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Diversity Appraisal Report: Good news and bad news

Thursday, February 10, 2005
Vol. 22, No. 16

http://admin.urel.washington.edu/uweek/archives/issue/uweek_story_small.asp?id=2484


Diversity, like many of the high goals to which organizations aspire, is as difficult to achieve as it is rich and rewarding to experience. Its an ever-evolving but fine and necessary cause.

Such sentiments shine through the UW Diversity Appraisal Report, an in-depth, good news/bad news-style look at where the University stands on all aspects of diversity. The report was created last December by the Diversity Appraisal Steering Committee at the original request of former President Lee Huntsman in 2003, reinforced by President Mark Emmert.

Put in just a few words, the report states what while the UW has made great strides in welcoming diversity in education and the workplace many of the best campus innovations of the last generation have been motivated by acceptance of diversity at the UW much more remains to be discussed, and done.

Its an incredible foundation on which to plan for the future, said Nancy Rusty Barcelo, UW vice president and vice provost for diversity, who also heads the Diversity Appraisal Steering Committee. It also has created a conversation on this campus that is really necessary.

The 60-page report, which is available to all on the Internet at (http://depts.washington.edu/oma/diversity/index.php), represents departments across all UW campuses reporting their own progress and remaining challenges on the issue. The reports are not uniform in their style or content, but that in itself is symptomatic of how differently people think about this subject, said Betty Schmitz, director of the Center for Curricular Transformation and a member of the committee.

We let people tell us from their perspective, Schmitz said. And there was great variation from the different departments. She added, For me, what this diversity appraisal did was help us understand that diversity is everybodys business.

But even as that process continues, Barcelo said, some definitions will be needed. Indeed, one persons diversity might be another persons tokenism. What do we mean by diversity? Barcel asked. We cant even assume that people know. Still, she said, the self-study process heightened awareness of diversity needs among its respondents, and made them curious about what their colleagues were doing both helpful steps, she said.

In a two-page summary, the Diversity Appraisal Report described the UWs clear strengths as well as its ongoing challenges. Here are the main points from those synopses.

Several of the Universitys offices, colleges and departments have shown strength in:

  • undertaking work on diversity despite lack of clear rewards from the institution.
  • expanding educational pathways to create a more diverse undergraduate student population.
  • partnering with diverse communities in the state to support economic development, enhance educational opportunity and help prepare students for college.
  • collaborating to improve diversity in curriculum and to address the issue in units stated missions, values and goals.

On the other hand, the report also cites several diversity challenges for the University, including:

  • many different understandings and lack of clarity about terms such as diversity, climate, minority and underrepresented, hampering inclusive diversity practices.
  • uneven implementation of institutional diversity goals across units due to lack of understanding and agreement on what practices, policies and behaviors support diversity as a core value.
  • a need to improve the climate to foster diversity throughout the institution.* the need for agreed-upon benchmarks for achieving greater campus diversity and evaluating current efforts.
  • increasing coordination and communication among units with effective diversity strategies so they suffer less from isolation, and smoothing the way for good practices to become institutionalized.

Following its review of the UWs assets and challenges, the Diversity Appraisal Report listed a dozen suggested reforms to improve campus diversity. These include:

  • set institutional priorities for diversity and review such policies as hiring, benefits, access, retention, promotion and tenure in light of those priorities.
  • increase outreach to populations now underrepresented in higher education.
  • reward and recognize good work done in student recruitment and admissions at all levels, and ensure all academic units support all students in their educational goals.
  • continue to build partnerships and work with diverse outside communities for economic development, cultural vitality and educational opportunities.
  • set high expectations for diversifying the faculty at all levels, and reward success in recruitment and retention.
  • increase attention to diverse climates across the institution, with recognition of good work done.
  • engage the University community on all campuses in discussing of defining and integrating diversity as an institutional and unit value and setting objectives for attaining diversity.

Barcel said she would like to see the University complete its process of defining and increasing diversity on campus over the next five years, but allowed that the issue is an ongoing one for which no single answer exists.

The UW is a premiere university and we should become a national leader in achieving a diverse climate, Barcelo said. And not only that, The UW should have a leadership role in changing higher education in general.

Funding available to implement ideas:

Now that the UW has its Diversity Appraisal Report, there is $400,000 in funding available for ways to promote or implement ideas, approaches and recommendations discussed in the report.

The Vice President and Vice Provost for Diversity and the Diversity Appraisal Steering Committee are looking for innovative proposals from faculty, staff and students at all three campuses to help achieve the aims stated in the report.

The sponsoring groups are soliciting proposals in the areas of greatest need as identified by the Appraisal Report. Those are

  • enhancing student development and improving the educational experience of students;
  • enhancing faculty diversity; and
  • improving the campus, workplace and classroom climates.

Its expected about 12 to 15 grants will be funded, each with a maximum single grant amount of $50,000. Proposals of up to five pages should include detailed information on how the project would be conducted, how much it would cost and how it would impact the campus community.

The deadline to submit proposals to the Office of Minority Affairs is March 18. For more information, see the Diversity Appraisal Report Web page or contact the Office of the Vice President and Vice Provost for Diversity, vpoma@u.washington.edu, or 206-685-0518.

--Peter Kelley