Diversity and inclusion update - December 2018
We realize that there is much more that we can and should do to live up to our core values related to diversity and inclusion. Below, we provide an outline of the broad steps we are taking to create a university culture that is free from individual, institutional and systemic bias. This is not a comprehensive list, nor should it be interpreted that this is all that we have done or will plan to do. We will provide more detail on what we have done and what we are planning at the University Forum on Dec. 3.
We will establish a task force to examine issues of individual, institutional and systemic bias. We acknowledge the cynicism that comes with establishing task forces. But the truth is we are an organization with more than 30,000 students and 23,000 employees, with multiple levels of governance. We need an organizing mechanism to engage the entire VCU community in this process. Task forces and workgroups are the best way to accomplish this goal. The task force will be comprised of faculty, staff, students and external partners. The task force will be charged with reviewing select policies, procedures and practices and making recommendations for implementation. Below are a few of the topic areas and questions to be examined.
- Non-discrimination policies – Are there ways to strengthen these to address bias in all of its forms?
- Affirmative Action plans and practices – What can we expect in terms of implementation? Impact on hiring faculty and staff?
- Campus safety policies – What are the non-police alternatives to responding to the safety and wellbeing checks related to potential mental health crises? What are the typical and atypical circumstances for requesting identification or statements of access and privilege (e.g., see someone, say something; or, see something, say something)?
- Integrity and compliance policies – What are the best ways to implement and scale cultural competency training for all employees and students, while acknowledging issues related to academic freedom?
- Codes of Conduct – What do we need to update to hold all employees and students accountable for living up to our institutional values?
- Incident reporting – What are the barriers to reporting incidents? In what ways can we improve our reporting mechanisms?
- Incident feedback loop – Are we as effective as we can be in archiving, documenting and sharing information with other university level constituencies? And what should we expect in terms of a timeline for action? What are the barriers to community response, legal and non-legal, and how can these be addressed?
- University bias response team – In what ways has it been effective? How can it be improved? How else might we broaden its scope?
- Communications – How do we balance responsible reporting and engagement? How can we be more transparent in our communications?
c. Data Systems and Practices
- Admissions and registration process – How can we become better at recognizing and respecting people’s identities? What updates can be made in university systems and practices, regarding names of use, gender and pronouns? Email communications, ID cards and class rosters?
- Climate surveys – What are the barriers to participation in climate surveys? How can we better and more frequently gauge the climate? And use the data?
- Data and data feedback loop – How are we using data that informs us of the progress we have made? Data that clearly shows our strengths related to diversity and inclusion? Data that identifies areas for improvement?
Academic and administrative unit level
Our university’s shared governance models afford each academic and administrative unit the opportunity to discuss, develop and implement unit-level bylaws, guidelines and procedures that best conform to university policies. Senior leaders, and the newly established task force, will work with academic and administrative units, as well as Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and University Council, to explore ways of fostering bias-free environments.
a. Accountability models
- Restorative Justice – What can units do to ensure accountability for incidents that are contained within their management structure?
- Promotion and Tenure Policies – How can units best develop and implement criteria for professional citizenship that can better inform our decisions about faculty who deserve merit, tenure and promotion?
- Talent@VCU – How might units align diversity and inclusion training with professional development goals for all employees?
b. Recruitment procedures
- Employment applications – Of what value is adding a diversity statement requirement to the application process for all positions? What are ways to evaluate applicants’ demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion?
- Search committees – Do they have the most appropriate training and administrative support? How can we best achieve a rich and diverse pool of applicants for all positions?
- Affirmative Action planning – How can units use their AAPs to inform their recruitment practices and address underrepresentation?
c. Classroom and curriculum
- Inclusion – How might units enhance the classroom experience and curricular content of our courses to best meet the learning goals that we have for our students and that they hold for themselves?
d. Student and employee support models
- Infrastructure – How might units designate and train someone at the unit-level to provide support to faculty, staff and students? Are there ways to expand upon the existing central Ombudsperson model and resources?
- Communication – How effective is unit communication about available counseling support and resources to faculty, staff and students within units?
- Discussions and forums – What is a reasonable expectation for units to host unit-wide forums for faculty, staff and students to engage and share?
Our senior leadership is accountable for cultivating a university culture that is free from individual, institutional and systemic bias. However, we are all responsible to make certain that this happens. The task force will explore ways in which we set forth expectations about what it means to be a member of the VCU community.
a. Education and training
- Education – What do we consider to be the base level of cultural awareness and knowledge for a member of our community?
- Training interventions – What is a reasonable expectation for growth and learning to meet our minimum criteria of awareness and knowledge?
Thank you for your meaningful and productive contributions toward making VCU a great place for all of us. We look forward to engaging you even more, as we move forward in the next few months.