The President's Council on Diversity and Inclusion was convened in 2016 and is charged with monitoring and reporting progress on elements of the Diversity and Inclusion Plan, which was drafted in February 2016 and reaffirmed in April 2016.
Memorandum July 17, 2017
- AU Community
- Sylvia M. Burwell, President
- Progress on Diversity and Inclusion
Having met and consulted with more than 1,000 people at AU over the past six weeks, I have been listening intently to the aspirations, needs, and concerns of our community. While there are many opportunities and challenges to consider as we work together to shape our priorities, the hate crime that occurred in May serves as a painful reminder that we have more vitally important work to do. If we are to live up to our mission and long history as an institution that values diversity, then greater inclusion must be front and center.
I am deeply sorry about the pain that members of our community have suffered. I firmly believe that a more inclusive community will strengthen our education and research missions by making our work stronger and more relevant. I know we all share a commitment to build a culture that holds human dignity and free expression as fundamental conditions for education, productive scholarship, and citizenship. Using these values as a call to action, we have made important progress on several fronts.
Let me share the most important developments as headlines (and for those who want more detail, please read on):
- New Diversity and Inclusion website launched
- Consultant hired for near-term to help leaders plan, act, and measure
- New tenure-line faculty hires include 44 percent people of color, 26 percent African-American
- Anti-Defamation League briefing on bias incidents and hate crimes leads off summer training
- Assessment of AUx2 pilot course on race, identity, and inclusion shows promising results
- Student Conduct Code change and simple contacts to report bias among policy changes
- AUPD continues to work with FBI and U.S. Attorney on hate crime investigation
While there is much work ahead, these developments represent commitment and progress. Sustained improvement will require the effort of the entire community. If you would like to share your thoughts or ideas about our work to create a more diverse and inclusive community, please share your thoughts at DICouncil@american.edu. I am excited to be here and look forward to our collective efforts to embrace inclusive excellence at AU.
A New Diversity and Inclusion Website
In June, we launched a new site for AU diversity and inclusion resources, developed over the last nine months by the members of the President's Council on Diversity and Inclusion (PCDI). Designed to facilitate greater awareness and engagement of the entire community with the important work we must do, it provides links to assist with confronting bias, reporting discrimination, and keeping up with the commitments and progress we have made.
New Expertise to Focus on Priorities, Accountability, and Measurement
Building on the foundation established by PCDI, we will accelerate our efforts by hiring a consultant to help us sharpen our strategy and create accountability for outcomes.
Makeba Clay, an experienced diversity and inclusion professional with 25 years of experience, including in higher education settings, will partner with me, the provost and the vice presidents, as well as the deans and many of you, over the next six months to strengthen our plans and take concrete steps toward measurable progress. Ms. Clay will begin with meetings and analysis of AU data to familiarize herself with our current organization, plans, policies, and outcomes. Dr. Fanta Aw has agreed to facilitate her introduction to the community, and I've arranged for project management support to keep things moving. Her first report of findings and recommendations for policies, practices, and programs will be delivered to the President's Council in late August. I know the community will welcome Ms. Clay and assist her as work gets underway.
Increased Diversity in New Faculty Appointments
Focusing on a plan to improve the diversity of new faculty hires, Deans Mary Clark and Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy introduced a new program in August 2016. Every search committee for tenure-line positions had the opportunity for training and resources to enhance the diversity of newly appointed faculty. Incoming tenure-line faculty who will begin in August 2017 are 44 percent self-identified faculty of color, with slightly more than 26 percent self-identified as Black or African American.
Among the many talented colleagues joining us are Dr. Ibram Kendi, professor of history and international relations, and Dr. Kareem Jordan, associate professor of justice, law and criminology. Dr. Kendi will establish the Anti-Racism Research and Policy Center at AU. The youngest scholar ever to win the National Book Award for non-fiction in 2016, Dr. Kendi will bring his expertise on elimination of racial inequality to AU in August. Dr. Jordan is an accomplished scholar on race/ethnicity and criminal justice issues. Dr. Jordan has worked on several funded research projects, allowing him to collaborate with local and state criminal justice/social service agencies.
Training and Development Highlights
Building on more than 100 diversity and inclusion workshops, offered by Campus Life, Academic Affairs, and Human Resources on cultural and racial competence, as well as 16 training sessions for faculty in 2016-17, AU offered a series of 40 "Courageous Conversations" across schools and departments, with invited outside guest speakers with focus on race, class, and religion.
We increased the pace during the summer. University leaders hosted a June briefing by the Anti-Defamation League to understand trends in bias-motivated acts and hate crimes and effective response. We were joined by the Faculty Senate leaders and a member of the Board of Trustees for the session.
Also in June, the Office of Human Resources offered three sessions for leaders and managers on Fear in the Workplace, which focused on unconscious bias and strategies for supporting employees after events such as the hate crime in May.
Among other highlights, the Development and Alumni Relations team focused on diversity and inclusion in a half-day session facilitated by Dean Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy. Also, the AU Alumni Board and the Black Alumni Alliance met for a day-long retreat focused on enhancing their collaboration and worked collectively on recommendations for how AU can be increasingly inclusive. The recommendations will be presented in August to PCDI and Alumni Relations.
In July, deans and members of the Provost's Office used their annual retreat for additional diversity and inclusion training, facilitated by Dean Mary Clark.
PCDI chair Caleen Jennings led a workshop for 46 incoming students participating in AU's Summer Transition Enrichment Program (STEP), and members of PCDI attended all Eagle Summit sessions to meet new students and parents.
And speaking of Eagle Summit, it just wrapped up, with 85 percent of incoming first-year students attending. This orientation program is framed around a core curriculum, including a diversity and inclusion session, aimed at helping students understand what it means to join a multicultural community. Those not attending Eagle Summit will attend a similar session during Welcome Week.
In Spring 2017, we completed the first pilot courses for AUx2, a course about Race, Identity and Inclusion. Though the number of students in the pilot is small, the assessment of student outcomes in this course demonstrates promising results, including that students enrolled in AUx2 credited the course for influencing how they now speak, behave, and think about issues of race and social identity. Also, they were far more likely than other new students to agree that they feel included on campus. This fall, we have added more sections of both courses, with approximately 450 new students enrolled in each, building to full enrollment in 2018 as a part of the new core curriculum.
Among other curriculum updates, the board approved a major in African American and African Diaspora Studies at their May meeting. For additional academic initiatives and programs in the colleges and schools, please see the Diversity and Inclusion website.
During the last academic year, we introduced changes to the Student Conduct Code, which allow us to treat evidence of a bias motivation as an aggravating factor when sanctioning individuals found responsible for breaches of the code.
We also made it easier to know how and where to report bias incidents on the Diversity and Inclusion website. A full review of our discrimination policies and procedures for responding to bias incidents and hate crimes is underway.
Investigation of Hate Crime and Safety Updates
Work proceeds on the investigation of the recent hate crime. The AU Police Department continues to work closely with law enforcement partners including the FBI and the U.S. District Attorney's Office. While we cannot comment on the specifics of the investigation, law enforcement continues to brief me frequently and regularly. I appreciate your patience as we let them do their work.
AU Police have also been prominent at Eagle Summit and in response to members of the community who have safety concerns. For more about what you can do to enhance your safety and assist our public safety professionals, please visit their website.
(revised July 17, 2017, 7:30 pm)