It has been several months since the Campus Diversity and Climate Committee (CDCC) last met. The committee canceled a planned retreat in February and its March meeting, so there was a lot of business to cover on the April 13 agenda.
Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Damon Williams began the meeting with several updates about his work over the past few months. Williams has stepped into the role of evaluator of the PEOPLE program, a program that supports young people of color through after-school tutoring, summer programs, and college transition services, after the sudden passing of the program’s evaluator. Williams highlighted a few points about the lessons he has learned about PEOPLE and spoke both to the success the program has experienced since it began as well as the need to support program leadership given the enormous range of tasks underway at any one point in time. Williams pointed out that PEOPLE is the largest in the nation of this kind of program, which brings unique challenges. Additional updates about the program will emerge in the coming weeks and months.
Williams also briefly spoke about a proposal he submitted to the Chancellor in February to support several new diversity initiatives. These include: “(1) organizational realignment of several key diversity programs; (2) a faculty diversity strategy; (3) a fund to seed diversity innovations; (4) curriculum revision project with DELTA aimed at a number of gateway courses; (5) global intercultural experience for undergraduates.” Williams reported that the proposal has been well received by many of the people who have given him feedback on it but that it must also first receive the Chancellor’s approval in order to move forward.
The bulk of the meeting, however, focused on a proposal for the CDCC’s work going forward. This project incolves three interrelated tasks, each of which will begin almost immediately. First, the CDCC will work to draft an institutional definition of “diversity.” Second, the committee will reassess its membership structure and determine what sorts of changes need to be made to the group’s membership. Finally, the CDCC will design a campus-wide diversity assessment tool that will be used with schools and divisions to assess progress toward diversity goals in the coming year.
The final part of the conversation was also the most interesting. People discussed what a diversity “scorecard” might look like, with back-and-forth conversations about how to balance the “carrots” and “sticks” of any accountability program. Although no concrete plans were made during the meeting, group members seemed to support a program that offered concrete support to divisions and schools as they work to improve their own diversity initiatives. At the same time, people seemed to seek a program that had “teeth”—that is, something that could not easily be shelved and easily overlooked.
Sub-committees of the CDCC will form over the summer to take the next steps toward improving and implementing the plan that was outlined yesterday.
Submitted by Frank Honts