The college’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion task force (or DEI) recently released a report detailing the state of diversity on campus. The report also made recommendations “intended to move the DEI needle.” The task force is led by Tonia Hughes and Tai Edwards.
“One of the things we realized pretty early on was that we didn’t even know what our diversity on campus truly looked like,” Hughes said. “Administration approved to establish another committee whose sole purpose was to find a third party, totally unbiased kind of company to come in and to survey our campus about our diversity, where we stood, kind of general what the climate was like on the issue.”
MGT consulting was selected to conduct a survey of the staff and report their responses. The task force aims to use the responses collected to guide the recommendations made to the college.
“The Task Force’s purpose was to ask administrators at the college to provide us with resources or people with expertise in those fields to help us in our work,” Edwards said. “There was resistance to providing us with those resources without having a more comprehensive knowledge of what our challenges were in that context, so the Task Force members and administrators agreed to have a DEI assessment conducted by an outside consulting firm, so that we would have information about our strengths and weaknesses related to DEI that we could then take action from there.”
The report found, generally, staff agreed the college was going in the direction but needs to take more steps in hiring diverse faculty members, the creation of stronger DEI guidelines and more robust DEI training. One recurring source of criticism was the process in which the college’s new president was selected. According to some of the quotes selected, there were no female candidates included in the short list of potential presidents, and while there were people of color included the job ultimately went to Andrew Bowne, who is white. One of Bowne’s stated goals is to “establish a culture of holistic diversity, equity and inclusion.”
The DEI task force is currently preparing to become a standing committee at the college. The report outlines several recommendations based on the responses to the survey, including links to similar actions taken by other colleges and related articles. The report will serve as an important step for the task force as they prepare for the Fall semester and continue to develop strategic plan goals.
“The strategic plan goals, they’re supposed to also be out by May,” Edwards said. “They’re supposed to take the strategic plan and the DEI assessment, and then see where they overlap, which should be sizable and then make a recommendation to the college of how we can achieve our DEI and strategic goals and what resources we need to do it.”
In Jan. 2022 the new committee will begin budgeting. The current task force is optimistic for the future of DEI at the college.
“I think these are subjects that they’re difficult because of the sensitivity of them. And then I think on top of that, our political climate has been so charged lately that I think everyone is in polite conversation, you’re trying to avoid the topic almost,” Hughes said. “I think that it’s a difficult subject matter, but it’s being embraced, and I think there are a ton of people all across campus right now that are incredibly supportive and are wanting to see it, and with that kind of positive energy behind it, I can’t be anything but optimistic.”
The DEI task force is meeting Feb. 26 to discuss the report and the move to committee.
By Jason Yearout