions.

Spurred by these conversations, as well as a national surge of anti-Asian violence, in Spring 2021, the Faculty Executive Committee’s (FEC) Subcommittee on Race, Culture and Diversity (RCD) developed and moved the passing of a faculty resolution committed to regular collection, evaluation and reporting of faculty, staff and student diversity data to understand the College’s demographic profile both as an organization committed to diversity and relative to peer institutions and to inform approaches and processes for the diversification of the faculty and student body; support for professional development opportunities and ongoing commitment to fostering and sustaining a culture committed to the affirmation and development of all members of the Teachers College community; and active engagement in the development of scholarly and professional community that values diversity, equity and inclusion through dialogue, communication and collaboration.
TC’s  faculty, students and staff are already energetically pursuing this last imperative, having launched countless initiatives to build community and advance practices around social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion. These include — but are not limited to — the Decolonizing Psychology Training conference, which in 2021 was attended by 5,000 students, educators, and practitioners and focused on addressing racism in curriculum, research practices, clinical supervision and mentorship; the Racial Literacy Roundtable, which brings together thought leaders and fosters dialogue pertaining to race, anti- racism, language, disabilities, and sexual orientation; the Annual Winter Roundtable in Psychology and Education, which deepened its already existing commitment to fostering anti-racist practices at its 2021 conference, “A Pandemic of Racism,” and will again at its February 2022 event, “Collective Action and Liberatory Practices”; and a landmark initiative led by the Black Education Research Collective to develop an interdisciplinary K–12 Black studies curriculum for the city’s public schools.

Active engagement of the scholarly and professional community also extends to our community of more than 90,000 alumni, who play a vital role in our impact as an institution. The Academic Festival in Fall 2021, themed “Advancing Social Justice in a Post- Pandemic World,” featuring a number of TC alumni, is just one example of initiatives to strengthen our collaboration with them to advance our DEI priority across the nation and the globe.

This brief history, which reflects only a fraction of the work our community and alumni have done to advance social justice and the principles of DEI, both internally and in the broader community, should galvanize us all. What is wonderful about TC is our stance that everyone has something to contribute AND our commitment to continuously doing the work while being flexible in how we approach it.

If the past predicts the future, we are poised to build upon our strong foundation through institutionalizing our diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice initiatives and positioning the College as the type of anti-racist community that this moment in our history demands.

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