Update on diversity initiatives at Appalachian
Dear members of the Appalachian community:
Last year, Chancellor Everts charged the Chancellor’s Commission on Diversity to provide recommendations focused on the recruitment and retention of students, staff and faculty from underrepresented groups. At the end of the spring 2015 semester, the Chancellor’s Commission on Diversity, after a year of thoughtful work, presented the Chancellor with fourteen proposals.
Though the fourteen proposals are tied to the work of the Chancellor’s Commission on Diversity, many of these initiatives have been suggested by other campus groups both before and after the Commission provided the Chancellor with their report. A number of student groups, in particular, have provided invaluable feedback supporting the need for these actions. As excited as we are to have these initiatives to implement, it would undermine the importance of this work if we viewed these fourteen items as a checklist. The goal of creating a more just and inclusive campus is evergreen and the work will not end once these items are complete. We are sharing this action plan with you all for two main reasons: (1) we want to be held accountable for progress; and (2) your feedback and suggestions will only make this work stronger.
This summer, we have identified six of the Commission’s proposals that can be rolled out this coming semester. The six proposals that are being acted upon currently are as follows:
- Engage a consultant to provide education to all supervisors on the topic of creating an inclusive campus. This campus-wide initiative would mirror the protocol used in educating over 800 supervisors about interpersonal violence last year.
- Implement a bias incident response process. This recommendation was provided not only by this year’s Commission, but also the preceding Taskforce on Diversity.
- Create an online search committee compliance module. Currently, this education is provided in face-to-face meetings between search committees and staff members in the Office of the Equity, Diversity and Compliance.
- Related to the item above, another proposal recommended that search committees be provided face-to-face education about the ways implicit bias can affect search processes. This face-to-face time would replace the compliance-focused education that is currently offered.
- Expansion of the exit interview process. Currently, all departing SPA employees and departing EPA employees from Academic Affairs are the only individuals provided with the opportunity to participate in exit interviews. The information obtained through the exit interview process has been invaluable in assessing climate issues, benefit needs and other reasons people leave Appalachian. In order to have this data from departing employees from all divisions, the Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance and Human Resources are working together to expand the exit interview process.
- The Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance and the Office of Multicultural Student Development are working on creating a formal mentoring program for students from underrepresented groups.
At the same time as we are moving forward with these initiatives, we will also be assessing the other eight proposals from the Commission to determine implementation strategies for them. The remaining eight proposals cover a wide variety of topics and aim to serve students, faculty and staff:
- Increase awareness of university policies and student conduct processes related to individual and group harassment and discrimination.
- Assess the feasibility of a complete implementation of the holistic review process in admissions. This proposal would expand the breadth of the holistic review process that admissions currently engages in when reviewing applications for incoming students.
- Translate admissions materials into Spanish and provide informational sessions and campus tours in Spanish catering to families for which Spanish is the primary language in the home. Survey prospective students to assess whether there is a need to provide such services in additional languages.
- Formalize relationships with secondary schools and community-based organizations in areas with a greater density of underrepresented populations.
- Implement a strategy that provides access to hair services for students of color. A number of students raised concerns about their inability to receive haircare services and products in the local area.
- Conduct a campus climate survey every three years and annual focus groups to assess the inclusive nature of the campus.
- Identify and reward initiatives pertaining to outstanding work in the field of diversity by individual students, faculty and staff, student groups and departments/units on campus. In addition to honoring this work, the proposal suggests the creation of a web database of faculty members engaged in diversity-related scholarship.
- Revamp and restore the faculty fellows program in order to better recruit faculty members with a demonstrated commitment to diversity in their respective areas of study.
Thank you to all the faculty, staff and students that shared their personal stories with me and other members of the Commission. Your willingness to be open and honest has informed this work and will get us even closer to our goal of fostering a more just and inclusive campus environment. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments, concerns and suggestions you have about implementing these initiatives.
Bindu Kolli Jayne
Associate Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Compliance
Chief Diversity Officer