In 1999, Cornell University developed its vision statement for strengthening and supporting the diversity and inclusivity of our community entitled, “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds.” The university provided guidelines for each unit to develop its own diversity plan, which informed this diversity plan for the College of Human Ecology.
A Recommendation to the University
As we have begun working through the issues and challenges of creating a supportive environment for growing diversity, we have developed one very concrete suggestion we would like to make to the university administration. Changing or reshaping a culture requires a strong and visible commitment to the new and desired culture. We think that a very visible and supportive commitment that the university could make in creating an inclusive and diverse environment would be to create and perhaps to fund partially a position in every college for a Diversity Coordinator. The Diversity Coordinator could support the process of developing and implementing programming and procedures to support diversity that would be specific to each college and yet have the coordination, cooperation and creative support of a team of diversity coordinators working throughout the university.
A Vision of Diversity for the College of Human Ecology
We value the sense of community in our college. An important aspect of our community is its diversity, represented by all the myriad ways in which we differ – our intellectual frames, our ethnicities, our genders, our sexual orientations, our ages, our faiths, our cultural and social contexts, our learning styles, our talents and our challenges. The richness of our community is, indeed, enhanced by our diversity.
We can anticipate that we will increasingly become a more diverse community than we are presently. Demographics in New York State and the United States reveal that the globalization of our economy and society will continue to increase the diversity in our state and nation. Workplaces and communities outside of Cornell will also grow more diverse. As well as enhancing community, fostering our diversity will pragmatically enable our students to be more competitive and successful in the job market. Already employers seek in our graduates an understanding of diversity and its value as well as the ability to work as a member of a diverse team. Our communities also seek to understand, value and promote their diversity and to address issues stemming from disparities among their diverse members. We need to be ready to facilitate our communities in their efforts through our research, outreach and extension, and education of our students who will, indeed, become part of these communities.
Benefits of diversity are not limited to those discussed above. Powerful results are emerging from a diversity living-learning program at the University of Michigan. Diversity and diversity education benefits all students, irrespective of ethnicity. Measures of citizenship participation increased among students of majority and non-majority groups who participated in the diversity living-learning programs.
The CHE Diversity Committee has been working over the last two years on how to enhance and support the diversity of our community. Doing so will enable us to strengthen the supportive working and learning environments of our college that we value. Recruiting and retaining diverse faculty, staff and students are obviously necessary to support the diversity of our college community, which should, ideally, mirror the diversity of our state and indeed our nation. Fundamental to recruiting and retaining diverse faculty, staff and students, however, is a welcoming and supportive climate.
Thus, we have established our overarching goal to make CHE a safe environment in which discussions of differences are expected and respected. Our guiding principles in our efforts to enhance our climate are to:
- Avoid stereotypical ‘perpetrator’ and ‘victim’ language and models.
- Encourage all to take ownership of the climate in our community.
- Link discussions of climate to scholarship and learning.
- Offer a wide array of diverse types of activities concerning the discussion of diversity and climate.
There are several important outcomes we hope to create together.
- Minimizing the ‘Culture of Silence’ - The ‘culture of silence’ is something we all know even if we have not named it. We each encounter pressures to be silent in the face of bias or hostile climates, whether we are or are not the recipients of such unwelcome behavior or attitudes. We are silenced in powerful ways by who is pictured and who is not; by who is exampled and who is not; and by whether we are a part of the dominant majority or not. Isolation and feelings of powerlessness can result.
- Increasing our empathy – By making the effort to understand and value others’ experiences and different responses to the same events, each of us can be more empathetic and supportive.
- Enhancing our diversity - Our ongoing efforts to recruit and retain a diverse faculty, student body and staff need to continue. Further, we need to enhance the diversity of our leaders, administrators and supervisors. We must find ways to develop a diverse leadership among us.
- Strengthening the ‘Sense of Belonging’ – Belonging comes when we feel valued, accepted, engaged and safe within our community.
- Minimizing the ‘Stereotype-Threat’ – Powerful research by Claude Steele and his colleagues has demonstrated that just being stereotyped can impact negatively learning and performance. When students of the majority were told that majority students performed less well on a standardized math test than students of another ethnic group, they did indeed perform less well than when they were not told of this ‘expectation.’ Stereotyping is lessened by educating ourselves to be aware of how stereotyping happens and by committing to reduce it. We can be our best when we expect each of us to be his or her best and send this message through our actions and attitudes.
- Addressing the ‘Proximity of Interaction’ – As we spend more time with each other interacting face to face, our incorrect assumptions about who we are and who we perceive the ‘other’ to be fall apart. We grow to know each other beyond our stereotyped preconceptions—we appreciate the many aspects that make up each of us rather than relating to each other only through our incorrect belief about one aspect of a person.
Our Diversity Plan
We, on the CHE Diversity Committee, have developed several concrete recommendations to help to bring about these desired outcomes.
In thinking through the pragmatic work of supporting diversity, we realize we need to continue to increase the actual diversity of our community by recruiting and then retaining diverse faculty, students and staff. At the same time, we must strengthen the culture within the college to expand a palpable feeling that our diversity, our differences are welcome once here. This gives us two broad areas of focus: Recruitment and Retention, and Engaging a Culture of Diversity.
Recruitment and Retention of Diverse Faculty, Students and Staff
- We recommend a protocol be developed for faculty search committees which could include some of all of the following:
- Search committees would undergo some kind of diversity training (could be as short as an hour) at the start of the search which would cover, how they read applications, how they interview, how they follow up after interviews, how they make offers etc.
- Create a checklist of procedures for supporting inclusiveness / diversity
- Follow-up phone calls
- Address prospective faculty needs such as housing
- Address candidates’ spouse and children issues (perhaps funding spouse to visit Ithaca as well as candidate)
- Connect candidates with HR personnel
- Give candidates information about things like First Fridays
Graduate and Undergraduate Student Recruitment
- Graduates: The system for graduate student recruitment could resemble a combination of faculty recruitment and undergraduate student recruitment.
- The college will commit $100,000 annually for Diversity Graduate Fellowships.
- Undergraduates: Continue and support model and practices already in place to increase diversity of undergraduate student applicant pool.
- Searches need to be competitive while encouraging CHE internal applicants.
- All searches will be reviewed for availability of diverse applicants. When there are no diverse applicants, strategies using community and professional organizations will be utilized aggressively to seek diverse applicants.
- Units are encouraged to work with the CHE Affirmative Action Unit representative to recruit diverse staff.
Retention of diverse members of our community partially involves the welcoming process when they first come, and partially involves the larger issue of creating and maintaining a culture of diversity in the college as a whole. In terms of welcoming new and recently hired faculty and students, mentoring systems for both can help. New faculty can be assigned mentors among faculty members who will have received diversity training. There are already some ethnically diverse student mentoring systems in place. These can be maintained and enhanced in a variety of ways. We recommend:
- Expanding mentoring of students in underrepresented groups
- Developing programs which involve and interrelate majority with minority students from under-represented groups
- Involve faculty in minority student advising (this could include relief from other aspects of faculty work load such as committee work)
Engaging a Culture of Diversity
Changing or recreating a culture is a difficult thing. The goal is to create a perceived shift, a palpable feeling that diversity is welcomed and supported. In order to create this perceived cultural shift, there must be: 1) a visible commitment to supporting diversity including infrastructure (staff, time and money) and 2) a variety of opportunities for all community members to participate on many levels. We see the latter as requiring repeated efforts, including programming throughout each year. We must keep diversity issues in the front of our minds as a community. We also recognize that we may need to support staff and faculty to participate by offering release time from other duties.
In order to support this cultural engagement, we recommend the following:
Appoint a Diversity Coordinator: We feel that one very crucial visible commitment the college could make to support a culture of diversity would be to create a full time or part time leadership position for a Diversity Coordinator. This is not meant to put the work off on to one person but rather to enhance and support our ability to develop these programs and procedures. This person could help us tremendously in embracing a culture of diversity. We think that there may be grant funding available to fund the first year of this position. A rough outline of this person’s duties would include:
- Coordinate programming in support of the culture of diversity
- Develop and maintain links university and nation-wide re: diversity programming
- Provide consulting and assistance for hiring committees in CHE
- Provide consulting and assistance for admissions committee for graduate and undergraduate students
- Enhance and expand minority student mentoring programs
- Coordinate training for supporting diversity for Grad TAs and faculty
- Develop programs to make it easy for faculty, staff and students to participate in creating a culture of diversity
- Monitor and evaluate college diversity efforts for compliance with university-wide diversity plan
- Grant writing
- Assist faculty in their effort to identify diverse examples & illustrations of course content Even if the college is not able to create this position, we have included all the items in the job description in our recommendations for the diversity plan.
Even if the college is not able to create this position, we have included all the items in the job description in our recommendations for the diversity plan.
Urge faculty and Grad TAs to include diversity in the curriculum
- Develop 1,2, or 3 credit courses that a variety of faculty could teach (faculty could get teaching credit for these courses and then release from teaching a course for every 3 credits taught)
- diversity workshops could be incorporated into syllabus which would have the added benefit of requiring student participation in workshops (such as CITE; Flemmie Kittrell lectures; presentations by minority post-docs)
- Provide support (perhaps in the form of release time) to faculty for developing new courses with diversity curriculum
- Provide diversity training for TA’s [such as PEHR training (Peer Educators in Human Resources)]
- Encourage developing first-year writing seminars with diversity content
Urge students to participate in curriculum that includes diversity issues
- Provide course credit by having workshops on syllabi
- Try to get more courses with diversity content included on concentration lists for majors
Workshops/Courses/Training/ Diversity for Faculty/Staff/Students
- Continue to develop workshops and lectures on issues of diversity
- Encourage departments to invite/co-sponsor talks by post-docs or outside lecturers (perhaps make funds available to support these talks)
- Include incentives (such as resume credit, release time for faculty, staff etc.)
- There might be funding from businesses for developing diversity training mini-courses or certification courses—Businesses want to hire people who are already diversity aware
Develop a resource center to include:
- Books, tapes, videos
- Web site with diversity links
- Diversity bulletin board
- Resources for “best practices”
- Yearly newsletter highlighting what the college and students are doing to support our diversity; can profile students
Build diversity into position descriptions and reward system college-wide
- The diversity committee will develop methods to evaluate progress achieving these diversity goals.
These are our main suggestions for how to proceed in creating our CHE Diversity Plan:
- Investigate the possibility of funding for a diversity coordinator via grants, university administration, college administration.
- Assign the above areas to members of the diversity committee to research and create lists of known “best practices” for each issue such as 1) faculty recruitment and retention 2) student recruitment and retention 3) staff recruitment and retention 4) encouraging diversity in course content 5) engaging student involvement in diversity curriculum 6) developing diversity program in the form of workshops/training/mini-courses 7) developing and maintaining a resource center. These expert lists would then be incorporated in a next draft of this CHE Diversity Plan.
- Assign members of diversity committee to start creating resource center; see if there are college funds available for this re: buying books, tapes, etc; finding space for the materials and bulletin board etc.
- Assign members of the diversity committee to set up procedures for planning and developing workshops and lectures series etc., and assessing achievement of our diversity goals.
CHE thanks Barbara Koslowski, Patti Papapietro, Myra Sabir, and Hedy Lee and the CHE Diversity Committee for formulating this diversity plan and the CHE faculty, staff and students for their helpful suggestions.