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Thirty faculty members and graduate students gathered Friday in the Michigan League to talk about creating inclusive and equitable environments for faculty as part of a broader University of Michigan inclusion effort.
Samuel D. Museus, associate professor of higher education and student affairs at Indiana University and a leading researcher on diversity in higher education, hosted the 90-minute lecture and panel discussion alongside the National Center for Institutional Diversity, a unit housed in LSA that aims to engage campus leaders on diversity issues.
The event followed the release of a five-year campus-wide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan Thursday morning. The plan highlights ways to improve faculty diversity and inclusion, including a professional development program for incoming faculty and executive leadership, an expansion of the Inclusive Teaching Professional Development programs to train faculty and graduate students in creating inclusive classrooms and the creation of a Distinguished Diversity Scholars program for faculty with expertise on diversity topics.
NCID Director Tabbye Chavous said when faculty diversity is discussed on campus, the recruitment and job searching process are often highlighted, but improving campus climate for faculty is not.
“We really wanted to focus on what kind of community are we actually creating that would actually increase the likelihood that faculty from diverse backgrounds would actually see a community where they can see themselves thriving and engaging with others who have similar values and perspectives, and value diversity and inclusion,” Chavous said.
Museus began his lecture by pointing out the national attention DEI measures have garnered in the past few years, attributing a large part of this phenomenon to student activists who have pressured, and are continuing to pressure, institutions to instill change.
“I think it’s an exciting time although it’s challenging in many ways,” Museus said. “It’s an exciting time because if we seize the opportunity, I believe, or at least I’m hopeful, that there can be significant advances.”
Museus also introduced his Culturally Engaging Campus Environments Model of College Success for diverse student populations, applying the concept to faculty. He said the CECE model suggested that efforts from administrators to improve diversity have become too focused on microscopic efforts, which don’t lead to larger systematic transformation.
The CECE model aims to revamp faculty culture by creating a space where faculty can connect with others who share the same background, creating a collaborative orientation.
Museus also provided solutions for what he sees as challenges in recruiting diverse talent, such as lack of commitment from administrators and vague definitions of diversity across campuses.
In particular, he said when institutions cite a lack of statistics on faculty diversity or diverse applications, it creates a chicken and egg situation — the school can wait until the population naturally diversifies through shifting demographics and then basically implement policies, or the school can proactively implement policies which in turn attracts diverse talent.
“We can wait for the population to diversify and force the institution to become more diverse and realize that in 30 or 40 years,” he said. “Or we can start making environments and cultivate the kind of environment that will be more likely to one, attract diverse people, and two, cultivate a mentality on campus that is more committed to issues of diversity and equity and inclusion.”
Naomi Andre, associate professor of women’s studies and Afroamerican and African studies, said after the lecture that recent events, such as racially charged flyers that have been circulating campus in the past few weeks, and have prompted several student protests, show the role students play.
Andre said it is the actions of individual students and faculty, not the comments of top administrators, that foster a diverse and inclusive community.
“Over history, (students are) leading the way here at the University of Michigan for issues of diversity,” Andre said in an interview after the event. “We need that and as faculty and administrators, we need to support the students and figure out how we can incorporate what they’re saying into how we change things and make policy.”
Michael Luongo, an English lecturer, said he attended the event because he believes listening to these lectures helps him spark discussions with his students.
“It’s important to engage with other faculty; it’s important to engage with speakers who have come … to speak us on these issues,” Luongo said. “And these are also things that I can convey to my students about what it was like to come to this panel and who I met and how do we incorporate some of these topics into our classes and how do we talk about them if my students want to talk about them.”