Committee calls for several diversity initiatives

By Allana Akhtar, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 22, 2014

After the University’s Black Student Union called on the University last year to take steps toward building a more inclusive campus, the Office of the Provost is starting the school year with a new set of recommendations to foster diversity and improve campus climate.

The Office of the Provost released reports Sept. 16 from three faculty-led committees, including the Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The report contained 13 recommendations designed to build a more diverse student body and faculty, create a welcoming campus climate for minority students and establish programs to help members of the University community recognize and address instances of discrimination.

The committee consists of 11 faculty members from eight schools and colleges, plus one graduate student, one undergraduate student and two staff members. The committee was convened by University Provost Martha Pollack in December 2013, shortly after the BSU launched their #BBUM Twitter campaign. The committee met on weekly basis through last May to gather data and compose a plan to address issues related to diversity.

In an announcement in January, Pollack pledged to address several of the BSU’s demands, including the allocation of funds for a renovation of the Trotter Multicultural Center.

The committee’s new recommendations include creating a strategic plan for diversity, forming a committee to study the experiences of faculty members of color and forming partnerships with school districts to improve the pipeline of minority students to the University’s freshman class.

The report also calls for the launch of a public campaign headed by the provost and University president to affirm the University’s commitment to diversity, as well as renewed efforts to publicize University resources tailored to supporting minority students and the creation of taskforces to evaluate admissions criteria and hiring processes.

In addition, the report considered several challenges associated with previous University attempts to promote diversity on campus. The report found there is no criteria used to evaluate the success or failure of existing University diversity programs. There is also widespread confusion about what strategies the University can employ to increase minority enrollment while still adhering to Proposal 2, the 2006 initiative that banned the use of race — among other factors — as a consideration in public higher education admissions.

The ban was upheld last spring by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The committee also cited a lack of coordination between the University’s schools and colleges, as well as the institution’s decentralized nature, as key reasons minority students find it difficult to access support services or groups.

Psychology Prof. Robert Sellers, the committee’s chair, said the report outlines several ideas to help the University achieve a diverse student body and an inclusive campus climate.

Though Sellers noted the University’s previous efforts to combat discrimination and ensure diversity, he said the institution could do more.

“We can be better, and we need to do better,” he said. “I believe that we will do better.”

Sellers said some goals may have an impact sooner than others and noted that striving for a more diverse campus is still a long-term initiative.

“Issues of inequity don’t happen overnight, and don’t get broken down overnight,” he said.