University President Devorah Lieberman and Provost Jonathan Reed presented a draft of a resolution on Oct. 26 to students and faculty listing the actions they plan to take in the coming weeks and months to improve the treatment of minority groups on campus.
The resolution was presented in President’s Dining Hall before roughly 40 students, faculty and administrators.
The commitments outlined in the resolution were in direct response to a protest that took place outside of Lieberman and Reed’s office on Oct. 25, where students demanded a list of five changes including:
● Promoting diversity and inclusivity in all unit and strategic plans;
● A faculty handbook that addresses mandatory diversity training;
● An employee handbook that addresses mandatory diversity training;
● Enforcing cultural competencies as part of all review and promotion processes, including faculty tenure and promotion and merit pay;
● Changes to the curriculum that match the diverse backgrounds of students.
Lieberman and Reed committed to all five of the demands in Friday’s draft of the resolution.
Lieberman and Reed said an updated version of the resolution would be made public today, including new ideas brought up during the meeting, such as mandating diversity training for all faculty and staff, and whether that would be online or in person.
When asked if the administration would also be enacting mandatory cultural competency training for faculty and staff, Reed said he believes the best way to enforce such a policy is to have it approved by Faculty Senate, a group of 12 faculty members who represent the faculty voice in many policy decisions.
“Telling people to do something is never as effective as people wanting to do something,” Reed said. “I think if we can get the student voice to faculty, they’re going to embrace this and intrinsically want to not only change but also make sure all faculty change.”
Several students at the Friday meeting said they were concerned that Faculty Senate would not agree to the mandatory training.
“I know that this talk about having mandatory diversity training isn’t the first talk that’s happened,” said Jasmine Marchbanks-Owens, graduate student of social justice in higher education. “They’re not doing it now, so it just makes me a little apprehensive because it’s something that you’re asking (Faculty Senate) to come to and they can say no.”
Reed said if Faculty Senate did not approve the mandatory training, he would force the policy on faculty and staff, but that process would leave room for Faculty Senate to appeal to the Board of Trustees.
Reed said the University defines cultural competency as the ability to relate to students in terms of ethnicity, socioeconomics, gender, sexual orientation and neurodiversity, without committing microaggressions or acting offensively. Reed added that culturally competent professors will maintain appropriate pedagogies to help students feel a sense of belonging in the classroom.
Students were concerned the training would be hosted online and not include an in-person component.
“As a person of color, to put diversity training online, it’s kind of like traffic school,” said Paril Patel, senior history major. “When you’re doing traffic school online, are you actually paying attention? Or are you playing the video, waiting for it to finish and then going onto the next step?”
People need to confront their issues in person when undergoing diversity and cultural competency training, Patel said.
Faculty will be receiving new handbooks with clear rubrics for cultural competency that will now be a part of the promotion and tenure process, starting in the 2019-20 academic year, according to the resolution.
Employees who are not governed by Faculty Senate will also receive a new handbook that requires diversity training by Fall 2019, according to the resolution.
Valerie Cummings, associate professor of broadcast journalism who attended the Friday meeting, asked if the new policies would extend to adjunct professors, who do not teach full time at the University.
There are 264 full-time and 503 part-time faculty, according to a 2017 University report.
“We will make sure that we include (them),” Reed said. “Right now, our hiring process and our review process for adjuncts are not nearly as stringent as full-time. Where we talk about faculty development, we will include mandatory training for (adjuncts) as well.”
Lieberman said diversity and inclusivity would no longer be a separate issue and would instead be embedded into every part of the University’s strategic and unit planning.
“I heard you loud and clear that you want an environment where you can say ‘I belong, I flourish, and everybody is treated respectfully.’ I heard that,” Lieberman said. “It’s my responsibility as the president and the face of the campus to not only hear that but to put into place, immediately.”
Lieberman said the administration will be dedicating its January 2019 retreat to cultural competency training. Faculty, staff and student leaders will undergo cultural competency training in the spring 2019 semester, according to the resolution.
Reed said the University will be bringing in an outside expert for a full day of competency training with a redone comprehensive review of all curricula at the University to ensure it meets cultural competency standards.
Reed said the review will take about a year to complete.
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