Web site established to showcase higher education diversity initiatives

In the effort to boost diversity on the nation’s college and
university campuses, the Association of American Colleges and
Universities (AAC&U) has enlisted the Internet to educate
administrators, faculty and student about effective diversity practices.

Last year, AAC&U teamed up with the University of
Maryland-College Park to create DiversityWeb, an interactive site on
the World Wide Web that allows schools to publish campus profiles of
diversity program experiences. AAC&U has helped develop
DiversityWeb as a component of its major diversity initiative, which is
entitled, American Commitments: Diversity, Democracy and Liberal
Learning.

“We wanted to make DiversityWeb an important resource for everyone
who is involved with working on campus diversity,” says Dr. Carol
Schneider, executive vice-president of AAC&U.

So far, the Web site is getting numerous visits by Internet users.
In January 1997, when the site went fully online, DiversityWeb recorded
some 4,000 visits for the month. It reached a high of 50,000 visits in
September, according to AAC&U and University of Maryland Web site
managers.

In early November, the Advisory Board to the President’s Initiative
on Race cited DiversityWeb as a prominent online resource with
information on issues relating to race and diversity.

The Ford Foundation is a primary sponsor of DiversityWeb through its
Campus Diversity Initiative. The partner institutions received grants
totaling more than $900,000 to develop the Web site and to maintain it
through the 1998-99 academic year, according to Schneider, who added
that Ford Foundation officials are now considering extending its
support beyond the spring of 1999.

The Web site is organized into nine priority areas: institutional
vision, leadership and systemic change; recruitment, retention and
affirmative action; curricula; faculty and staff involvement; student
experience and development; campus-community connections; diversity
research, evaluation and impact; political, judicial and legislative
issues; and diversity newsmaking. The site includes the contents of the
AAC&U-published quarterly newsletter, Diversity Digest, and
Diversity Newsroom, a resource area for journalists.

Visitors to the site can read profiles of schools that relate to the
specific priority areas. For example, an individual school can publish
a profile on how that particular institution defines its institutional
vision, or what it does in the area of recruitment, retention and
affirmative action. Each school that participates in DiversityWeb has
the opportunity to submit profiles in all nine priority areas. About
seventy-five schools have submitted one or more profiles and officials
expect that number will grow to 300 by the end of next year.

In addition to school profiles, the Web site has workrooms which
contain threaded text conversations. A visitor to a workroom can post a
question or comment at any time and expect responses to the postings.

DiversityWeb also allows live interactive online discussions in
“Town Hall” sessions. Visitors to a Town Hall session can write to each
other as if they were participating in a telephone conference call.
Instead of. hearing a conversation, the visitor sees and reads a
conversation on their computer screens as it unfolds with text.
Participants in a Town Hall session can also contribute to the live
text conversation.

Gladys Brown, director of human relations at the University of
Maryland-College Park, says the institution has managed its own
“Diversity Database” for the past five years. That experience made it a
leading candidate institution with which AAC&U could partner. In
fact, the Ford Foundation recommended that AAC&U team up with
Maryland to develop DiversityWeb, according to Brown.

The university provides much of the technical support to DiversityWeb by maintaining the Web site on university computers.

“I don’t think we could have been in a position to support
DiversityWeb had we not gotten experience with Diversity Database,”
Brown says.

Brown notes that visitors to DiversityWeb will be able to read and
learn about the latest research in higher education diversity by tuning
into the site on a frequent basis. She says the University of Maryland
will likely publish its forthcoming diversity planning manual, which is
largely a case study of the institution’s approach to develop a
comprehensive, campus-wide diversity plan in DiversityWeb.

The web address for DiversityWeb is www.inform.umd.edu/DiversityWeb>

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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