DePauw University develops diversity and inclusion plan

887

NICOLE DECRISCIO / THE DEPAUW

Only one student attended the feedback sessions held by the Diversity and Equity Committee last week to talk about “Building an Inclusive Community: DePauw University Campus Plan.” In all, only about 13 people attended the two sessions, leaving members of the committee wondering.

“I don’t know if it’s just because it’s the end of the year and people are getting busy or what,” said Renee Madison, senior advisor to the president for diversity and compliance.

“Building an Inclusive Community” outlines a formal plan to make the DePauw University community more aware of and sensitive to issues of diversity on campus. The Diversity and Equity Committee (DEC) developed the plan based on campus climate reports from the last several years and feedback from DePauw Dialogue, which was held at the beginning of the semester.

“The day of inclusion [DePauw Dialogue] was really a jolt,” said Amy Haug, director of human resources and a member of the DEC. “The momentum had really kept going since then.”

The four-page document was supposed to be emailed out to the campus community before the first feedback session on April 9; however, several students don’t remember getting the email.

“I read pretty much every email DePauw sends me, especially if the subject is ‘Developing a Campus Inclusion Plan,'” said junior Sara Blanton. “I don’t remember seeing that one at all.”

Two more feedback sessions will be held this week, one on Wednesday, April 15 at 4 p.m. and another on Thursday, April 16 at 11:30 a.m. Both will be in Thompson Recital Hall in the Green Center for the Performing Arts. The DEC would like to collect all feedback by Friday, April 17. Madison will submit the final plan to the Board of Trustees at the May meeting.

The 2015-2016 plan will serve as an intermediary step while the DEC develops a more in-depth five-year plan. Haug has served two years on the DEC. She said before the administration created Madison’s position, senior advisor to the president for diversity and compliance, and requested a comprehensive plan, the committee’s work was more fragmented. Both the 2015-2016 plan and the five-year plan will unify the pieces and address the campus climate holistically.

“It’s organizing the little pieces and saying, ‘This is what we’re all doing,'” said Haug.

Madison said efforts to improve campus climate in the past have been “siloed,” with each department or group addressing problems but not communicating with each other as well as they could. Forming a holistic campus plan is a way to solve that issue.

“I want students to be involved and I want faculty to be involved,” Madison said.

The plan for next academic year includes goals for creating a more diverse student body, offering training workshops for faculty and staff and changing the curriculum. It does not define what ‘diversity’ will mean to the DePauw community. Bruce Burking, senior human resources generalist, and an unofficial member of the DEC, said the committee purposely left out a definition. 

“At this point, it’s the DEC not wanting to put words in the mouths of the DePauw community,” Burking said.

Burking said although larger state schools often develop plans similar to DePauw’s, it’s uncommon for a school of DePauw’s size to have one. University President Brian Casey ordered the DEC to develop such a plan anyway.

“From a DEC perspective, it’s about getting a clear path to work toward,” said Burking.

The five-year plan will include a definition of diversity that is based off more feedback from the community. It will also include more specific goals based on feedback from individual departments and organizations. The DEC will then monitor progress through reports. 

“This isn’t just a student issue,” Madison said. “It’s faculty and staff as well.”

Neither the DEC nor the issues it addresses are new to DePauw’s campus. Burking began working with the DEC when he joined the staff 10 years ago. Last year, students organized The Movement to address campus climate issues on campus. The idea of including an M, or multicultural, distribution requirement has been discussed on and off for at least four years and is addressed in the first section of the 2015-2016 plan.

Although members of the DEC developed the 2015-2016 plan in a couple months, they take an entire year to develop the five-year plan, beginning in the fall 2015 semester.

“It’s really going to take a lot of input from everyone,” Madison said. “This is part of the ongoing campus dialogue we want to be having.”